2022 - Shortlisted
In this haunting novel a middle-aged man, the second-generation son of Italian-Russian migrants, finally visits his mother in the nursing home he placed her in two years ago, against her wishes. At her life’s end, she begins to recount fragments of her early life, withheld until then, which encompass two world wars and inexpressible tragedy. Divorced, adrift, somewhat callous, the son finds respite in relationships with his own son and the intriguing nurse who cares for his mother — respite and awkward, yet deeply felt, connection.
This book is a powerful, nuanced exploration of memory and intergenerational trauma, and the ways an unspoken secret can shape the present. Hughes writes with ambiguity and compassion about guilt and forgiveness, filial relationships, moral dilemmas, care and agency, knowledge and generational repetitions. The Dogs is also a love story and a consideration of complex end-of-life issues. It is a stunning, finely executed novel.