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The Fiction Shortlist for the 2018 Chicago Review of Books Award

Our judges picked the 6 best fiction books by Chicago-based writers in 2018.

Many of Chicago’s most celebrated fiction writers have written about the city itself — Richard Wright’s Native Son, Sandra Cisneros’s A House on Mango Street, Aleksandar Hemon’s The Lazarus Project, and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife. But others turn their pens elsewhere, like five of the six writers listed below.

For the third year in a row, the Chicago Review of Books Award for Fiction (in partnership with the Chicago Independent Bookstore Alliance) will recognize the best fiction books published by Chicago-based writers in the past calendar year.

Here are the six finalists for the 2018 award for fiction, along with this year’s judges. Congrats again to past winners Abby Geni and Camille Bordas.

We announced our poetry shortlist last week, as well as the nonfiction and story/essay finalists. The winners will be announced on Saturday, December 8 during a free awards ceremony at Volumes Bookcafe. More details soon!

2018 Fiction Finalists

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The Window
By Amelia Brunskill
Delacorte Press

Read our interview with Brunskill.

“Novels often go through many renditions, but Amelia Brunkskill’s debut novel, The Window, transitioned through different genres. The manuscript was essentially three different books before being rewritten as the kind of YA thriller that keeps you guessing. In the book, Jess is dealing with the sudden loss of her twin sister, Anna, whose body was found on the ground, appearing as if she fell from her bedroom window. Jess believes there may be more to her sister’s death and starts digging for answers. It’s a gripping story of loss, secrets, and identity.” —Rachel León

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What Should Be Wild
By Julia Fine
Harper

Read our interview with Fine.

“A sprawling family tree with a history of tragedy. A young girl, born with the ability to kill and revive with a single touch. An ancient forest where wanderers disappear. Julia Fine’s debut novel What Should Be Wild has all the ingredients of a Gothic fairy tale, but expounds upon them in fantastic and modern ways. It’s gorgeous and exhilarating.” —Sara Cutaia

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The Wildlands
By Abby Geni
Coutnerpoint Press

Read our interview with Geni.

“Abby Geni’s extraordinary debut novel, The Lightkeepers, was one of the first books we covered at the Chicago Review of Books and the winner of our inaugural fiction award. Geni’s new novel is a literary thriller even more compelling than her first. After a tornado destroys their small Oklahoma town and leaves them orphans, the two oldest McCloud siblings disagree on how to survive, while brother Tucker leaves his sisters. Three years later, Tucker returns as an eco-terrorist, and takes his youngest sister Cora on a journey of revenge. The Wildlands is a gorgeous, timely meditation on nature, disasters, and isolation.” —Rachel León

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Severance
By Ling Ma
FSG

Read our interview with Ma.

In Ling Ma’s debut novel, Severance, a deadly fungal infection called Shen Fever hits Manhattan. When her coworkers start falling ill, Candace Chen — a Bible production specialist — signs an obscenely generous contract to keep working until the crisis is over. But as the crisis turns into an apocalypse, and New York turns into a ghost city, Candace keeps showing up at the office every morning — until she joins a group of survivors on a pilgrimage to Chicago.

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The Great Believers
By Rebecca Makkai
Viking

Read our interview with Makkai.

Rebecca Makkai has written about Chicagoland before; The Hundred-Year House was set in a Ragdale-esque artist colony on the North Shore. But in The Great Believers, Makkai has written what is sure to become a classic Chicago novel. In two alternating storylines — one set in Chicago during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, the other in contemporary Paris — Makkai sheds light on the millions of tragedies that most American chose . . . and still choose . . . to ignore. It’s a deft, harrowing novel that’s as beautiful as its cover.

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The Listening Room
By Kathleen Rooney
Spork Press

Read our interview with Rooney about her last novel.

Rooney’s previous book, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, was a finalist for last year’s CHIRB Award for Fiction. This year, The Listening Room: A Novel of Georgette and Loulou Magritte, is an experimental collection of flash fiction based on the lives of René Magritte‘s wife and dog(s), inspired by contemporaneous writings and art.

2018 Judges

Judges for the 2018 Chicago Review of Books Awards include many representatives from Chicago’s independent bookstores and the Chicago Independent Bookstore Alliance:

As well as members of the Chicago Review of Books and Arcturus magazine editorial and contributing staffs:

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