This is not just a luminescent work, it is a transcendent and transformative one. Jill Malone finds and plays the desperate times of the teenaged years like an old Gibson. The reader is instantly, effortlessly, back in those halls of high school, the auditoriums and locker rooms and gyms, the whispered conversations in the library, solving math problems on the phone, sneaking out late at night, wondering, always wondering, if you have gone too far this time, or not far enough.
“Malone continues to delight with each new book. Her writing reveals a sure, deft skill at the subtleties and ever-changing emotions of characters as they grow and progress.
Malone is the real thing, a novelist of great touch and tone, like a fine musician, the kind who play because they love the music and look up at the end of a song, surprised to find an audience.
– Bett Norris, Lesbian.com June 2013
In Cole Peters fresh author Jill Malone has created a female version of Holden Caulfield only more complex and on many ways more memorable. . . . this is a gentle window into the agonies and ecstasies of discovering the true self . . . a very well written novel by a very promising writer.
I love 'iceberg' books like this – small and simple on the surface yet massive with complexity beneath the waterline. Malone has crafted a rich, rewarding read full of intriguing characters that somehow never move or act quite as you expect, which makes A Field Guide to Deception quite deceptive indeed.
It’s the story of Claire, who is raising her boy and grieving the death of her aunt, an author of field guides for mushrooms (well, actually Claire wrote them for her – the first deception in the book) and Liv, the carpenter she hires to re-do her aunt’s house. Liv has a tendency to haunt the bars looking for girls to bang, but it’s more out of diversion than actual desire. She is tired of the one-night-stands but doesn’t want the vulnerability of commitment. Of course, they end up together. But there are complications – one of whom is Bailey, Liv’s best friend who is also in love with her.
Far from being a book about simple relationships – because there are no such things – A Field Guide to Deception has an incredible sense of dread. You really root for these women to make a go of it, yet everything they say and do dooms them from the start. As Liv says at one point, “We suck at this.” And they do. But so do many other couples, and they manage to stay together. Do Claire and Liv stand a chance? It’d be mean of me to tell.
Malone underwrites and underplays the drama beautifully, sketching her characters with languid surety until they’re fully formed. This book is less about plot than it is about human nature, so genre readers may find this slow going, but I found the people here so genuine that the paucity of plot points didn’t bother me in the least. But the last twenty or thirty pages, which contain a startling event the ending turns on, move the story firmly and clearly to conclusion. And they do so in such a subtle, disarming way that you’re smiling with satisfaction as you come to the epilogue.
My lone complaint is that the epilogue seems tacked on as it really adds nothing to the essential story, but the point is so minor as to be completely irrelevant and it’s so damn well-written that it’s forgivable. A Field Guide to Deception is beautiful, essential reading.
And that’s no deception.
– Jerry Wheeler, OutInPrint.net, February 2010.
True love is mostly remembered as a series of moments. In A Field Guide to Deception, Claire and Liv start off with the moment a child slides into the water and ends when both realize they don’t have what it takes to stand a happy ending. This gem of a book avoids the second-book blahs and gives us a poignant, real story of relationships and all they cost. Warning—not for those who want happy endings.
Angel Curtis, OutSmart Magazine, February 2010
Jill Malone’s new novel, A Field Guide to Deception, is a gripping story about two women who must learn to deal with the past before moving into a future with any hope of love and commitment.
Claire is a mother to a bright but solitary toddler named Simon. The two had been living with Claire’s aunt for years and the aunt's recent death has shaken Claire’s sense of family and her own place in this world. Though considered an assistant, Claire was actually writing the brilliant field guides that carried her aunt’s name and she now struggles to maintain the secret alongside her grief.
Liv is a carpenter working on Claire’s home. While Claire manages her grief by immersing herself in Simon and finishing the last field guide, Liv battles her own demons by picking up one-night stands that more often than not heighten her loneliness.
The two women circle each other for the first part of the book until they finally manage to connect. Malone maintains the narrative tension by giving each character a compelling and complicated past that is deftly woven into the relationship. There is a strong sense throughout the novel that something is about to break or turn or explode — whether it’s Liv’s prowling or Claire’s mounting pile of secrets.
