It’s appropriate to celebrate the publication of Bonnie Nadzam‘s LIONS in July, in the summer heat, for the eponymous town of Lions scorches in the Colorado plains. It’s a nearly deserted place, steeped in local legends and sparse in population, and the Walkers have been settled on its barren terrain for generations—a simple family in a town otherwise still taken in by stories of bigger, better, brighter. Gordon Walker has been in love with Leigh for longer than the pair even knew what love was, sneaking into an abandoned sugar beet factory to tell each other ghost stories. During the particular summer in question, the summer before Gordon and Leigh are bound for college, a traveling stranger’s unsettling appearance sets off a chain reaction that will change the fates of everyone he encounters. It begins with Gordon’s father, John Walker, as he succumbs to a heart attack. Gordon is forced to choose between leaving with Leigh, or staying behind with his mother to look after their welding shop and, so the story goes, to continue carrying out a mysterious task bequeathed to all Walker men.
After July Fourth weekend, a highway sign is put up to declare Lions a “living ghost town.” And like Leigh in her attempts to assemble signs and messages into a road map for her life, with every fresh read of this novel I collect more clues, spot a ghost behind the text, and then try to teach myself how to really pay attention. LIONS subtly creeps up on you before knocking you off your feet—a story of awakening, and a searing exploration of American ambition, delusion, and obsession with self-improvement—it could not greet our world at a more relevant time.
Bonnie Nadzam’s work has appeared in many journals and magazines, including Granta, Harper’s, Orion, the Iowa Review, Epoch, and Kenyon Review, among others. Her first novel, LAMB, was the recipient of the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize, and is now a feature film. She is also coauthor with Dale Jamieson of LOVE IN THE ANTHROPOCENE.
[A] story of haunted histories and broken promises.”—O, The Oprah Magazine, a Must-Read Book of the Summer
Nadzam’s knack for powerful storytelling establishes the mystery of this dying town as a truly American fairy tale, while her unforgettable characters elevate the legend to an introspective meditation on love, loyalty, and ambition.”—Booklist
[A] memorable novel . . . Nadzam weaves a strange and mesmerizing story.”—Publishers Weekly
Some authors produce. Product. As if without ever touching it. Others rip out a piece of themselves from their deeeeep cardiopulmonary region and give to us a quirky thumping live thing. You did that, Bonnie Nadzam. Thank you!”—Carolyn Chute, author of Treat Us Like Dogs and We Will Become Wolves
From the very first sentence of this masterfully crafted and pitch perfect novel, Bonnie Nadzam takes us on a journey of loyalty, ethical decisions and layered family histories. Ghosts—of the past, of story, of place, of the future—collide with a desperate haunting melancholy.”—Chris Abani, author of The Secret History of Las Vegas
Here comes Lions: a glittering dust storm, spinning every fantasy of the West, of small town America, together with the truth of a set of lives as real and precise as our own. Sweep us, up, Bonnie Nadzam, we are all yours.”—Ramona Ausubel, author of No One is Here Except All of Us and A Guide to Being Born
Set in a rural heartland town so close to death its few remaining residents mingle with ghosts, Lions is a wonderfully original and unsettling novel about the stories we tell ourselves, the lies we tell each other, and the dreams we all cling to in this place called America. Bonnie Nadzam crafts novels the way born storytellers spin yarns around the campfire, her patient, hushed voice drawing us ever closer until she’s convinced us of the impossible.”—Mike Harvkey, author of In the Course of Human Events
Like some of the characters in the beautifully wrought and haunting Lions, I too have been torn between leaving the place where I was born and raised and moving elsewhere—always imagining greener pastures, so to speak. If I could write a story even half as gorgeous and alive as Nadzam’s novel about familial loyalty and shattered dreams, I’d die a happy man.”—Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff and The Devil All the Time
I’m so haunted by this beautiful, mesmerizing book, by its stories of ghosts and those living among them, by its suspense, its mystery, its atmosphere. Nadzam depicts these stark landscapes with a poetic sweep, with grit, with elements of the fantastical that are stunningly, vividly real.”—Timothy Schaffert, author of The Swan Gondola