The Deep Sadness of the Lion

I'm not certain that I will be able to finish the book I have most recently started--not because it is not good--the excerpt below pleads otherwise--but rather because it is so good that the deep sadness of it is difficult to bear for any length of time.  Perhaps that fades after this very early portion--I don't know.  But let me share a few lines with you:

from Beneath the Lion's Gaze
Maaza Mengiste

Then, without a word, she started clapping, her hands and feet moving her shoulders up and down. Like this. Now faster. Don't think, move the way your heart wants you to move, ignore the body. Let the muscles go. There is no room for anger in our dances, pretend you are water and flow over your own bones. His tears stopped, his attention focused on his movement. . . .

One day, Emaye, my mother, I will put water into my bones and dance until my heart obeys. Dawit spun, eyes wide open to take in the slowly darkening sun.

And add to it, this gorgeous observation:

There is this to know of dying: it comes in moonlight thick as cotton and carves silence into all thoughts.

This writing is fearfully, wonderfully strong and it is too easy to enter into the plight and the existence of the characters portrayed.  And if I do not do so, it will be my own fault, not the fault of the book.  And yet with something so strong, so powerfully written, there is much that is frightening about trying to enter--one makes oneself vulnerable in ways that many books do not demand.  And so one must ultimately decide whether or not one trusts the author enough to expose that vulnerability and go where she needs to go.  But with language like this it is hard not to follow.


  1. Steven - I have been looking forward to your comments on this novel, which sits next in the pile beside my desk. It sounds demanding.


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