Similar to Malone’s celebrated debut novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, her new novel is an engaging exploration of a fairly straightforward but compelling premise: who and how we love is often connected to what we need. Liv and Claire’s relationship is as inevitable as it is doomed and its final test comes after a tragic accident that challenges Liv’s capacity for empathy.
Or maybe it’s not the final test, Malone teases. Maybe it’s just the beginning.
Heather Aimee O'Neill,AfterEllen.com, December 2009
Jane and Jane Magazine
It is rare to find an author who knows how to write books that truly booby-trap her readers—books that start out feeling like a trip to the carnival on a sunny summer day, then take a left turn at the Tilt-a-Whirl and enter a dark place filled with oddly-shaped mirrors and distant, eerie peals of laughter. It's even more rare to find an author who can usher her readers safely through that house of mirrors and back into the light of day.
With her debut novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, Jill Malone did just that. For her efforts, she was awarded the Bywater Prize for Fiction and compared to the likes of Sarah Waters and Margaret Atwood. Now, only a year later, Malone is back with another story that takes us deeper into the shadowy depths of the mind and heart with every twist of its plot. This is the story of the coming together of two lonely women, who, despite all their differences, nonetheless bear a striking resemblance to one another. Though set amidst the rustic beauty of the rural Pacific Northwest, one might expect a lazy summer seduction, but it takes on a level of complexity. The two find that they have some heavy lifting to do as they begin to explore the depths of their previous losses and the extent of the emotional walls they have both carefully erected. Mystery, mosh pits and even a smattering of mycology lighten the mood, while keeping the reader rapt all the way to the unforeseeable conclusion.
Amber Hatfield, Jane and Jane Magazine May/June 2009
Praise for Red Audrey and the Roping
Jill Malone’s debut novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, is an absolutely gripping and beautifully written story about a woman struggling to figure out how her past reflects her present life and future.
Jane Elliot is in the hospital recovering from a serious head injury. Though she has been there for several weeks, no family or friends have come to claim or visit her and the circumstances of the accident that landed her there are vague at best.
The novel opens with a meeting between Jane and her psychologist, Dr. Mya, and then journeys back to the events that led up to the accident. For unknown reasons, Jane resists the team of doctors working on her case and trying to learn more about her life.
As the story unfolds, Jane is forced to come to terms with her haunting past — both distant and immediate. She has recently returned to Hawaii after abandoning a stable and loving relationship with a woman in Ireland by leaving a “Dear Jane” letter. She is still grieving the childhood loss of her mother, a gifted storyteller who suffered from mental illness and eventually took her own life.
“If my mind would sort properly, I could explain,” Jane thinks at one point, and indeed she has plenty to figure out. In her recovery, Malone carefully weaves together several narrative strands, each of which is intriguing enough to fill an entire novel.
Nearly every aspect of Jane’s life is binary. She teaches Latin at the University of Hawaii and surfs. She is bisexual. She seeks people to take care of her, including best friends Grey and Emily, but is also a masochist who allows her new sadist boyfriend, Nick, to leave welts so deep she can barely sit back in a chair.
Audrey is the one character who is finally able to break through to Jane — primarily because she is unwilling to accept Jane’s disengagement and unrest. Though Jane’s recovery in the hospital is centered on her physical injuries, the process of memory and the literal act of telling her story forces her to confront her past and to see exactly how it has shaped her present.
Malone is an extremely talented storyteller and Red Audrey and the Roping is a magnificent debut. The novel is accomplished on nearly every level — engaging characters, lyrical prose, and a mystery that is certain to keep you turning the pages. If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to read more — or at all — this is the perfect book to pick up and devour.
Heather Aimee O'AfterEllen.com
Lambda Book Report
Lyrical, touching, fresh and passionate come to mind when reading the amazing debut novel by Jill Malone. The reader is drawn into a complicated story of love and self-loathing of a young woman trying to find her way in the world.
Recovering from a serious accident, linguistics professor Jane Elliot interweaves memories and dreams to unfold her story. I dreamt of Audrey again… [This] time I knew it was a dream. My mother sat in the passenger's seat with her bare feet propped on the dash… I said, But you're dead… This initial bit of storytelling is the core to Jane's struggle as she tries to decipher her past in order to live in her present.
