Compass

“Through all of youth I was looking for you
without knowing what I was looking for”
-W.S. Merwin

This winter, the kid is telling me that his best friends are on vacation and home sick.

“Who are you hanging out with at school?”
“Other kids.”
“How’s that going?”
“Mostly fine. But I have to explain everything to them.”
“How do you mean?”
“I have to explain everything I say. I never have to do that with Madison or Gavin. They know what I mean. It’s easier with them.”

As a military kid, my life was nomadic. What I remember of place and time is experiential, subjective. The past only exists as the way I remember it. The kids I grew up with were bound to a single military assignment. I didn’t know them across states or decades. Only now in the age of the internet do I have people to compare my memory with.

It isn’t like that for my wife. She grew up forty minutes from where we live. This summer, we detoured during a canoe trip, and she showed me her childhood home. Kids like that have a shorthand. That’s not to say that they don’t argue about the way things happened, but there’s someone to argue with. She’s still friends with many of the witnesses.

Sometimes I feel like I got to invent a past for myself. Sometimes that feels liberating. I’ve lived in Spokane for nearly twenty years, and like all places, I’m always asked to claim it. “Are you from here?” “Did you grow up here?”

I am a person obsessed with home. For me it’s a story. I have been telling myself a story of a white house with green shutters and a long sloping yard with a wild garden since I got to pretend to be a civilian for fifth grade. To live next to retired people. To help old ladies shovel their sidewalks. To live in one house long enough to remember what your neighborhood looked like before that street was paved, or that tree chopped down, or the fire. To remember your neighborhood before the fire.

I told myself this story of home, and of people who see you. You talk with them, and they see you. You as you are. Seen. This seemed like the pinnacle of love to me. To be seen.

But to be seen is not far enough.

If we drive through a neighborhood, we might see the remains of a tree that has come down. We might notice the wooden fence, newly raised. We notice all kinds of things. We see.

Last night I was reading a book to my wife and I was struck by the way she fidgets when you read to her. Fidget fidget fidget. Like a child.

“Are you enjoying this story?” I asked.
“Of course!”
“You’re fidgeting.”
“Am I?”
“Yes, you always fidget.”

I said it, and knew it was true. And knew that while I’d read, I’d looked for her to fidget. For her to raise her bare feet and wiggle them at the ceiling. For her to rock and stretch and laugh at all the funny parts of the story. I’d looked for her the way you look for that one goading squirrel who loves to tease the dogs. There it is! Calmly waiting for them to sprint outside so it can leap just out of reach. Leap and leap and leap as they chase beneath, hollering at it.

To see is lovely. To see and be familiar. But it is another thing entirely to be known. My son already understands this. He has grown up with these kids and they have a shorthand. And here, so late, so perfectly late, I have it as well. To be known. To be known. To be loved and looked for and seen.

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Jill Malone

Jill Malone grew up in a military family, went to German kindergarten, and lived across from a bakery that made gummi bears the size of mice. She has lived on the East Coast and in Hawaii, and for the last seventeen years in Spokane with her son, two dogs, a hedgehog, and a lot of outdoor gear. She looks for any excuse to play guitar. Jill is married to a performance artist and addiction counselor who makes the best risotto on the planet.

Giraffe People is her third novel. Her first novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, was a Lambda finalist and won the third annual Bywater Prize for Fiction. A Field Guide to Deception, her second novel, was a finalist for the Ferro-Grumley, and won the Lambda Literary Award and the Great Northwest Book Festival.

Giraffe People

Giraffe People

Between God and the army, fifteen-year-old Cole Peters has more than enough to rebel against. But this Chaplain’s daughter isn’t resorting to drugs or craziness. Truth to tell, she’s content with her soccer team and her band and her white bread boyfriend.

And then, of course, there’s Meghan.

Meghan is eighteen years old and preparing for entry into West Point. For this she has sponsors: Cole’s parents. They’re delighted their daughter is finally looking up to someone. Someone who can tutor her and be a friend.

But one night that relationship changes and Cole’s world flips.

Giraffe People is a potent reminder of the rites of passage and passion that we all endure on our road to growing up and growing strong. Award-winning author Jill Malone tells a story of coming out and coming of age, giving us a take that is both subtle and fresh.

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A Field Guide to Deception

A Field Guide to Deception

In Jill Malone’s second novel, A Field Guide to Deception, nothing is as simple as it appears: community, notions of motherhood, the nature of goodness, nor even compelling love. Revelations are punctured and then revisited with deeper insight, alliances shift, and heroes turn anti-hero—and vice versa.

With her aunt’s death Claire Bernard loses her best companion, her livelihood, and her son’s co-parent. Malone’s smart, intriguing writing beguiles the reader into this taut, compelling story of a makeshift family and the reawakening of a past they’d hoped to outrun. Claire’s journey is the unifying tension in this book of layered and shifting alliances.

A Field Guide to Deception is a serious novel filled with snappy dialogue, quick-moving and funny incidents, compelling characterizations, mysterious plot twists, and an unexpected climax. It is a rich, complex tale for literary readers.

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Red Audrey and the Roping

Red Audrey and the Roping

Occasionally a debut novel comes along that rocks its readers back on their heels. Red Audrey and the Roping is one of that rare and remarkable breed. With storytelling as accomplished as successful literary novelists like Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters, Jill Malone takes us on a journey through the heart of Latin professor Jane Elliot.

Set against the dramatic landscapes and seascapes of Hawaii, this is the deeply moving story of a young woman traumatized by her mother’s death. Scarred by guilt, she struggles to find the nerve to let love into her life again. Afraid to love herself or anyone else, Jane falls in love with risk, pitting herself against the world with dogged, destructive courage. But finally she reaches a point where there is only one danger left worth facing. The sole remaining question for Jane is whether she is willing to accept her history, embrace her damage, and take a chance on love.

As well as a gripping and emotional story, Red Audrey and the Roping is a remarkable literary achievement. The breathtaking prose evokes setting, characters, and relationships with equal grace. The dialogue sparks and sparkles. Splintered fragments of narrative come together to form a seamless suspenseful story that flows effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion.

Winner of the Bywater Prize for Fiction, Red Audrey and the Roping is one of the most memorable first novels you will ever read.

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