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One Bold Prediction: North Woods Will Win the 2024 Pulitzer for Fiction

Updated: Apr 23

Daniel Mason's novel is that good!

yellow house in the North Woods

A literary feat

Pretend that you are given a project. You are told to synopsize three hundred years of local history in one project. Not only are you told to give a complete history, but you are tasked with portraying it in a unique way, unlike any other story you've ever heard.

Could you do it?

Probably not many of us could. The odds of pulling off that kind of Herculean feat are infinitesimal.

Daniel Mason, however, did it. He crafted an extraordinary novel that tells the three-hundred-plus-year history of one area in the most imaginative way possible. North Woods is a phenomenal depiction of American history seen through the experiences of a diverse cast of characters over time.

It's all in how you tell it

Most writers can tell a story. They know how to develop characters, write dialogue, create conflict, and build momentum to a climax. They are skilled in tying up loose ends and leaving the reader with closure. But telling a story in a less direct manner takes creative chops and stunning vision.

Daniel Mason has both. He structured North Woods like a rope, twisting together strands of experience. Each strand is a unique viewpoint, from a different era, told in a distinct manner. Together, these strands form one long fiber of American history.

In a dazzling array of narrative tactics, Mason illustrates individual stories that make up the history of a region. It all starts with an omniscient viewpoint describing the flight of a young couple into the wilderness of the Massachusetts forest. Years pass, and we witness an Indian captive and an old healer who co-exists with the natives. Enter Charles Osgood, an English military man who decides to start an orchard. He is succeeded by his twin girls, Mary and Alice, who provide the bizarre and whimsical pivot point throughout the remainder of the novel.

But wait! There's more! The pages of North Woods are populated with a fugitive slave hunter, a tortured pair of male lovers, a caretaker, a spiritualist, a psychiatrist, a crime writer, a mother of a mentally ill boy, an amateur historian, a college professor, and a botanist.

Memoirs, letters, speeches, crime stories, articles, medical notes, film clips, and real estate ads. Planting and animal husbandry. Slavery and abolitionism. A writer. An artist. A medium. Writers, artists, mediums. True crime and real murder. Mental illness and mortality. The natural world and the supernatural world. Incredible as it may seem, North Woods successfully amalgamates all these diverse topics.

Think of it like a literary collage. A scrapbook. A patchwork quilt of story that warms you and reminds you of where you've been. This is not an ordinary read, but a riveting romp through time.

The Symbiosis of Nature and Humanity

In addition to Daniel Mason's craftsmanship, use of language, and inventive techniques, the author shows his genius by tying in the parallel cycles of nature: The fodder for the germination of the Appleseed that created an orchard. The origination of the spore that destroyed the chestnut trees. The lust of a mating pair of beetles that forever affected American forests.

North Woods illuminates the symbiotic and sometimes destructive connection between the natural world and the existence of mankind.

The 2024 Pulitzer Prize for fiction:

There are not enough hours in the day to read the number of books I want to read. Even though I listen to books while driving, cleaning, cooking, and walking, and use every spare minute I have to sit down and read, I can't consume enough literature. As much as I try to stay current on books and the publishing world, I don't have a good guess as to which other novels are contenders for the Pulitzer.

The Pulitzer Prize website says that nominations are not publicized in advance.

Winners and Nominated Finalists will be announced on May 8, 2024. Nominated finalists are not announced in advance.

The nominees for the Pulitzer Prize may not be announced ahead of time, but the organization must, indeed, let the nominated authors and their publishers know. When I was doing the research for this piece, I found this picture of the cover of North Woods, clearly labeled as a "finalist for the Pulitzer Prize:

North Woods book cover via Random House

Before I read North Woods, I had hopes that Ann Patchett's Tom Lake would be a dark horse for the coveted Pulitzer prize. I thought the novel was lovely, this story of a mother, her three daughters, their cherry orchard, and the tales of her youth shared with her girls during the Pandemic. It may not have had the angst of many other contemporary novels, but it was realistic, poignant, and packed with details of a distinctly American experience.

North Woods is my pick

But my, oh my! While Tom Lake was heart-warming, North Woods is stunning, extraordinary in its ability to take disparate experiences and somehow connect them all. It's a novel that considers the impact of our lives on those who come after us, as well as the impact of death on our place in the cosmos.

North Woods is the most inventive novel I've read in years. While I don't know what other books are in the running, I'm boldly predicting that North Woods by Daniel Mason will be the 2024 Pulitzer Prize-Winner for Fiction.

If you want to read the Pulitzers over the last twenty-three years, here's a guide, but DON'T wait to read this one!

Infographic of Pulitzer Prize winners since 2000


2 комментария

The Pulitzer nominations are done by the individual, their organization, or someone that finds their work worthy. There is a $75 entry fee. So, basically, everyone who is nominated knows.

Melissa Gouty
Melissa Gouty
06 мая
Ответ пользователю

True story. Those who are nominated know, as do their publishers because many of the publishers will print book covers with the "nominated for the Pulitzer Prize..." on them even before the winner is announced. But there is no list anywhere to the public that announces the finalists. I wish there were, because then I could read more of them ahead of time and make my own prediction! Thanks for reading and taking time to comment. I didn't know the entry fee was only $75! My best! Melissa

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