Malone has accomplished an enormous feat with her wonderful writing and characterization in Red Audrey. The reader will get so caught up in Jane's intriguing tale that when the last page is turned it is hard to let go of the story. A must read!
Cecelia Martin, Lambda Book Report, Fall 2008
Red Audrey and the Roping is local author Jill Malone's impressive debut novel following the protagonist, Jane Elliot's, recovery after a devastating accident leaves her alone in a hospital trying to put the pieces of her life, and memory back together.
This novel first appeared on the literary scene in April after Jill Malone won Bywater Books annual contest. The book has been welcomed with great reviews and even made its way into The Advocate, a national gay and lesbian magazine. (In case you've been living in your mom's basement and were unaware.) Red Audrey is told in non-linear fragments, jumping through memories of past relationships and re-centering on the rehabilitation of Jane's broken body. This may turn a few readers off but the fragments work perfectly for this story and help build a type of suspense that may otherwise be absent.
Jane is a surfer, Latin teacher and complex character with an affinity for whiskey. It's in her complexities that make the book so real and the characters seem relatable in many ways. At the heart of the story is a woman broken by the pre-mature death of her mother and how her guilt influences the relationships she engages in. The reader is left to draw conclusions about Jane's motivation for the relationships she gets herself into- both male and female partners, struggling with the labels of bi-sexual or lesbian- she runs from love into distant lovers and even into innocent S&M that goes very bad. It is not the gender of the person Jane sleeps with that should cause reaction from the readers but the reason.
If, somehow, the story doesn't capture your attention, the level of prose will. Ms. Malone writes with a passion for setting and landscape. I've personally been to Hawaii once but even one trip to the island is unnecessary in this book to feel like you've been plucked from the chill of Spokane and placed gingerly onto the warm beach and surf. The book pushes past the tourist view of Hawaii and shows the reader a glimpse of its inner workings of night life and local appeal.
Interspersed within the story are myths- told while Jane is teaching Latin to her overly driven students and when recalling memories. Her writing really shines in these moments and will give you literary goose bumps- in fact, I found myself reading and re-reading these sections.
I won't lie, I wanted to read more about Jane and Audrey's relationship, but who wouldn't? It's in these moments with Audrey that the reader sees the softer side of Jane and her struggle with love- you feel connected to the character and her plight. I think you will find a feeling of desperation for Jane to find her way and let go of everything stopping her from being loved- self-sabotage is a phrase Jane's character brings to mind. There is hope for Jane Elliot, between the surfing and drinking, but you'll have to read the book to know what it is.
Suspenseful and emotional, this freshmen novel is worth reading and definitely worth passing onto friends. If you like this book as much as I did you'll be delighted to know her second novel drops May of 2009 entitled, A Field Guide to Deception. (Also published by Bywater Books.) Jill Malone's books are available at Auntie's Bookstore, (if you hurry you can snag an autographed copy) or www.bywaterbooks.com You can also check her out at dev.jillmalone.com
You can't go wrong on a novel praised by Sarah Waters, Jess Walter and Val McDermid- Spokane has another name to add to its ever growing list of talented authors.
– Melissa Opel, Stonewall News
Set in Hawaii, this raw and convincing first novel is narrated by a woman who can't help testing the limits of her ability to endure pain in her intimate relationships with men and women. Despite a splintered plot, the vivid characters and potent emotions keep the pages turning.
The Advocate, October 21, 2008
"Jane Elliot, her psyche scarred as a young woman by the death of her mother. leads a life bounded by extremes. She finds emotional refuge in the formal rigidity of Latin declensions, as a teacher at the University of Hawaii. She finds physical release in risk, surfing wild waves at dawn and biking mountain trails to the point of exhaustion. Both passions are a hollow substitute for honest intimacy. Jane doesn't love herself, can't love others, and withdraws whenever relationships – with men and women alike – become anything near intense. She flirts with a hippie-handsome married man, is seduced by her heiress landlady, offers herself up for S/M sex with a playboy, and won't commit to red-haired Audrey – won't even leave a toothbrush in Audrey's home. Malone's nonlinear novel jitterbugs through time and place – the splintered chronology is a rewarding challenge – as it tells how a shattered woman comes to embrace self-forgiveness and accept the possibility of love. With its lyrical dialogue, complex characters, and atmospheric setting, this is a dazzling and dramatic debut."
