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Author Katherena Vermette poses for a portrait in Toronto on Oct. 25, 2016.Marta Iwanek for the Globe and M/The Globe and Mail

The finalists for the First Novel Award, which celebrates the best new writing in Canada, were announced on Friday.

The short list includes Katherena Vermette's The Break, which explores the ramifications of a violent sexual assault in a Winnipeg neighbourhood, and which recently competed on CBC's Canada Reads, as well as Victoria author Yasuko Thanh's Vietnam-set historical epic, Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains. Both novels were also finalists for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize last fall, which Thanh ultimately won.

Rebecca Rosenblum, the author of two well-received collections of short stories, is nominated for So Much Love, about a vanished young woman and the impact her disappearance has on the community, while New Zealand-based author Catherine Cooper is nominated for White Elephant, about a Nova Scotia family living in Sierra Leone.

Rounding out the short list is Montreal author Kaie Kellough's experimental novel, Accordéon.

"It was a distinct pleasure to be introduced to the dozens of good books that were entered in this competition," said head judge Tanis MacDonald, who selected the short list. "The writing and publishing of a first novel are huge accomplishments in themselves, and if I had it my way, the short list would have been very long indeed."

The winner of the $40,000 prize will be announced May 25.

Past winners include Michael Ondaatje, Rohinton Mistry, Anne Michaels, André Alexis, Madeleine Thien, Eleanor Catton and Mona Awad, who won last year for 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl.

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