Going to great lengths to avoid the same disaster as in 2012 when no fiction winner was chosen, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Board requested a late entry into the nominees from the jury, seemingly unhappy with the three selections already on the table as a winner. Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See — already a likely candidate after being a National Book Award finalist — went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2015, though the board would not admit whether Doerr's book was the belated finalist or not. (Seems like it must have been, right?)
Doerr's World War II tale joined three other finalists: Laila Lalami’s The Moor’s Account, Richard Ford’s Let Me Be Frank With You, and Joyce Carol Oates’ Lovely, Dark, Deep. Every year, the fiction jury will suggest three titles, just like they did the ones above, in November before the winner is announced. However, this time around, the board used a Pulitzer board policy, which frankly, is not often used, that allows for a fourth nominee after "there was some worry expressed among board members," according to Mike Pride, prize administrator. It seems even the great JCO couldn't satisfy board members this year.
At least one former member of the fiction jury thinks the board did the right thing this time around. Michael Cunningham was on the notorious 2012 jury, when the fiction board rejected all three choices and declined to choose a winner, never using the late-entry fourth-option policy.
God bless them for doing this time what I would love for them to have done back in 2012. That was part of what was upsetting about the no-win in 2012, because we could easily have sent them a fourth nominee.... It's so, so much better than giving no prize.
Back in 2012, the fiction board rejected David Foster Wallace's The Pale King, Denis Johnson's Train Dreams, and (somehow!) Karen Russel's Swamplandia!
Reading between the lines, it would seem All the Light We Cannot See is the last-minute entry, which shouldn't take away from how deserving it is. The book has been absolutely running away with sales numbers, and it's a story the general reading public, the literati, and the critics have all applauded. This year's Pulitzer board wouldn't say whether Doerr's book was a unanimous choice, just that it received "majority" vote in a group of three judges.