Beneath the Lion's Gaze: A Novel (Paperback)
February 2010 Indie Next List
“Beneath the Lion's Gaze is a riveting novel focused on the primacy of family relationships against the violent backdrop of Ethiopia's 1974 Revolution. Hailu, a prominent doctor, and his two grown sons experience their country's tragedy and their own family's grief through very different prisms of understanding, yet they remain connected even through the gruesome terror overtaking their city. Very hard to put down!”
— Caitlin Doggart, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Chatham, MA
"An important novel, rich in compassion for its anguished characters." —The New York Times Book Review
This memorable, heartbreaking story opens in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1974, on the eve of a revolution. Yonas kneels in his mother’s 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, Hailu’s youngest son, has joined an underground resistance movement—a choice that will lead to more upheaval and bloodshed across a ravaged Ethiopia.
Beneath the Lion’s 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 Lion’s Gaze is a transcendent and powerful debut.
About the Author
Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Maaza Mengiste received a 2020 Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Also a Fulbright Scholar and a professor at Queens College, she is the author of The Shadow King and Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, and a 2018 recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She lives in New York City.
An extraordinary novel, which assembles a dauntingly broad cast of characters and, through them, tells stories that nobody can want to hear, in such a way that we cannot stop listening.
— Claire Messud
Revolutionary Ethiopia in the seventies is the searing backdrop for Maaza Mengiste's incandescent debut…the acutely observed story of a family—a prominent doctor and his sons, one moderate, one mutinous—undone by war.
The real marvel of this tender novel is its coiled plotting, in which coincidence manages to evoke the colossal emotional toll of the revolution.
Mengiste gracefully builds the story to a heart-pumping conclusion…Even with its share of tragedy, this is an absorbing drama…enhanced by the author's spare, spectacular prose.