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Finalist for the 2021 National Book Award (Fiction)

“It was Indiana, it was the dirt she had bloomed up out of, it was who she was, what she felt, how she thought, what she knew.”

As a girl, Zorrie Underwood’s modest and hardscrabble home county was the only constant in her young life. After losing both her parents, Zorrie moved in with her aunt, whose own death orphaned Zorrie all over again, casting her off into the perilous realities and sublime landscapes of rural, Depression-era Indiana. Drifting west, Zorrie survived on odd jobs, sleeping in barns and under the stars, before finding a position at a radium processing plant. At the end of each day, the girls at her factory glowed from the radioactive material.

But when Indiana calls Zorrie home, she finally finds the love and community that have eluded her in and around the small town of Hillisburg. And yet, even as she tries to build a new life, Zorrie discovers that her trials have only begun.

Spanning an entire lifetime, a life convulsed and transformed by the events of the 20th century, Laird Hunt’s extraordinary novel offers a profound and intimate portrait of the dreams that propel one tenacious woman onward and the losses that she cannot outrun. Set against a harsh, gorgeous, quintessentially American landscape, this is a deeply empathetic and poetic novel that belongs on a shelf with the classics of Willa Cather, Marilynne Robinson, and Elizabeth Strout.

Reviews

A virtuosic portrait of midcentury America itself - physically stalwart, unerringly generous, hopeful that tragedy can be mitigated through faith in land and neighbor alike...This is not fiction as literary uproar. This is a refined realism of the sort Flaubert himself championed, storytelling that accrues detail by lean detail...Hunt's prose is galvanized by powerful questions. Who were those forebears who tilled the land for decades, seemingly without complaint? How did they fashion happiness, or manage soaring passions, in their conformist communities? He re-examines the pastoral with ardent precision...What Hunt ultimately gives us is a pure and shining book, an America where community becomes a 'symphony of souls, ' a sustenance greater than romance or material wealth for those wise enough to join in
New York Times
Zorrie is a quiet novel about an ordinary life. And when you're ordinary, you need resilience like Zorrie's to survive in an uncaring world. Laird Hunt's short and affecting novel follows Zorrie Underwood's life from childhood in Depression-era Indiana, when she's orphaned, to early adulthood, when she's left on her own, to an eventual marriage and working life
O Magazine's Most Anticipated Historical Fiction Novels of 2021
Zorrie is Hunt at his best.
HERNAN DIAZ, author of IN THE DISTANCE
Compelling from its first page.
NAFISSA THOMPSON-SPIRES, author of HEADS OF THE COLORED PEOPLE
[A] tender, glowing novel that is just as beautiful as Marilynne Robinson's Gilead or Denis Johnson's Train Dreams.
Anthony Doerr, Observer, Best Book of 2021