Mean reds

My first book struggles with grief. A woman who returns to Hawaii after nearly a decade of absence, and finds herself stuck, still processing her mother’s suicide. I don’t have any suicide in my family. But I have heard, over the years, from readers who do. And grief is so familiar. Heavy and daily in that awful boring way.

Eighteen months ago, my coworker’s son took his own life. Since then, she has started a suicide support group in Washington State. She has organized, and grown funds, and reached out to her community and talked about drugs and desperation. She has poured her grief into action, and hollered for help and extended aid and she’s just awesome. Honest about her struggle. Honest about her willingness to do whatever she can to help those struggling around her.

A week ago, Mary’s coworker’s son took his own life. The familiar grief. No, no, not you again. Veterans returning with their maladies, with their brutal experiences. Kids trying to cope with addiction, with bullying. Desperate financial times. Health crises. Denial of assistance for food, housing, mental illness. Need in every direction. Mothers trying to explain to themselves, to their families, to their faith: Why did this happen?

Last Sunday, Mary spent the afternoon and evening in the kitchen making casseroles. The house takes deeper breaths when she’s cooking. I sat nearby, reading. Thinking. Wishing for these families. A friend of mine recently lost his comrade to cancer. And he wrote this gorgeous eulogy about his love and his loss, about his brotherhood. And this is the part of grief that is most familiar. We are, none of us, spared. And for some reason, I keep thinking about that Margaret Cho title, I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight. I tell you these stories about love, these stories about loss because I know you have felt them. In your particular way. I know they are familiar. They are ours. They are all of ours. We can’t save anyone. It doesn’t work that way. We love them. And sometimes that is a task. Sometimes that is our liver, torn every night from our body. We love fiercely. We grieve in pieces. We hold each other together. We unravel and gleam.

 

2 thoughts on “Mean reds”

  1. Yes. We all experience grief, each in our own way. I keep holding on to mine, long past the time to let go of it. I can’t separate from it. I don’t move on, don’t process, don’t feel it getting better with the passage of time. Instead, the time feels like a shock. I am surprised by the days, weeks, years, that have passed, and still my grief attends me.
    As grief stands in attendance, its lesser orbitals also attend, anger, embarrassment. Grief is a shameful secret I keep.
    I am trying to quit smoking. This is as shameful to me as grieving my mother’s loss. Not the smoking habit, but the attempt to quit it, to leave it behind.
    I am a hanger-on. I acknowledge but do not accept change. It happens, but it doesn’t have to affect me, does it?

    1. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” I don’t know, I think it’s always worse not to grieve. Not to find yourself suddenly undone by the smell of soap, by a slice of Angel Food Cake, by the sound of a creek slipping past. Our hearts ache because we are alive.

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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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