Shrooms

My brother is the only person I’ve ever accepted drugs from. Despite being a terrible student in a rigorously academic family, he knew everything about drugs. When he gave me a second batch of hallucinogenic mushrooms, he told me to take them with food. “Try pasta,” he said.

We cooked them with steak. They smelled feral. We devoured the steak, and went to a late movie. The theater packed, and lit in animated green. Our mouths formed Os and we both reached out to the screen like it was a waterfall.

Afterward, we drove home slowly through a heavy snowfall, let the dogs out, and walked through the blizzard to the tiny park two blocks from our house. Nearly two in the morning, the whole neighborhood dark and insulated with snow. I played hide-and-seek with my dogs. Snow fell on my bare head, and I remember crouching behind a fir tree, and watching my black lab stand at the top of the pirate ship play structure to scan the park for me. Her sister raced through the trees, and down to the creek bed. This is how they operated: one watched for me, and one ran for me.

I was 27. Impossibly, wildly young. Months away from being so ill that I’d require immediate surgery and months of recovery. Not yet reconnected with the woman who would tell me that she couldn’t have an affair with me because of my family. Not ever acknowledging that we wouldn’t have an affair because I’d given up cheating.

In my family of addicts, I’m the one who quits. I quit sports, and marriage, and guitar. I quit states, and women, and jobs. I quit people. I haven’t spoken to my brother in more than a decade. I give up coffee and alcohol and sex. For years, I was one packed bag away from leaving everyone. I want, more than anything, to be alone and uncomplicated. To stand in a park in a snowstorm, so high that I have lost track of my husband, and the snow feels like a baptism, and I am free. I am the fulcrum of the world. My arms spread out to the sky, and then both dogs tackled me.

Saturday night we watched a documentary about mushrooms, and the interconnectedness — that sense of being whole and part of everything — is why hallucinogenic mushrooms are so potent against PTSD. But I think of them as the way that I began to love Spokane. In the dark, in a blizzard, in a small park with my dogs. I lay in a pile and stared up at the sky and felt holy and loved. Holy and loved.

I wasn’t alone. And nothing would ever be uncomplicated. It only hurts because you’re alive. I don’t know you, but I love you.

I got high on mushrooms and fell in love with the world. That’s what happened. I quit leaving and I stayed. Not then, but soon afterward. Nearly a decade later, after I’d burned everything to the ground seven or eight times, I quit leaving and I stayed. When my dogs were old, and my child was young, I quit leaving and I stayed. I moved back to this neighborhood with my wife, and built the home I didn’t know I wanted. Could I see them that night? My child? My wife? Could I see a life where I would feel holy and loved and devout?

Who can say? Being alive felt important. That’s what I remember best. And the way the dogs tackled me with joy and discovery. We have found you! We have found you at last!

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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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