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Northwest Author Wins PEN Prize For 'Godforsaken Idaho'

Amazon/New Harvest

A Northwest writer is this year’s winner of a prestigious PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize. Spokane’s Shawn Vestal won the prize for debut fiction Monday night in New York.

Vestal won the PEN award for his book, “Godforsaken Idaho.” It’s a collection of short stories inspired by his upbringing in the small southern Idaho town of Gooding. The stories deal with misfits, the afterlife, and in particular, the Mormon faith.

That’s the faith Vestal was raised in and later left. But Vestal told Oregon Public Broadcasting in 2013 he did not intend the book to be a critique of the religion.

“Faith became a larger and larger part of the book as I began to shape it and write the later stories,” he said. “And for me, that’s just Mormonism. That’s what faith is. That’s my background, and so that’s the prism through which I can look at that subject.”

Vestal is a columnist at the Spokane Spokesman-Review. He previously worked at the News-Review newspaper in Roseburg, Oregon.

The PEN award comes with a $25,000 prize.