Learned helplessness

My grandmother is having a nervous breakdown. She calls her sister a bitch and breaks dishes in the sink. I’ve never heard an adult swear in English. Her face is masking, and she’s scaring me. I’m twelve; we’ve been left in her care while my parents attend a Conservative Congregational Christian Conference. My great-aunt calls to ask if I’ll come to her apartment and open a can of tuna fish.

“Um. Sure.”

“Don’t say um, Jill Amy.”

“Sorry.”

“Also, I need you to pick me up some Ex-Lax.”

“Some what?”

“Ex-Lax.”

Please say you are joking. “Where do I do that?”

“At Jones Pharmacy, Jill Amy.”

Sure. I mean, why didn’t I know, at twelve, where to buy Ex-Lax? So I buy Ex-Lax, and walk to my great-aunt’s apartment, and now she’s yelling about how my grandmother is a bitch, and they’re all freaking me out. The can of tuna is on the counter but there’s no can opener. I check drawers and cabinets. I check them a second time, a third, I’m searching like I can’t hear her ranting beside me.

“What are you doing?”

“I can’t find your can opener.”

“It’s right there, Jill Amy.” She’s exasperated. I’ve opened six pill bottles for her, but they haven’t kicked in yet. She has gestured to some kind of mechanical device. I have no idea what to do with it. “Jesus Christ, are you telling me you’ve never used a mechanical can opener before?”

“If you had a mechanical can opener, why did you need me to come up here and open the can for you?” In the middle of the crazy, I was still asking reasonable questions, like crazy might have a sensible reply. It took a long time to unlearn this.

Yesterday, G asked how much money I had. “I need a drink super super bad.” I gave him four bucks and he came back with an Izze and two dollars. “The shop lady said they were $2. I brought 3 straws so we can share. Or I can go back and get a second one, but then you won’t have any money.” He is 6 and worked all this out himself. And that’s the thing about resourcefulness. We have it because we want to be self-reliant. Or maybe because we want to be self. We are supposed to work through the natural codependence of our childhood. The task of adolescence is to learn to care-take yourself. It isn’t your job to care-take the rest of us. I was twelve. In the middle of an old war between two sisters in their eighties. And all I could think was, My parents are going to kill me.

 

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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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