Fierce Kingdom

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Published by: Penguin
Release Date: July 25, 2017
Pages: 288
ISBN13: 978-0735224520



An electrifying novel about the primal and unyielding bond between a mother and her son, and the lengths she’ll go to protect him.

The zoo is nearly empty as Joan and her four-year-old son soak up the last few moments of playtime. They are happy, and the day has been close to perfect. But what Joan sees as she hustles her son toward the exit gate minutes before closing time sends her sprinting back into the zoo, her child in her arms. And for the next three hours—the entire scope of the novel—she keeps on running.

Suddenly, mother and son are as trapped as the animals. Joan’s intimate knowledge of this place that filled early motherhood with happy diversions—the hidden pathways and under-renovation exhibits, the best spots on the carousel and overstocked snack machines—is all that keeps them a step ahead of danger.

A masterful thrill ride and an exploration of motherhood itself—from its tender moments of grace to its savage power—Fierce Kingdom asks where the boundary is between our animal instinct to survive and our human duty to protect one another. For whom should a mother risk her life?

Named a Best Book of 2017 by NPR, Amazon, Kirkus, and Bustle…. A Best Crime Novel of 2017 according to the New York Times Book Review.

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Why this Book?

As the mother of a five-year-old, I’ve spent plenty of time in our local zoo. All that wandering from merry-go-round to petting zoo to reptile house gives you plenty of time to daydream about potential novel ideas. At some stage it struck me that all my recent ideas had one thing in common: motherhood.

So I thought, well, what if motherhood is the story? What if I constructed a scenario with the main purpose of turning the idea of motherhood round and round and taking a long look at it?

Then a few other odds and ends began to bring that original idea into focus.

For me, the zoo is a place where I have a very geographic sense of the different phases of my son…and of how those phases have flared so brightly and then evaporated. Once upon a time he liked to climb a stone turtle, but that was when he was two. He had forgotten the turtle entirely by the time he was three. Once upon a time he loved the merry-go-round, but then a guy with a weird voice spoke to him while he was riding, and that was it for the merry-go-round. In the zoo, I was focused on my son’s present moment—his odd obsessions and hilarious quirks and stubborn habits—while also constantly reminded of all the other versions of him that had disappeared.

Likely because of events in the news, I also had frequent thoughts of what I might do if a shooter burst into the zoo—where would I go? How would having my son with me change that plan? (In all honesty, I cannot claim that this was an entirely socially relevant train of thought. I also had thoughts of what I might do if zombies took over the zoo. You have a lot of time to think if you are examining every single primate in existence. )

But eventually it occurred to me that maybe that dark daydream of a life-or-death situation could tie into a novel about motherhood. Maybe all the intricacies of motherhood—the love and joy and sacrifice and animal pull of it—might be brought out most intensely in the most intense situation.

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