The Known World by Edward P. Jones has not only won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, but also the NBCC Award and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
Jones really knows how to write his characters. Each one was very clearly defined. I won't give away too much of the story here but will write a brief overview.
Henry and Caldonia Townsend are slave owners who are black themselves. Henry's father had freed himself and his wife, and then later Henry. While Henry was still a slave under William Robbins, he became somewhat of a favorite, and was later instructed by Robbins on how to be a proper slave owner. Henry builds up quite a plantation but then dies unexpectedly. How Caldonia, along with her overseer Moses, runs the plantation afterward forms the rest of the novel.
Several issues are presented in the book. Whites' attitudes towards blacks, both slave and free; the function of "the law;" men's attitudes towards women (and vice versa); and the question of how and why blacks could own slaves themselves.
This is a very well-written book, and I struggled on whether to rate it a 4 or 4.5. There is some content in the book that downgrades it slightly for me. Consider it a very high 4.
2003, 388 pp.
Pulitzer Prize, NBCC Award, IMPAC Award