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Lions Roar : September 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2012 60 specializing in lower-extremity biomechanics. He’s been writ- ing plays and poetry since he was a teenager and fiction since his twenties. That said, years went by without him having much success with creative writing. “I wrote plays and couldn’t get them produced,” he tells me. “I wrote screenplays and couldn’t sell them, and I wrote a couple of really terrible novels. Finally I decided if I was going to do this, I had to stop screwing around and really bring some commitment to it.” In 2006, Groner began his MFA in fiction writing at the Uni- versity of Arizona, and his thesis eventually became Exiles, for which he landed a book deal with Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of Random House. Exiles is the story of cardiologist Peter Scanlon, who takes a look at the rubble of his failed marriage and moves to Kathmandu to volunteer at a health clinic. Never imagining the risks and hardships he’d find there, Peter takes his seventeen- Mercy Was In Short Supply From Cary Groner’s novel, Exiles. year-old daughter with him. The poverty, the child prostitution, the shortage of medical supplies, and the unfamiliar diseases are all a shock, but the encroaching civil war could cost father and daughter their very lives. “When I started writing Exiles, I was interested in the overlap between Buddhist thought and the sciences,” says Groner. “So my idea was to write an epistolary novel, an exchange of let- ters between a Tibetan lama and an evolutionary biologist. But it didn’t take long to realize that would be interesting to me and about five other people on earth. If I wanted anyone to actually read the thing, I had to come up with a narrative.” Out of this realization, Groner eventually developed a fast-paced plot, honed draft by draft. There are keys to creating suspense, he learned. Within the overarching conflicts that form the narrative’s spine, there need to be other problems that twist and turn, so that HE’D HOLD OUT hope until the very end, he couldn’t help it. And even though he probably wouldn’t pray, he wasn’t above a little bargain- ing. If you took man to be made in God’s image, this made more sense, anyway. Mercy was in short supply, but commerce was common as dirt and understood by everyone. He formed the offer in his mind and sent it out: Kill me, then. I’m all I have to trade. But let Alex live; she’s worked hard, and she’s young, and she deserves to see something come of it. As if this thought had somehow penetrated her sleep- ing mind, Alex stirred and murmured. “Dad?” she said. “Here.” His voice a dry rag in the wind, caught on some nail. She crawled toward him. He met her halfway and helped her to his little section of wall. She draped herself across his lap, facing out, toward the doorway, and he stroked her hair. He’d always done this when she was a child. She whispered, her throat parched, “Will anyone find out what happened to us?” He knew what she meant by this; she meant her mother. He doubted anybody would ever know. He wasn’t sure Cheryl would care, anyway, at least about him, but there was no reason to point this out. “It might be better if she didn’t.” Alex lifted a hand, then touched her fingertips to the packed earth, as if testing its solidity. “I guess so.” She adjusted her position. Her ribs pressed on Pe- ter’s thigh, and his foot was going to sleep. He wanted her to be comfortable, so he held still; he wouldn’t be needing the foot, anyway, once the sun rose. From Exiles, by Cary Groner (Spiegel & Grau, 2011). PHOTOBYLIZAMATTHEWS