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Two debut books make the prestigious Booker Prize shortlist

Meghan Collins Sullivan

Family dramas are all the rage in literature these days, according to the Booker Prize shortlist. The award honors the best work of fiction published in English in the UK and Ireland, and the list of finalists for the prize were announced Thursday.

Esi Edugyan, chair of this year's judges, has been on the shortlist herself. "I understand first hand its impact, its singular ability to highlight writers from far-flung parts of the globe, and connect new readers with their work," she said ahead of announcing the honorees.

Two of the short-listed writers made the list for their debut books. Jonathan Escoffery's If I Survive You details the life and tribulations of a young son of Jamaican immigrants. NPR book critic Maureen Corrigan called it "an intensively granular, yet panoramic depiction of what it's like to try to make it — or not — in this kaleidoscopic madhouse of a country." Chetna Maroo's Western Lane centers on a young squash star trying to process the grief of her mother's death.

Books by more established authors in the running include: Paul Murray's The Bee Sting, about a family reeling from financial collapse and had reviewers calling Murray "Dublin's answer to Jonathan Franzen"; Sarah Bernstein's Study for Obedience about a woman who moves to a remote town to work for her brother; Paul Lynch's Prophet Song about a mother trying to keep her family together under a fascist state; and Paul Harding's This Other Eden inspired by the real-life eugenics program in Maine.

All of these books, said Edugyan, refuse easy categorization and give us a "multi-layered portrait of what it means to be alive today."

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Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.