The Yaak

Rick Bass has come to speak to us about writing. Chunks of emu grill beside several picnic tables of food. Bass is densely muscled and soft voiced. We’re at a cabin in the woods; the river rushing past. Dozens of graduate students on a perfect spring night talking about writing. His small daughters have hair the color of moonlight. They ask if I’m named Soap. “Sure,” I tell them. “Will you push us on the swing?” I push them into the darkening branches of the pine trees. A bonfire and voices just to the edge of us while the little girls take turns shouting: Higher, Soap. Higher! We feel like a collective in this place. Beer bread baked on the wood stove. Fire wood chopped and hauled. All of us anxious to help. The little girls’ mother keeps checking to see if they’re annoying me. “Not at all,”I tell her, and it’s true. I want to stay forever. Twenty-three years old, and halfway through my MFA degree. I write poems on this deck in the morning before anyone else wakes. Return to the murmur of voices from sleeping bags. A year later, the carpenter calls and asks if I want to go back to the Yaak. The pipes ruptured over the winter, and the main floor bathroom has been destroyed. “I’m being paid to fix it,” she said, “and I want you to go with me.” Early midweek, we drive up. Her puppy dividing his time between my lap and hers. Not just the bathroom, but much of the living room has also been damaged. I ask if I can help, and am grateful that I can’t. She starts a fire, and puts lentil soup on the wood stove, and then begins tearing up boards. I play with the puppy. Read to him when he gets sleepy. Write for awhile. Feed the fire, and then play guitar. Quietly at first, until I forget that I’m not alone. I play loudly, and shout lyrics toward the river, and try to forget that it’s all ending. That soon I’ll have graduated and what is purest about years of poetry and literature will be squandered in this pragmatic world. Ruined like this glorious cabin, hemorrhaging water in its winter solitude. There is no sanctuary. It’s a long time before I notice that the rest of the house is quiet. The carpenter stretched on the deck with the opened door between us. She brings me a bowl of soup and we take turns reading aloud from Alice Munro. The light through the trees dappling the deck and the dog and the dragonflies. And I will think of those few days all the years that I am sick and unhappily married. I will think of her beautiful work as she restored the rooms around me. How I watched her saw and hammer and drill and knew the art in those tasks, too. How the puppy began to blend with the small girls in my memories. How I thought of him leaping into the branches in the arc of their swing. The feral delight of that place and those stories. How pure love felt in the wilderness. For a while, I held it against myself. You had a chance, once, to be happy. The Yaak like a missed opportunity. A forfeit. But that’s madness. Those days were a map of what is possible. A home removed. Joyful dogs. Children in the trees. Novels read aloud near the fire. Soup on the stove. Music and projects and talk talk talk. The way the poem forms as you stand at the window. The way the day hangs from it like a sash. From the bridge, the creek rages past in its spring form, and nearby a deer watches you. You are not close to it, but inside it. You are the child in the swing rushing toward the trees and the sky. Your voice insisting: Higher! Higher!

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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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