Best Novel by a Nashvillian

The Blue Star, Tony Earley

Each year, patches of quiet farm-town life grow smaller, but Tony Earley still dwells in that old Southern world—even if he has to go back half a century or more to write about it. His first novel, Jim the Boy, renders rural 1934 North Carolina through the eyes of a 10-year-old struggling to understand family obligations and what it means to be poor. Jim reappears in this year's The Blue Star, a piercing evocation of adolescent longing and hormonal confusion on the eve of World War II, written in a quiet, unadorned voice whose nuances register like silos on a flat horizon. No wonder The New Yorker named him one of America's best young novelists—although Earley's real contribution to Nashville may be the many eager, aspiring faces he teaches each year at Vanderbilt. College students are lazy, and some people just aren't cut out to be writers: Earley knows this. But if you're his student, he will never let it show. —CLAIRE SUDDATH

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