This memorable, heartbreaking story opens in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1974, on the eve of a revolution. Yonas kneels in his mothers prayer room, pleading to his god for an end to the violence that has wracked his family and country. His father, Hailu, a prominent doctor, has been ordered to report to jail after helping a victim of state-sanctioned torture to die. And Dawit, Hailus youngest son, has joined an underground resistance movementa choice that will lead to more upheaval and bloodshed across a ravaged Ethiopia.
Beneath the Lions Gaze tells a gripping story of family, of the bonds of love and friendship set in a time and place that has rarely been explored in fiction. It is a story about the lengths human beings will go in pursuit of freedom and the human price of a national revolution. Emotionally gripping, poetic, and indelibly tragic, Beneath The Lions Gaze is a transcendent and powerful debut.
Beneath the Lion's Gaze
The human heart, Hailu knew, can stop for many reasons. It is a fragile, hollow muscle the size of a fist, shaped like a cone, divided into four chambers that are separated by a wall. Each chamber has a valve, each valve has a set of flaps as delicate and frail as wings. They open and close, open and close, steady and organized, fluttering against currents of blood. The heart is merely a hand that has closed around empty space, contracting and expanding. What keeps a heart going is the constant, unending act of being pushed, and the relentless, anticipated response of pushing back. Pressure is the life force.
Hailu understood that a change in the heart can stall a beat, it can flood arteries with too much blood and violently throw its owner into pain. A sudden jerk can shift and topple one beat onto another. The heart can attack, it can pound relentlessly on the walls of the sternum, swell and squeeze ...
Beneath the Lion's Gaze is the outstanding debut novel of an unquestionably gifted writer. Maaza Mengiste's style is absolutely beautiful; she flawlessly combines flowing description and contemplative characters with an action-oriented plot. Often "poetic writing" is synonymous with "slow reading," but this novel is engrossing from start to finish. She has the remarkable ability to pull her readers into profound emotional depths with just a few eloquent sentences.
(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Full Review (1023 words).
The 1974 Ethiopian Revolution
Ethiopia was a monarchy until 1974, ruled by a dynasty that can be documented back to the 13th century, and claimed by oral tradition to trace its lineage to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Emperor Haile Selassie I, born in 1892, was the country's last emperor, beginning his rule as regent in 1916 and officially becoming emperor in 1930. He was considered both a modernizer and a unifier, and was generally held in high respect by his people and the international community.
Following an attempted coup in 1960, dissatisfaction with Selassie's reign grew, as his government struggled with economic and political reforms. A severe famine and drought in 1972-74 brought food shortages and high inflation...
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