JASON QUINN MALOTT
THE EVOLUTION OF SHADOWS
2010 Kansas Notable Book
In July of 1995, the news photographer Gray Banick disappeared into the Bosnian war zone and doing so took away pieces of the hearts of three people who loved him: Emil Todorović, his interpreter and friend; Jack MacKenzie, his mentor who taught Gray to hold his camera steady between himself and the worst that war presents; and Lian Zhao, who didn’t have the strength to love him as he wanted her to. Now, almost five years later, they have gathered in Sarajevo to find out what happened to Gray, the man who had taught them all what love is.
Each driven character in this novel believes fully that there is a love strong enough to sustain them, even in the extreme circumstances of war. But each time they have uncovered a glimpse of such a thing, they have failed tragically love itself.
Or, to see it another way, this is a novel about how love fails us every time—or almost every time.
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ISBN: 978-1-932961-84-3 | Carton Quantity: 24
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Lian hears the wind in the trees outside and the creak of the house as its timbers contract in the cool night. The sound fades and comes back like the false sound of the ocean in a seashell. She lies in the small bed the same way she did as a child, her arms crossed over her chest and the arches of her feet pressed together. It’s the position of a corpse, and she once thought it would fool the ghosts into believing she was already dead.
She tries not to think of Emil downstairs. He has told her he is sometimes unable to sleep and she shouldn’t be concerned by the sound of him pacing the house, but she can’t hear anything that sounds human. Only the wind and the creaking house. She tries to think of Gray, the man she has come to find. The way his voice sounded in the morning. The smell of his body, like a warm orange. Even in the dark she can see the small box in the corner of the room that holds Gray’s belongings, which Emil has given to her. The journal. The binder full of photos of her. Some clothes she had held to her face the first night, searching for the ghost of his scent. This is how she pulls back from the sounds of the house and drifts to sleep, her hands turning cold against her chest.
Downstairs, Emil prowls, a prisoner of his memories. At night, with the silent accusation of her presence in the house, he feels as if he is constantly breaking the surface of water, exploding air out of his lungs and sliding underneath again. He counts his steps as he paces. It’s nine steps across the main room as he moves around the furniture and past the green-painted wall where his uncle was shot. He steps into the kitchen, over the place where his father’s blood had collected in the low spot by the entry, and takes another nine steps to the door that opens onto the small, dark garden behind the house. Beyond the garden are five grave markers, the dark silhouettes rising up from the ground. Sometimes he dreams there is a sixth. The one for Mira.
He turns, goes back nine steps across the kitchen to the main room. Nine steps to the front door, which he opens as if expecting the dead. There is only the night air. The smell of dry grass and the faint, old smell of death.