RI Center for the Book

2022 Route One Reads Selection

Route One Reads is a special partnership connecting the East Coast Centers for the Book from Maine all the way to Florida. Following an annual theme, each Center for the Book selects a book to represent its state on our collective reading list.

The theme for 2022 is “Literary Fiction”

Rhode Island’s Route One Reads selection is Zorrie by Laird Hunt

“What an extraordinary thing that this novel has been selected by the Rhode Island Center for the Book for Route One Reads! It seems to me a testimony to the decency of the main character, Zorrie, who faces the many challenges life throws at her with quiet dignity, that this novel set in rural Indiana might speak to readers in the Ocean State. I’m deeply honored” – Laird Hunt

Laird Hunt


Laird Hunt is the author of eight novels, including the 2021 National Book Award finalist ZORRIE. He is the winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction, the Grand Prix de Littérature Américaine, the Bridge Prize and a finalist for both the Pen/Faulkner and the Prix Femina Étranger. His reviews and essays have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Daily Beast, the Guardian, the Irish Times and the Los Angeles Times, and his fiction and translations have appeared in many literary journals in the United States and abroad. A former United Nations press officer who was largely raised in rural Indiana, he now lives in Providence where he teaches in Brown University’s Literary Arts Program.

Finalist for the 2021 National Book Award (Fiction)
“A virtuosic portrait.” –New York Times Book Review
“A tender, glowing novel.” –Anthony Doerr, Guardian, “Best Books of the Year”
“Pages that are polished like jewels.” –Scott Simon, NPR, “Books We Love”
“Lit from within.” -Mark Athitakis, Los Angeles Times, “Best Fiction Books of the Year”
“A touching, tightly woven story from an always impressive author.” -Kirkus (starred review), “Best Fiction of the Year”
“Radiates the heat of a beating heart.” –Vox
“A poignant, unforgettable novel.” –Hernan Diaz

From prize-winning, acclaimed author Laird Hunt, a poignant novel about a woman searching for her place in the world and finding it in the daily rhythms of life in rural Indiana.

“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.

Join the Indiana Center for the Book and the Rhode Island Center for the Book for an evening with Laird Hunt, author of the 2021 National Book Award finalist, Zorrie This title is being featured by both Indiana and Rhode Island at the National Book Festival.

· Date: August 2, 2022

· Time: 7:00 p.m. – 7:45 p.m. Eastern

· Location: Zoom

· Cost: Free of charge

Participants must register online. Registered participants will be sent a Zoom link upon registration. The event will be recorded and will be available on the Indiana State Library’s YouTube channel in the days following the event.

Visit the Route One Reads website to see how you can travel 2,369 miles and explore 15 states plus DC, all from the comfort of your favorite reading nook!

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