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Beneath the Lion’s Gaze

A Novel

Maaza Mengiste (Author)


An epic tale of a father and two sons, of betrayals and loyalties, of a family unraveling in the wake of Ethiopia’s revolution.

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.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • January 2010
  • ISBN 978-0-393-07176-4
  • 6.6 × 9.6 in / 320 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide excluding Canada and the British Commonwealth.

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverBeneath the Lion's Gaze: A Novel


Endorsements & Reviews

Beneath the Lion's Gaze is 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. Although set more than thirty years ago, Mengiste's novel is timely and vital: Its illumination of a world unfamiliar to most Americans shows us how individuals will fight to retain their humanity in the face of atrocity.” — Claire Messud, BookForum

“With words that make ‘a faint, tender bruise’ on the page, and a compassionate imagination that transforms everything it touches on, Maaza Mengiste delivers an important story from a part of Africa too long silent in the World Republic of Letters.” — Chris Abani, author of GraceLand and The Virgin of Flames

“What a beautiful book! After a few chapters I felt I was a member of this family, a citizen of Ethiopia. Maaza Mengiste is talented and bold and fresh. Already, I’m looking forward to her next book.” — Uwe Akpan, author of Say You’re One of Them

“Literature from the margins is often too poorly lit for us to see, but Mengiste takes us through this dark political hunt with the night vision of a lion. A novel both tender and brutal, fearless, it is accomplished beyond a first book.” — Dagoberto Gilb, author of The Magic of Blood and The Flowers

“[A] striking debut…Mengiste is as adept at crafting emotionally delicate moments as she is deft at portraying the tense and grim historical material, while her judicious sprinkling of lyricism imbues this novel with a vivid atmosphere that is distinct without becoming overpowering.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“An arresting, powerful novel that works on both personal and political levels.” — Kirkus Reviews

“[Mengiste's] honors do not belie her skill, for this book is stunning.” — Library Journal

Also by Maaza Mengiste All

  1. Book CoverThe Shadow King: A Novel