Northwest Corner

Photo: Philip Friedman/Studio D

13 of 16
Northwest Corner
304 pages; Random House
What happens when justice—not to mention prison time—has been served? Nothing good, at least not for the criminal's family, observes John Burnham Schwartz in his finely wrought novel Northwest Corner (Random House). More than a decade earlier—as first imagined in Schwartz's Reservation Road—10-year-old Sam Arno was in the car when his father, Dwight, hit and killed a young boy. Today Dwight is out of jail, but Sam, a college baseball star smarting from a bad day on the field, commits his own act of violence. Using alternating points of view—including Dwight, Sam, Sam's mother, and the dead boy's sister—Schwartz examines how an already deeply injured family reacts when history starts to repeat itself. Never mind that everybody here means well and tries hard; some wounds may be unhealable. Or, as Dwight realizes when Sam chooses not to live with him, "You can do all the planning you want, or you can do none: Once their bags are packed, people leave."
— Sara Nelson