Finalist, National Book Awards 2021 for Fiction

ISBN 9781635575361
Bloomsbury Publishing
Laird Hunt

Laird Hunt is the author of eight novels, a collection of stories, and two book-length translations from the French. He has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Grand Prix de Littérature Américaine, and The Bridge/Il Ponte Book Award. (Photo credit: Eva Sikelianos Hunt) More about this author >

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“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 to diphtheria, 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 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.

Judges Citation

Zorrie by Laird Hunt is a satisfying orb of a novel, fully contained, perfectly calibrated with love and disappointment, grief and transcendence. Each sentence has the clarity of crystal. In its Midwestern way, it reminds us that life doesn’t have to be all mountain peaks and canyons and drama—there is beauty and fulfillment in the quiet of the plains, on an Indiana farm, in a singular, small life. It is a quiet and exquisitely crafted ballad of a book.


Laird Hunt, 2021 National Book Awards Fiction Finalist, reads from ZORRIE