Excerpt from The Lioness by Chris Bohjalian, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Lioness

A Novel

by Chris Bohjalian

The Lioness by Chris Bohjalian X
The Lioness by Chris Bohjalian
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  • First Published:
    May 2022, 336 pages

    May 2023, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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Synchronicity was something more profound, a connection that suggested a higher power was at work. In this case--on this safari--it was the idea that on their second afternoon in the savanna, one of their guides overheard two of the guests discussing Katie's latest film and the MGM lion that was the first thing a person saw in the theater, and on a hunch drove the Land Rover to the far side of a tremendous outcropping of boulders, one of the kopjes not far from their camp, and there they were: a female lion and four of her cubs. Regal and proud, the cubs content, all of them lounging in the grass beneath the trees that grew beside the rocks. Even when the second vehicle had roared up behind the first so that everyone could see the animals and snap their photos, the mother lion had done little more than yawn. The cubs looked on a bit more intently, slightly more curious, but since their mother wasn't alarmed, they merely rolled over, stretched their small arms with deceptively large paws, and found more comfortable positions in the grass. The two Land Rovers were barely a dozen yards from the lioness.


She turned now toward David.

"I think we need to bring a few home," her husband said, motioning at the giraffes at the watering hole. "And a couple of zebras. We'd never need a lawn service."

"The zebras would certainly help. But giraffes don't eat grass," she reminded him. They'd just bought a ranch. Or, to be precise, she had just bought a ranch. Thirty acres. It was near Santa Clarita, north of the valley. She'd considered buying something in Malibu, but she'd grown up on Manhattan's Upper West Side, a theater kid born to theater parents, and now that she was--and the words simultaneously made her bask and cringe--a movie star, she wanted to steer clear of the mod world that these days marked the sands: the beach houses with their massive windows, circular fireplaces, and Peter Max paintings against the crisp, white walls. She imagined someday she might have a horse. Or horses. One would be lonely. She'd ridden horses in two different movies and enjoyed the experience. She'd felt horrible when she'd watched her stunt double put the animal through some terrifying gallops and then send it to its knees after the creature was, supposedly, shot.

"Point noted," David agreed.

Beside them, her brother, Billy, was photographing the giraffes with a camera that had a lens so stout it looked to Katie like a club, and his wife, Margie, was staring at the giraffes through binoculars so delicate they reminded Katie of opera glasses. Billy was thirty-five, David's age and five years her senior, and Margie was thirty-three. Margie had found out she was pregnant in August, and her doctor had thought morning sickness alone was a reason why she shouldn't go on the safari, but she was game. Said she wouldn't miss it. This was both her brother's and Margie's second marriage. Billy had a four-year-old son at home from his first, but Margie had left no children in her wake when her previous marriage had imploded. Katie knew that she was supposed to want children, and speculated sometimes what it meant that she didn't. Perhaps she was too ambitious. Or immature. Or selfish. Perhaps it was her hatred of her own parents, who had made her career possible, and yet had also been mercenary and mean and fake. And, yes, cruel. They had not been cruel to each other, which in hindsight was rather surprising, but they had been cruel to Billy and her. (Billy, however, had borne the brunt of the abuse. Most of the real horrors had been inflicted upon him, and it was their mother who was behind the lion's share of that carnage. How Billy had wound up who he was, rather than whoever was strangling all those women in Boston, was a mystery to her. But, thank God, he had wound up a pretty gentle therapist instead of a pretty violent monster.)

Katie's team at the studio, her publicist, and her agent all expected that someday soon she and David would have a baby. And most of them had mixed emotions about that. On the one hand, at thirty she was already outgrowing "starlet": how many more times could she play the ingenue? Besides, now that she was married, it would be unnatural not to have a baby. What would her fans think? On the other hand, most of her entourage disliked the idea of her taking time off, given the box office bullion of everything she touched. Even Tender Madness, her movie with Terrance, had done well, despite the inference in one of the scenes at the mental hospital that the pair had kissed after the cut. (They had, though the moment had wound up on the cutting room floor.)

Excerpted from The Lioness by Chris Bohjalian. Copyright © 2022 by Chris Bohjalian. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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