Excerpt from Beneath the Lion's Gaze by Maaza Mengiste, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Beneath the Lion's Gaze

A Novel

by Maaza Mengiste

Beneath the Lion's Gaze
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2010, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2011, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Print Excerpt


It was only Almaz who’d recognized the vivid flush of the girl’s face, the faint hint of bitter almonds, and known what had happened. She’d walked in just as Hailu was explaining to the soldiers how the electric shocks she’d received had damaged her internally.

“Oh,” she said. “Yes,” she collected herself. “It was too much for her. Too much infection.”

The soldiers had been agitated. “We reported she’d be back in a few days. People are expecting her,” one said.

“I’ll explain it all in the death certificate,” Hailu reassured them.

But Hailu had been summoned to jail, only one day after filing the report. His presence was requested in writing, delivered to his office by a skinny soldier with firm steps.

“Arrive by dawn,” the soldier said. “The Colonel starts early.”

“What’s this about?” Hailu looked at the inked signature at the bottom of the letter and tried to imagine the type of man whose hand moved across the page with such jagged sweeps of the pen.

The soldier stared at him and Hailu felt a shiver crawl up his spine. His light brown eyes were crisscrossed with red veins. “It’s just to talk.”

Hailu tried not to think about the fact that no one ever returned from a summons to jail. “Should I pack a suitcase?” Most prisoners were ordered to bring a suitcase under pretext that they’d be released.

“It’s unnecessary,” the soldier said. “Tomorrow,” he added before leaving.

Now, Hailu stared into the dark in his living room, his back straight as a tree, and waited, though for what, he wasn’t sure.

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Excerpted from Beneath the Lion's Gaze by Maaza Mengiste. Copyright © 2010 by Maaza Mengiste. Excerpted by permission of Norton. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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