Here's a book I missed this year that was right under my nose by University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) English professor Christie Hodgen. Her novel Elegies for the Brokenhearted is making many "best fiction" lists for 2010.
From the author's website:
A savvy, spirited, moving, and surprisingly humorous novel in elegies.
A skirt-chasing, car-racing uncle with whiskey breath and a three-day beard. A “walking joke, a sitting duck, a fish in a barrel” named Elwood LePoer. A dirt-poor college roommate who conceals an unbearable secret. A failed piano prodigy lost in middle age. A beautiful mother haunted by her once-great aspirations.
In Elegies for the Brokenhearted, Mary Murphy tells her own story as she paints lively portraits of the people with whom she’s crossed paths. Having weathered her mother’s erratic movement among homes and multiple husbands, the absence of her runaway sister, and a discouraging search for purpose, Mary’s reflection on her own path intertwines with the histories of the people she’s loved and lost. With a rhythmically unique voice and distinctive wry humor, Christie Hodgen builds an unconventional narrative about the difficult search for identity, belonging, and family.