The Writer’s Center is pleased to announce that Raoul Wientzen has been awarded the McLaughlin-Esstman-Stearns First Novel Prize for his book, The Assembler of Parts (Arcade Publishing, 2013). Seventy writers applied for the award from across the country and included a diverse pool of voices from a variety of backgrounds and traditions.
Each year, The Writer's Center awards $500 to the author of the best first novel published in the previous calendar year. Conceived and funded by board member Neal P. Gillen, the McLaughlin-Esstman-Stearns Prize honors three dedicated writers and members of The Writer’s Center faculty—Ann McLaughlin, Barbara Esstman, and Lynn Stearns—each of whom unselfishly nourish and inspire students and fellow writers.
“The Assembler of Parts is a remarkable modern fable of grief, redemption, and the durability of family love,” said Jessica Handler, author of Invisible Sisters: A Memoir. “With humor, insight, and a touch of the bizarre, the narrator makes us think about the ways we are loved despite our imperfections, and the spark of the divine that makes us human. Raoul Wientzen is a heavenly writer.”
From the start of this extraordinary novel, eight-year-old Jess finds herself in heaven reviewing her short life. She is guided by a being she calls the Assembler of Parts, and her task, as she understands it, is to glean her life’s meaning. From birth, it was obvious that she was unlike other children: she was born without thumbs. The Assembler left out other parts too, she suffers from a syndrome of birth defects that leaves her flawed. But soon it becomes apparent that by her very imperfections she has a unique ability to draw love from—and heal—those around her, from the team of doctors who rally to her care, to the parents who come together over her, to the family friend whom she helps reconcile with an angry past. With a voice full of wisdom and humor, she tells their stories too. Yet, only when she dies suddenly and her parents are suspected of neglect, unleashing a chain of events beyond her healing, does the meaning of her life come into full focus. And only then does the Assembler’s purpose become clear.
Raoul Wientzen is a pediatrician and teacher. He taught pediatrics and pediatric infectious diseases at Georgetown University for more than 30 years, and he is currently the Medical Director of The Rostropovich Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organization that promotes large-scale programs for children in the developing world.
Don’t miss Karen Thompson Walker, winner of the 2013 McLaughlin-Esstman-Stearns First Novel Prize, when she reads from The Age of Miracles on November 16 at 2:00 PM. The reading will be followed by a reception and book signing.