Books

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

The American-Canadian author’s latest novel is among the 16 nominated books by women writers from around the world.
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 longlist.

Announced on March 8, International Women's Day, the £30,00 prize (approx $50,630.00 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.

"Choosing just 16 novels from 175 submissions was a marathon task," said author Mary Ann Sieghart, chair of the judging panel.

"We are confident that this wonderful, eclectic and inspiring longlist will offer something to entrance every reader, both male and female."

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.

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 Meats, All 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.

In addition to Ozeki, there are five British authors, six Americans, two New Zealanders, one Turkish-British and one Trinidadian writer on the longlist. Alongside four debut novelists, five authors have been previously longlisted.

The full longlist is:

  • Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith
  • Careless by Kirsty Capes
  • Creatures of Passage by Morowa Yejidé
  • Flamingo by Rachel Elliott
  • Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
  • Remote Sympathy by Catherine Chidgey
  • Salt Lick by Lulu Allison
  • 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 Exhibitionist by Charlotte Mendelson
  • The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton
  • The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
  • The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
  • The Sentence by Louise Erdrich
  • This One Sky Day by Leone Ross

The shortlist of six novels will be announced on April 27, and 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'Farrell, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Zadie Smith.

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