Books

Canadian Ruth Ozeki's novel The Book of Form and Emptiness makes the 2022 Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist

The American Canadian writer is up for the £30,000 (approx. $48,308 Cdn) prize, which recognizes the year's best novel written by a woman in English.
The Book of Form and Emptiness is a novel by Ruth Ozeki. (Viking, Danielle Tait)

The Book of Form and Emptiness by American Canadian author Ruth Ozeki has made the 2022 Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist.

Announced on April 27, the U.K.-based £30,000 prize (approx. $48,308 Cdn) recognizes the year's best novel written by a woman in English. The winner and other five shortlisted authors also receive a bespoke leather-bound edition of their novel created by U.K. bookbinder Christine Cleaton.

The Book of Form and Emptiness follows 14-year-old Benny Oh, who begins to hear voices around his home after the tragic death of his father. Those voices only get louder when his mother develops a hoarding problem, and Benny seeks refuge in the silence of the local public library.

There he meets a number of unique characters — and his very own Book, who narrates Benny's life and teaches him to listen to the things that truly matter.

LISTEN | Ruth Ozeki on The Next Chapter

Shelagh's extended conversation.

"We were blessed with an extraordinarily high quality of submissions this year, which made whittling down the longlist from 16 to six particularly difficult. But the shortlist contains a wonderfully diverse range of stories, subjects, settings and authors, from the experience of a Native American woman in a haunted bookshop to an early female aviator in the Antarctic," said author Mary Ann Sieghart, chair of the judging panel.

"One novel is narrated by a tree; another by a book. Some are laugh-out-loud funny, others tearful, and sometimes the two are combined in the same book. We judges have loved reading them all and we commend them to you as the best fiction written by women and published in the past year. Our only problem now will be to identify the winner out of these six brilliant novels."

Ozeki is an American Canadian author, filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priest who divides her time living in Northampton, Mass., New York and British Columbia. She is the only Canadian author to make this year's longlist and shortlist.

Ozeki's novel A Tale for the Time Being was shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. Her other books include the novels My Year of MeatsAll Over Creation, the autobiographical The Face: A Time Code, and the collaborative fiction collection Click.

LISTEN | Ruth Ozeki on Writers & Company

Three writers were invited to contribute essays to a series called The Face - a look at how our faces do, and don't, reveal who we are. In 2016, they talked to Eleanor Wachtel about the deeply personal experience of writing those pieces.

The complete six-book shortlist is:

  • Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
  • Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason
  • The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki
  • The Bread the Devil Knead by Lisa Allen-Agostini
  • The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
  • The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

The winner will be announced on June 15.

The other 2022 judges include journalist Lorraine Candy, bestselling novelist and podcaster Dorothy Koomson, author and journalist Anita Sethi, and broadcaster and author Pandora Sykes.

Canadians who have won the award include Toronto's Anne Michaels for her 1996 novel Fugitive Pieces and Winnipeg's Carol Shields for her 1997 novel Larry's Party.

Past winners include Maggie O'FarrellChimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Zadie Smith.

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