Parent

Working in other people’s houses can be odd. I’ve worked in home offices with loaded firearms in easy reach. With bullets in the desk drawer. With a toddler repeatedly coming in to sit on my lap and color the invoices. With teens standing around in underpants to wait for whatever they’ve microwaved to finish cooking. The family forgets you’re there. Sometimes they bring you food, or a drink, or come in to chat, but mostly they function as though you’re next door. Familiar and at a remove.

As the bookkeeper, I know everything about them. Numbers are clarity. And if I work in their houses, I know how they speak to their children, how the house hums when they are there and when they are absent. For the most part, this is absolutely fine. Tuesday afternoon, two teenagers spent ten minutes yelling at each other while I finished the filing and started the system backup. A family issue, I thought.

And then he told her it wasn’t OK that she’d tried to kill herself in his house. And she said it wasn’t OK to talk to her like that. And he said she couldn’t be selfish anymore, that she had a child now. And she said nobody asked her why she’d done it, and growing up without anybody loving you was totally fucked up and had left her without coping skills. And they shouted. And talked. And shouted.

Two children. 16 and 19. Two children without jobs, who don’t go to school. Two children who’d forgotten I was 12 meters away.

Tell me again how lucky we are in this country. Tell me how this is a country of opportunity. How we show compassion and tend to the needy. Tell me how we care for one another.

They’re children. And whatever future they can imagine for themselves, they cannot seem to step toward it. And who’s driving this fucking thing anyway? What are you going to do with your life? What’s your plan for when you’re all grown up?

Where you headed, champ?

Sometimes it’s hard to recognize pain in other people because we’re so consumed with our own. I’ve spent the rest of the week wondering if I should have intervened. And what would that have looked like? They said hard things, but they weren’t mean things. He stayed seated. She stood by the window.

Children.

It didn’t feel that way when I was 16 or 19. I was already so old. Weary and disillusioned.

I wish, sometimes, that I were that way now. That I had something a little thicker between my organs and the elements. I wish I could let go of all these motherless children. Fuck it, man. We’re all struggling. We’re all trying our best to get by. Using our resources as well as we’re able.

Somebody should hug those fucking kids. It can’t be me. But somebody should. Somebody loves us all. I believe that. It’s the truest line of poetry ever written.

Somebody should tell us. Somebody should tell us and show us and love us. All the time.

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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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