Black Cat
Black Cat
Black Cat


by Bonnie Nadzam

From the winner of the Center for Fiction Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, an elegiac and arresting novel about a young couple whose love—and everything they know to be true—is threatened by the arrival of an unwelcome stranger in their collapsing east Colorado town.

  • Imprint Black Cat
  • Page Count 256
  • Publication Date July 05, 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2490-6
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00

About The Book

Bonnie Nadzam—author of the critically acclaimed, award-winning debut, Lamb—returns with this scorching, haunting story of a modern-day “living ghost town” on the brink of collapse and the rural community confronted with either chasing the promise of a better life elsewhere or—against all reason—staying where they are.

Lions is set on the high plains of Colorado, a nearly deserted place, steeped in local legends and sparse in population. Built to be a glorious western city upon a hill, it was never fit for farming, mining, trading, or any of the illusory sources of wealth its pioneers imagined. The Walkers have been settled on its barren terrain for generations—a simple family in a town otherwise still chasing dreams of bigger, better, brighter.

When a traveling stranger appears one day, his unsettling presence sets off a chain reaction that will change the fates of everyone he encounters and accelerate the deterioration of Lions. It begins with the patriarch John Walker as he succumbs to a heart attack. His devastated son, Gordon, is forced to choose between leaving for college with his girlfriend, Leigh, and staying with his family to look after their flailing welding shop and, it is believed, to continue carrying out a mysterious task bequeathed to all Walker men. While Leigh is desperate to make a life in the world beyond the desolation of Lions, Gordon is hesitant to leave it behind. As more families abandon the town, he is faced with what seem to be their reasonable choices and the burden of betraying his own heart.

A story of awakening, Lions is an exquisite novel that explores ambition and an American obsession with self-improvement, as well as the responsibilities we have to ourselves and each other.

Tags Literary


“Haunting . . . Nadzam weaves ghosts, myths, longing, and an aching American landscape into a fascinating fable about the lengths we go to for the people we love.” —Royal Young, Interview

“[A] story of haunted histories and broken promises.” —O, The Oprah Magazine, a Must-Read Book of the Summer

“An evocative novel of place, set on the brooding frontier . . . [Nadzam] conveys both the reckless certainty of youth and its accompanying lurch of dread.” —Christian Science Monitor

“Nadzam’s knack for powerful storytelling establishes the mystery of this dying town as a truly American fairy tale, while her unforgettable characters elevate the legend to an introspective meditation on love, loyalty, and ambition.” —Booklist

“[A] memorable novel . . . Nadzam weaves a strange and mesmerizing story.” —Publishers Weekly

“Here comes Lions: a glittering dust storm, spinning every fantasy of the West, of small town America, together with the truth of a set of lives as real and precise as our own. Sweep us, up, Bonnie Nadzam, we are all yours.” —Ramona Ausubel, author of No One is Here Except All of Us and A Guide to Being Born

“Set in a rural heartland town so close to death its few remaining residents mingle with ghosts, Lions is a wonderfully original and unsettling novel about the stories we tell ourselves, the lies we tell each other, and the dreams we all cling to in this place called America. Bonnie Nadzam crafts novels the way born storytellers spin yarns around the campfire, her patient, hushed voice drawing us ever closer until she’s convinced us of the impossible.” —Mike Harvkey, author of In the Course of Human Events

“Some authors produce. Product. As if without ever touching it. Others rip out a piece of themselves from their deeeeep cardiopulmonary region and give to us a quirky thumping live thing. You did that, Bonnie Nadzam. Thank you!” —Carolyn Chute, author of Treat Us Like Dogs and We Will Become Wolves

“From the very first sentence of this masterfully crafted and pitch perfect novel, Bonnie Nadzam takes us on a journey of loyalty, ethical decisions and layered family histories. Ghosts—of the past, of story, of place, of the future—collide with a desperate haunting melancholy.” —Chris Abani, author of The Secret History of Las Vegas

“Like some of the characters in the beautifully wrought and haunting Lions, I too have been torn between leaving the place where I was born and raised and moving elsewhere—always imagining greener pastures, so to speak. If I could write a story even half as gorgeous and alive as Nadzam’s novel about familial loyalty and shattered dreams, I’d die a happy man.” —Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff and The Devil All the Time

“I’m so haunted by this beautiful, mesmerizing book, by its stories of ghosts and those living among them, by its suspense, its mystery, its atmosphere. Nadzam depicts these stark landscapes with a poetic sweep, with grit, with elements of the fantastical that are stunningly, vividly real.” —Timothy Schaffert, author of The Swan Gondola


Georgianna took out the eggs, milk and bread and John led the man upstairs. While he showered, John found him an old pair of coveralls carefully patched with scrap denim. Dressed in the borrowed clothes while the washing machine churned his dirty ones—Georgianna had given him no choice in the matter—the man sat back in his kitchen chair. Neither John nor Georgianna asked anything of him, not his name and not a story. Nor did the man offer any.

All of this Chuck relayed weeks later at the bar, and the report made the men and women shake their heads.

The Walkers, God.

“You didn’t ask him anything? Who he was? Where he was from?” Chuck had inquired of John the evening after the stranger disappeared. He wrapped his thick fingers around the coffee mug and leaned forward in his kitchen chair. Georgianna set a thick slice of yellow pound cake before him.

John shrugged. “He needed a shower and a meal.”

Chuck smiled at his old neighbor and cut into the cake with his fork. “Well. At least you didn’t keep him.”

“He said he couldn’t stay.”

Couldn’t stay.

Can you imagine?

Bringing a man off the highway like that into your home?

With your wife and son?

He could’ve been sick.

He could’ve been on the run.

Could’ve been a thief, a drunk, or worse.

He could have been a foreigner.

Anything could have happened.