Novel Excerpt: The Golden Lynx

C. P. Lesley is the pseudonym of Carolyn Johnston Pouncy ’74. A specialist on 16th-century Russia, she is the managing editor of  Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History.  Her The Domostroi: Rules for Russian Households in the Time of Ivan the Terrible won the Heldt Prize for Best Translation by a Woman in Slavic Studies in 1994. The Golden Lynx is her first novel, volume 1 of a five-part series. For more information, see She would like to thank Lyon Review editors Anna Isozaki and Sandi Sonnenfeld for all their help in preparing this excerpt for publication.

Kasimov, Sha’ban 940 A.H. / February 1534

Nasan, warned by her brother’s shriek, stuck out a foot, sending him somersaulting over the snow. She pelted him with snowballs, taunting him. “You forgot again, silly! How can you take me by surprise if you yell like that?”

He rolled on the ground, cursing, which made her laugh. Girei got so mad every time he spoiled his own sneak attacks, but more often than not, he forgot to save his war cries for battle.

He soon recovered. Most of the snowballs bounced off Nasan’s quilted overcoat or hit the birch trees that bounded the clearing they had chosen as their private playground.

But a few better-aimed missiles sent icy shivers across her cheeks, reddened by the cold. One smacked Nasan on the forehead, knocking her hat to one side.

She pushed the sheepskin cap into place and aimed another snowball at Girei, who yelped when it broke over his neck. While he scooped ice from inside his coat, she leaped in celebration, bending her legs almost double behind her and shouting, “Ura!

Her moment of exultation cost her. Girei hurtled forward, grabbed her round the waist, and tossed her into a drift.

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Novel Excerpt: Journey West

Lynn Pruett ’82 is the author of the novel RUBY RIVER and numerous short stories and essays. She has received fellowships from the Kentucky Arts Council, the Sewanee Writers Conference, and enjoyed a residency at Yaddo. She teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Murray State University and divides her time between Lexington, Kentucky, and Four Hills Farm in Salvisa, Kentucky. Read her blog at “Journey West” is an excerpt from a novel-in-progress, which won the Nob Hill Penwomen’s Novel award this year.

July 1898

Emmy Dunning chose the last row of the passenger car. She placed her bag on one seat and sank into the other. As the train moved across the Pennsylvania farmland, she observed the green hills, the small farmhouses, the white and black cows, motionless but for their mouths and tails. A frieze of middle America right now, she thought. Miles away from a war in the warm waters of the Caribbean. How peaceful the cows are as their udders replenish, how content.

She leaned against the cushion, grateful for the extra space. The double across from her was empty. Could this luck of privacy continue across the whole continent? She wished so. After a while she took out her pen and journal and wrote of her time in Delaware, and her dreams for a future that seemed lovely. She had been running away for such a long time that running toward something required new patterns of thought. She would certainly find John’s alleged mistress. She would start with Laura Cannonero, whose letters suggested knowledge of the affair. If Laura’s claims were true about John being a co-respondent in another? divorce case, that was the evidence she’d need to divorce him. She’d have to check records, find a lawyer as soon as she got back to San Francisco. Continue reading

Novel Excerpt: The Writing Circle

Now In Paperback

Corinne Demas is a professor of English at MHC and a Fiction Editor of The Massachusetts Review. She is the award-winning author of numerous books for children and adults, including two short story collections, four novels, a memoir, Eleven Stories High: Growing up in Stuyvesant Town, 1948—1968, and a collection of poetry, The Donkeys Postpone Gratification. Her new Young Adult novel, Everything I Was, will be published in April. Her children’s books include The Littlest Matryoshka, Saying Goodbye to Lulu, and Always in Trouble.

We gratefully acknowledge Hyperion Books for letting us include this excerpt from Corinne’s novel The Writing Circle which is available in paperback for the first time.


It was the day of  testicular cancer. Nancy (a name that no one was given anymore) had laid out the offprints from various medical journals on her desk the night before, but she hadn’t looked at any of them yet. The monthly newsletter she edited had a dozen articles an issue, and she usually spent a day collecting material for each article, and a day reading through it, boiling it down, and writing it up. The newsletter was published under the name of a university medical school, but Nancy was its major author. An editorial board of physicians at the hospital—whose names were used for PR—sometimes suggested subjects for her, but mostly it was she who came up with the topics covered each month. She kept her ear out for what people were worried about, health crises that hit the local news (like the deadly strain of E. coli bacteria that had contaminated baby spinach) and the usual seasonal concerns. She did articles about lower back pain when spring gardening season arrived, articles about skin cancer as summer approached, and articles about frostbite at the start of winter. She farmed out some of the work to freelance writers (she had once been one of them), but she rewrote all the articles herself. The narrative voice she had perfected was professional but jaunty. She sounded like an authority, but her tone was upbeat, even when the article was ultimately informing the reader about some hideous condition that involved suffering, disfigurement, and certain early death.

“We are not in the business of scaring people” is what the physician who had started the newsletter and hired her years before had said. “We’re in the business of informing them and helping them make wise choices about their health.”

The wise choice about testicular cancer, Nancy knew from an article she’d done a year before, was to wear boxers rather than briefs and to be wary of bicycling. But there was now some new information about tumors and heat, and it was time for a follow-up. The word cancer in the headline was a certain draw for readers.

She was making herself a cup of tea when the phone rang. It was Bernard.

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