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Sharma Shields’ ‘The Cassandra’ wins a Pacific Northwest Book Award

Sharma Shields speaks with Chuck Morrison prior to autographing his book during a Northwest Passages VIP event at the Bing Crosby Theater on March 13, 2019. The Northwest Passages event featured Shields in conversation with Nancy Pearl about Shields’ new book, “The Cassandra.” “The Cassandra” has won a Pacific Northwest Book Award. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

Sharma Shields’ second novel, “The Cassandra,” has won a Pacific Northwest Book Award.

Hers is one of six books honored by the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, a trade organization of independent bookstores in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Alaska.

“The Cassandra” is set at the Hanford Research Center in the 1940s at the time of the Manhattan Project. Mildred Groves is a young woman from Omak who takes a job there as a secretary to escape her overbearing mother. Like Cassandra of Greek mythology, Mildred has visions of the future that are increasingly horrifying.

Shields, whose debut novel “The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac” won a Washington State Book Award for fiction in 2016, was born and raised in Spokane. She graduated from Ferris High School and has degrees from the University of Washington and the University of Montana. She lives in Spokane with her husband, the novelist, artist and teacher Simeon Mills, and their two children.

In its posting about the award, the association praised Shields for her detailed writing and storytelling: “Shields writes with visceral detail about the Southeastern Washington landscape as well as the interior landscape of the mind. Her story blurs the line between prophecy and complicity, creating an intimate portrait of the costs and lasting effects of war and toxicity.

Shields’ novel was celebrated during a gathering last March of The Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages Book Club, featuring Shields in conversation with author and librarian Nancy Pearl.

Other books honored by the association are the story collection “Exhalation” by Seattle writer Ted Chiang, “The Death & Life of Aida Hernandez: A Border Story” by Aaron Bobrow-Strain of Walla Walla, the poetry collection “Is, Is Not” by Tess Gallagher of Port Angeles, the picture book “My Heart” by Corinna Luyken and the graphic novel “Queen of the Sea” by Portland author and illustrator Dylan Meconis.