Excerpt from The Lion Seeker by Kenneth Bonert, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Lion Seeker

by Kenneth Bonert

The Lion Seeker
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2013, 576 pages
    Sep 2014, 576 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Print Excerpt

Orli was drying her cheeks with her free hand. But it was always fated, she said. You and Abel. Like everything.

Gitelle snorted, rippling the line of the veil.

What? There is fate. You two prove it.

Prove what exactly?

How The Name makes His perfect matches for us, in every generation of souls. A heart for a heart, even a wound for a wound. Every shoe must have its foot.

Gitelle was silent, felt her sister's eyes on her face.

Forgive me, said Orli. Foot and shoe. I didn't mean—

Ah Orli, said Gitelle, lisping into the cloth. You think that's what bothers me? My dear sister, you need to forget all that romantic trash if you're ever going to grow up. Now's the time to start.

Outside the cemetery the horse cropped at wet weeds with a stretched neck; Nachman had his collar up and his chin on his chest. There was a wait to find Isaac who'd gotten loose again and was giggling somewhere off in the lindens on the opposite side. First would come the station at Obeliai, then a train to Libau on the coast. She had packed goose feather pillows for the freighter's hard benches and plenty of lemons because lemons are the cure for seasickness: advice from the ones who'd gone before. Africa. She wondered what an ocean will be.


In Southampton on England's coast they boarded a Union Castle liner with a lavender hull and two fat smokestacks. It took twenty days to reach the bottom tip of the pistol-shaped African continent and on every one of them Isaac found ways to raid the upper decks of first class, returning to steerage with pockets stuffed with glazed tarts and fresh cheeses and Swiss chocolate, with strange and impossibly sweet fruits Gitelle had never seen before. When he wasn't raiding he fought other boys or kicked the shins of the duty officers. His masterpiece was starting a fire in a life raft with a flare gun. The crew called him Devil Boy and the captain almost had him confined. They didn't understand it was only that he was born with a little more kaych in him than others, a little extra life energy bubbling and frothing inside like hot milk to get out. When she wiped his face in bed every night with a damp cloth she got him to keep still by promising him the freckles were coming off, and every morning he'd run excited to the mirror to verify her claims.

Cape Town was on a bay raked by salt winds, its streets laced over the roots of a flathead mountain. Colours burned the air: blood flowers, thorny eruptions of vermilion, limeyellow smears on the rocks like veins of fresh paint. The red sun had sandpaper beams. She saw human beings burned the colour of coal or darkbrewed tea or cured leather; she smelled their alien sweat and their tangy cooking, heard the mad bibbering of their manifold tongues. A strange music that made her heart sag in the fear of this shattering place. But later she saw pretty whitewashed houses in a row near the waterfront, with palm trees in tranquil garden squares, and she dared hope that Abel had secured them similar lodgings.

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Excerpted from The Lion Seeker by Kenneth Bonert. Copyright © 2013 by Kenneth Bonert. Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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