Richard Labonte, Book Marks, May 19, 2008
Malone has lived in Hawaii, and in her first novel, the land and sea are as much characters as the heroine, Jane, and her cronies. The loss of her mentally unstable mother to suicide has left this thirtysomething university Latin instructor wracked with guilt, and fleeing the risk of intimacy, although as a long-board surfing enthusiast, she risks the biggest waves. Told from an accident survivor's viewpoint from a hospital bed, Malone's tale of love in the tropics is something of a wave itself. Luminescent writing swells with the heady rush of the past, with its rich tapestry of mournful mother yearning, mixed with lush sensuality experienced in the arms of her landlord, Emily; then crashing to an invalid's grim reality of casts and IV drips. The roping, a linguistic holdover from the heroine's years in Ireland, refers physically to the ties binding Jane to her sadist male lover, Nick, and figuratively as the entanglement of feelings. Finely tuned, daring, and perceptive, Malone's auspicious debut leaves us wanting more.
Whitney Scott,ALA Booklist, May 1, 2008
Spokane & Coeur d'Alene Living
If the gods of literature exist, they are smiling right now. Jill Malone's debut novel has certainly made me smile. I've just had the pleasure of reading an advance copy, and I feel like an explorer who has just discovered a wondrous territory, and I can't wait to tell everyone, show them this miraculous landscape that Jill Malone has created for us.
The blurb posted mentions Sarah Waters and Margaret Atwood. Throw in any author whose skill and maturity and dexterity with language makes you happy, and it won't be overkill. Joan Didion's novels. Jane Rule. Jane Smiley. Jane Hamilton. I am not overstating when I say that Red Audrey and the Roping measures up, more than meets that standard.
Honestly, I got chills reading this novel. It's that good. It's not often that a writer of such skill, such ease with tone, style, dialogue, setting, comes along.
Set in Hawaii, the story moves with Jane Elliott through a series of failed relationships, a series of disjointed scenes that all have to do with Jane's inability to trust herself and trust that anyone can love her. She struggles to come to terms with her dissociated life.
'The fire flickered without much warmth or enthusiasm. Emily rubbed her hands against the outside of my legs like a trainer. Her hands burned the surface of my skin. I shivered into a towel, her body bright and warm against mine as if I still shielded the match in my palms. I name that moment, I name that place, as the one that moved beyond what I could handle. As the one that moved.'
What Jane can't handle is the crux, the heart of this novel, set in rich language, lush descriptions of both physical setting and the emotional geography of Jane's constant attempts to break free of the scars left by her mother's death. Until her repeated efforts to feel something lead to jumping off cliffs, until she can't feel anything. Hurling herself at challenges, at walls, at lovers, at anything she thinks will break her, Jane finally finds that, like Icarus, brief moments of flight that bring her closer to destruction don't just burn away her wings but burn scars that begin to show on the outside as well as inside.
Tethered to the ground, tied to the thing she would throw herself against, Jane breaks.
This is a novel of such depth and skill and beauty that I can only record my awe at Malone's immensely engaging, readable, memorable first novel.
When adjunct Latin professor and UPS driver Jane wakes up in the hospital in Hawaii with only a memory of falling, she says 'the Montana dykes are the blame for everything.' Thus begins this surfer's dive back through the warm oceans of memory: her guilt over her mother's death, her schooldays in Ireland and her childhood in Maui on an orchard near Haiku.
Readers will enjoy soaking into the lush Hawaiian scenery of the land and the sea, both of which are drawn brilliantly, and sharing in Jane's journey of inner landscapes both desert and jungle. This is a gorgeous, lyrical book rife with grief, passion and discovery.
Holly Chase Williams, Spokane & Coeur d'Alene Living, June 2008