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The chicken chronicles

Upton resident Lauren Scheuer's backyard chickens have personalities all their own.

Lauren Sheuer

Upton resident Lauren Scheuer's backyard chickens have personalities all their own.

Powers wins PEN Award

Kevin Powers, an Iraq War veteran whose debut novel, “The Yellow Birds” (Little, Brown), examines the bond between two soldiers and the traumas they suffer in battle, has won the 2013 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for a distinguished first book of fiction.

The novel, reviewed in Foreign Policy as well as in literary outlets, was a finalist last year for a National Book Award. In an interview with The Guardian, Powers said he wrote the book because people want to know what the war was like “physically, emotionally, and psychologically.”

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The finalists for the award are Jennifer duBois for “A Partial History of Lost Causes” (Dial), about a chess prodigy’s quest to understand how to proceed in a lost cause, and Vaddey Ratner for “In the Shadow of the Banyan” (Simon and Schuster), about the atrocities committed in the 1970s by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. Catherine Chung’s “Forgotten Country” (Riverhead) and Peter M. Wheelwright’s “As It Is On Earth” (Fomite) received honorable mention.

Colm Tóibín will deliver the keynote address at the awards ceremony on March 24 at 2 p.m. at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Dorchester. Tóibín is the winner of the 2011 Irish PEN award for his contributions to Irish literature. Patrick Hemingway, son of Nobel Prize-winning writer Ernest Hemingway, will present the $10,000 prize to Powers. The judges for the 2013 Hemingway/PEN Award were Amy Bloom, Oscar Hijuelos, and Craig Nova.

Advance registration is recommended. Details at www.jfklibrary.org.

The chicken chronicles

A few years ago children’s book illustrator Lauren Scheuer, antsy for a new project, built a coop and bought some chickens. She immediately became enthralled with the distinct personality of each member of the flock — Hatsy, Lil’White, Buff Orpington, Pigeon, and Lucy — and hatched the Scratch & Peck blog, which inspired her new book, “Once Upon a Flock: Life with My Soulful Chickens” (Atria).

Raising chickens is big in certain circles across the country. Scheuer, who lives in Upton, will be a guest of honor on March 30 at the 5th annual Funky Chicken Coop Tour in Austin, Texas.

Journey of recovery

In the opening pages of Domenica Ruta’s new memoir,“With You or Without You” (Spiegel & Grau), her mother, Kathi, tells her to grab the poker from the fireplace and get in the car. Kathi is on a mission to smash the windshield of her brother’s ex-girlfriend.

Ruta’s book is replete with her mother’s acts of destruction and self-destruction. She was a drug addict and occasional dealer with big ambitions for her daughter. Born and raised in Danvers, Ruta, who graduated from Oberlin College and earned a MFA at the University of Texas at Austin, descended into alcoholism, got sober, and embraced the writing life.

Coming out

 “Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War”edited by Roy Scranton and Matt Gallagher (Da Capo)

 “The New Mind of the South” by Tracy Thompson (Simon & Schuster)

 “A Tale for the Time Being”by Ruth Ozeki (Viking)

Pick of the week

Judy Crosby of Island Books in Middletown, R.I., recommends “The Obituary Writer” by Ann Hood (Norton): “In this beautifully told novel, two women are connected across time by a mystery. Vivien, who suffered an incredible loss in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, helps others cope with their grief by making their lost loved ones come alive on the page. Claire, a young wife and mother in suburban Washington, D.C., who is caught up in the excitement of President Kennedy’s inauguration, wants ‘more’ but she’s not quite sure of what.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter @JanLGardner.
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