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If you were to ask me, “How can you love this world?” as I often ask myself, the answer would be, “Because Ann Patchett writes novels.” Sometimes it would be, “Because Alice Munro writes short stories.” And sometimes, it’s more specific, the name of a book I have just read, and how I stalled at the end — maybe with only seven pages to go — and decided that I needed to wash dishes, or do laundry, or take the dogs for a walk. But before any of that, I need to be still, with this book’s binding in my hands, in a strange kind of desperate prayer. Don’t end! and it must end! pressing through me with a languid energy like the slowing of a long train.

This morning, I read in the front room, surrounded by dogs. They follow me everywhere. No matter who is home. No matter what is happening. The dogs follow me, unless Mary is cooking, and then they don’t give a fuck about me. I am the favorite unless there is food. I want to tell them about the book I’m reading, but instead I rest it against my chest and look at the other books in the bookshelf. I’m searching for The Magician’s Assistant, the first Patchett book I read. When Mary and I began dating, I’d lent her my copy. She returned it, the front cover torn and dogeared, and said she wasn’t interested in Nebraska. It was like a blow. To return a book I’d lent in such a condition and to have refused to finish reading it.

I should have included that story in my wedding vows: I love you enough to overlook your shabby treatment of books in general and Ann Patchett in particular. Love doesn’t get bigger than that.

The dogs follow me to the bathroom, where I fill the tub with scalding water. The young woman in Commonwealth has just helped a famous drunk author to his hotel room. She could lose her job for this. For taking his money at the hotel bar and then helping him up to his room. But she tucks him into bed with tenderness. In Ann Patchett’s novels, the human condition is so sad that the only recourse is optimism. What better option than kindness?

I finish this chapter, touched again, by the way she writes about men and women. How failure is the middle of the story rather than the end. The end is something else, always. Something more.

What did you get out of this story? Everything. It was filled with everything. And I have only read the first third. The rest needs to last. Please last.

As I type, one of the dogs has her head rested on my thigh, and then on my arm. If you keep typing, how will you love me? What could possibly be more important than this?

I do pet her.

And I resist reading another chapter.

Make it last.

Stretch the beauty out as long as possible. Make the beauty last. Let it go on tomorrow as well. The story between us. Still unfolding.

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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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