Lyrics Alley

A family tale set in 1950s Sudan, a nation on the verge of independence from British and Egyptian rule, Leila Aboulela's autobiographical novel finds its Muslim characters caught between forces of tradition and modernity, wealth and want, fate and faith. The author's unerring imaginative grasp of the comforts and constraints of family ties—and the liberating impetuses of suffering and creativity—casts a universal glow over this carefully drawn Sudanese saga.

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…