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BANGOR, Maine — The Maine Readers’ Choice Award Committee is pleased to announce that author Anthony Doerr’s novel, All the Light We Cannot See, has been named the 2015 winner of the Maine Readers’ Choice Award. The award was announced today at the Northeastern Maine Library District Fall Council Program.
The Maine Readers’ Choice Award was officially established in 2013 by the Maine State Library and the Maine Library Association with the aim of increasing awareness and reading of adult literary fiction. The launch also came on the heels of a controversial decision regarding one of the literary world’s top prizes for fiction.
“In 2012 the Pulitzer Prize committee did not award a Fiction Prize,” says Valerie Osborne, committee chair and library consultant for the Northeastern Maine Library District. “Members of the library community, booksellers, publishers, authors and avid readers were outraged with the indecisiveness of this esteemed group of judges. We set out to do it better. It is ironic that this year’s winner, as well as last year’s winner, both won the Pulitzer Prize for their books.” The first year’s award went to a virtually unknown author, Wiley Cash, for his debut novel A Land More Kind Than Home.
In order to be considered, books must be published in the United States in the previous year, appeal to a wide audience and be judged by the Committee to be notable works of exceptional quality. The committee, which was comprised of 20 librarians, booksellers, literacy advocates, reviewers and writers, selected the following from an initial field of more than 125 works of fiction:
- Euphoria by Lily King (Atlantic Monthly Press);
- Redeployment by Phil Klay (Penguin Press); and
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Scribner)
“As a MRCA committee member, I usually puzzle over my picks. This year, All the Light We Cannot See, was an easy choice. Author Anthony Doerr has woven a remarkably engaging tale about the strength and resilience of the human spirit. The experience lingers with you long after the book has been returned to the shelf,” said Charlie Campo.
“In a year of especially wonderful books, the heavy reading was a pleasure. I met a few writers I didn’t know and revisited some old favorites. All the Light We Cannot See was just that: filled with light. I loved it,” said Maine author, Monica Wood.
The final selection for this year’s winner was done by the readers of Maine who were encouraged by Maine libraries and booksellers to read the finalists over the summer months. Online voting took place in September to select this year’s winner. Book discussions were offered in a number of libraries across the state to promote the three finalists.
All the Light You Cannot See is from the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighbourhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home.
When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer, says the Los Angeles Times, “whose sentences never fail to thrill.”
Librarians told Osborne they had to order additional copies because they just couldn’t keep up with the demand. Committee member Deb Taylor of Sherman Books in Bar Harbor said, “We absolutely sold more copies of these titles.” The Maine Readers’ Choice award promotes three things that are of the greatest value to a library and independent bookstore in Maine– community, conversation, and great books. It is also nice to know that the three finalists helped the bottom line for Maine’s independent bookstores too.
Nicole Rancourt from the Maine Humanities Council said, “In my experience working with a broad range of organizations and individuals across our great state, it is wonderful to see such a stellar collaborative process, complete with diverse perspectives, coming together for the Maine Readers’ Choice Award. This program celebrates both contemporary great works of adult fiction and Maine’s deep love of reading like none other. MRCA sparks thoughtful discussions and energizes readers creating a greater sense of community not only within our towns and cities, but throughout the entire state. This is truly the power of reading!”
The committee is already hard at work reviewing titles for the 2016 Maine Readers’ Choice Award under the new leadership of Mamie Anthoine Ney, director of the Auburn Public Library. The 2016 Long list will be announced later this fall. To learn more about the award, please visit www.mainereaderschoiceaward.org.