From the judges' remarks in the press release:
"This novel lyrically revives a significant and intriguing figure in the history of disability. Laura Bridgman (d. 1889) was a celebrity in her lifetime. Stripped of sight, hearing, taste and smell by scarlet fever in her childhood, Bridgman served as a poster child for the Perkins School for the Blind and various intellectual causes such as phrenology and anti-Calvinism.
"What sets this novel apart is the author’s ability to imagine Laura Bridgman’s world and to give her a powerful narrative voice. With skill and compassion, Elkins portrays Bridgman as a complicated character whose strengths and flaws grow more complex as the story progresses. Historical details enrich the story, and the author deftly exposes the care and treatment of the disabled during the 1800s. This is American historical fiction at its best."
The 2014 Honorable Mention went to Catherine Bell's Rush of Shadows (Washington Writers’ Publishing House, 2014), a "sparsely but beautifully written novel" that focuses on farmers of Northern California’s Sacramento Valley and their encounters with the native Digger Indians in the 1850s.
From the judges' comments: "This is truly fresh material. The Trail of Tears is well-known, but Indian removals in California are relatively obscure. The characters are well-drawn and the descriptions vivid. A beautiful book."
Finally, Laila Lalami's The Moor's Account (Pantheon, 2014) was named as the Director's Mention for 2014.
For more on the prize and the full announcement of this year's honorees, see the Langum Charitable Trust. To submit a novel for consideration, view the directions available at the site; the Trust has also issued guidelines used by their readers and selection committee, which authors should find useful as well. The prize is awarded annually to the "best book in American historical fiction that is both excellent fiction and excellent history."
Past years' winners include Gary Schanbacher's Crossing Purgatory, Ron Rash's The Cove, Julie Otsuka's The Buddha in the Attic, Ann Weisgarber's The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, Edward Rutherfurd's New York, and Kathleen Kent's The Heretic's Daughter.