First Novelist Award
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Fourteenth Annual Award
A Replacement Life (HarperCollins)
By Boris Fishman
Slava Gelman is a young Jewish-American magazine editor living in Brooklyn. When his grandmother—a Holocaust survivor—dies at the same time a letter arrives from the German government offering restitution, he is asked by his grandfather to take her story and forge an application on his behalf. Reluctantly, Slava agrees, and before long it seems that the entire Jewish community is at his door in search of similar services. As his clientele grows, it soon becomes clear that the only life Slava has trouble amending is his own.
A Replacement Life is the subject of wide critical acclaim. Author Joyce Carol Oates calls it "a beautifully nuanced, tender, and often very funny novel about conscience and familial loyalty that will linger long in the memory." The Guardian's Phoebe Taplin lauds it as "an elegy for loss (of families, health, sanity) and a plea for compassion [that] raises serious questions about identity and history." Alan Cheuse of NPR says that in presenting difficult truths "with feeling, humor and eyes wide open, novelist Fishman doesn't miss a beat."
Boris Fishman was born in Belarus and immigrated to the United States in 1988 at the age of nine. His journalism, essays, and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine and Book Review, the London Review of Books, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The New Republic, and other publications. His first novel, A Replacement Life has also won the American Library Association's Sophie Brody Medal and was one of The New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2014 and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick. His second novel, Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo, about a New Jersey couple that adopts a boy from Montana who turns out to be wild, will be out from HarperCollins on March 1, 2016.
Judges: Helene Wecker (winner of the 2014 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award for The Golem and the Jinni), Howard Owen (author of ten novels and business editor of The Free Lance–Star), and Gary Schanbacher (winner of the Colorado Book Award, the High Plains First Book Award, and the Eric Hoffer General Fiction Award)
Finalists: Celeste Ng for Everything I Never Told You (Penguin) and Rebecca Rotert for Last Night at the Blue Angel(William Morrow)
A Replacement Life