It’s been another incredible year for fiction, and it’s a delight for me to celebrate the six finalists for the 2022 Kirkus Prize. Our dedicated judges—Luis Correa, the operations manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia, and Kirkus reviewer Wendy Smith—have been reading nonstop since February to choose the stellar group of finalists. Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, and I will join them to choose the winner on Oct. 27.
Scary Monsters by Michelle de Kretser (Catapult): This is a novel in two parts that face each other back to back, and you can start reading in either direction. Both parts are about Asian immigrants to Australia; one section, set in the 1980s, tells the story of 22-year-old Lili, who moves to France, while the other is about Lyle, “who lives in a future just a bit darker than our present,” according to our review. “De Kretser, one of our most deeply intelligent writers, offers a book that is wry and heartbreaking, playful and profound.”
Trust by Hernan Diaz (Riverhead) is a tour de force about money, history, and narrative, the story of one of the wealthiest men in America told in four different forms. “Structurally, Diaz’s novel is a feat of literary gamesmanship in the tradition of David Mitchell,” according to our review. “But more than simply succeeding at its genre exercises, the novel brilliantly weaves its multiple perspectives to create a symphony of emotional effects.”
God’s Children Are Little Broken Things by Arinze Ifeakandu (A Public Space Books) is a stunning collection of stories about queer relationships in contemporary Nigeria, and it’s “nothing less than breathtaking and daring,” according to our review. “At the centers of these carefully constructed stories are queer men whose identities and romances are constantly ruptured by political turmoil and by stratified social and cultural ideas of masculinity.”
Mecca by Susan Straight (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is “a sweeping and kaleidoscopic work,” according to our review, in which Straight “stakes her claim” to be “the bard of Southern California literature.” Following Johnny, a highway patrolman, as well as Ximena, an undocumented worker, and Matelasse, a single mother, “this is a novel that pushes back against the clichés of Southern California to reveal the complex human territory underneath.”
Scattered All Over the Earth by Yoko Tawada; translated by Margaret Mitsutani (New Directions) is an intriguing dystopian novel about Hiruko, a Japanese refugee living in Denmark—since Japan no longer exists. She teaches children to speak Panska, or Pan-Scandinavian, a simple language she’s invented, then sets off on a journey to find another speaker of her native tongue. “A varied cast of characters—each in search of something—joins the quest along the way,” according to our review, “and, as the band of seekers grows, Tawada expands upon the themes of language, immigration, globalization, and authenticity which underpin this slyly humorous” novel.
The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk; translated by Jennifer Croft (Riverhead) is, according to our review, a “massive achievement” in more ways than one: Weighing in at nearly 1,000 pages, “the book tackles the mysteries of heresy and faith, organized religion and splinter sects, 18-century Polish and Lithuanian history, and some of the finer points of cabalist and Hasidic theology”—all through the charismatic figure of Jacob Frank, a real person who was believed to be the Messiah by a group of Jews in what is now Ukraine. “The book…has been widely hailed as Tokarczuk’s magnum opus,” and it’s the first of her novels to be translated into English since she won the Nobel Prize in 2019.
Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor.