A.M. Homes was the judge this year for the Ken Kesey Award in Fiction. Here are her comments on the finalists:

The Sum of His Syndromes by K. B. Dixon: “Described as a collage of notes, this is a strangely, enigmatic novel, which is kind of addictive, the story of a young man on the cusp of something—i.e. all roads are leading to a kind of precipice—but what of it. With passages that are so well turned they can be called lyrical—and others that are laugh out loud funny. This is the kind of book where we see a bit of ourselves and grimace—but keep reading.”

The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss: “This is a remarkable book, of another world and another time, and yet so compelling I couldn’t put it down—I truly loved it. It’s a old fashioned tale set in 1917 Oregon, the story of a broncobusting young woman, Martha Lessen, defying convention who ends up spending the winter with a couple in the small town of Shelby. I felt transported and transformed by this book—it did all the things a good novel should.” (Ed’s note: Today is Molly’s birthday! Happy Birthday to Molly!)

Bearing the Body by Ehud Havazalet: “This is a work of fiction but in the best of ways the characters are real, they are not only walking among us—they are us—we are they and so it goes. What I admire most is the author’s willingness to stay with his character’s pain, he doesn’t attempt to will it away, to cure it, but simply allows the story to sit with it, to know it for all it’s depth, suffering, grief and out of that comes a kind of understanding and ultimately, perhaps, hope.”

Whose World Is This? by Lee Montgomery: “These well-crafted stories belong to a major new voice that we’ll surely hear more from. They are hard and haunting, oddly funny, beautifully made—by an artist working in words. They read as though they were written beyond carefully, with true measure of their weight, as though they are rare and precious, and the problem is I’m already craving more.”