About the Author

Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

Books by this Author
Seasons Between Us
Excerpt

Lay Down Your Heart (Liz Westbrook-Trenholm & Hayden Trenholm)

Jeremy inspected the spare bedroom, rearranging the pillows on the double bed. A vase on the night table awaited a fresh bouquet of flowers, and the small desk held a pen set and a sheaf of note paper. A space had been left for a fresh water jug and a glass. A single photograph adorned the wall, from their trip to the jungles of Bechuanaland to see the gorillas in 2007, the year before Lesedi went away.

Lesedi had always needed a retreat, a place to go when the troubles of the day—his or hers—led her in the night to abandon their marriage bed for a place of private repose. After twelve years of sleeping apart, he doubted either of them would easily grow accustomed to sleeping together again, no matter how hard he had worked for and fervently dreamed of that blessed day. She’d need the room more than ever, and it was perfect. He would have to commend Henry for the thoroughness of his preparations. He jotted an aide memoire on the pad he now kept tucked in his jacket pocket.

But wait. Where was the book? He’d told Henry to put it there. Told him he wanted Lesedi to see it. That book, that book about—he scrabbled through his notepad, looking, looking.

No such book exists. His own scrawl, just that sentence and a date. A memory sputtered to life. He’d shouted at Henry, accusing him of stealing the book, and Henry’s dark eyes, gentle as he reminded him that they had talked about it before, that he did not own such a book, that Master Falconbridge himself had searched and found no such book had been published.

Jeremy lurched to the window, leaning on the frame and pulling in deep breaths. Two men stood across the street, watching the house. He leaned closer to the glass, squinting to make them out. They resolved into one figure only, the single hawker who always waited forlornly beneath the palms for someone to buy his fruit cups.

Jeremy’s face flushed with sudden heat, and he raised the sash to relieve it. The dry season was well begun and the morning air was cool against his skin, though the wintery July sun promised heat before the day’s end.

He thought briefly of a trip he and Lesedi had made on one of the few occasions the Tanzanian Institute of Advanced Physics could spare its assistant director, to the Serengeti highlands, waking to frost on the ground and the duttering of an old bull elephant half hidden in the high grass at the edge of their camp.

Warmer than that here, and the breeze carried the smell of curry from the small restaurant on the corner and, faintly beneath, the honeyed scent of jacaranda trees. Beyond the fruit seller lay Bagamoyo at its most beautiful, the turquoise Indian Ocean lapping languidly on white sand, empty of all but a few of his neighbours, huddled beneath open-sided tents away from the browning rays of the sun. A liveried slave stood to one side, awaiting the whims of his owners. A momentary unease filled him, like the stomach drop in an elevator, and the sand was filled with laughing children—black, brown, and white—playing together under the watchful gaze of their loving parents. Absurd imaginings.

The never-ending hum of traffic was underlaid with the faint rhythm of drumming from the free town of Jijilabure, on the far side of Bagamoyo. Rehearsal for the evening festival which he had promised to let Henry go to. Perhaps he and Lesedi could join him. . . . He turned to ask her.

Jeremy stumbled back to the bed and sank onto its edge. He forced his thoughts into coherence, planting himself firmly in the here and now, Lesedi in prison for twelve years because she would not help the government weaponize her work, and he, expending his dwindling political capital in obtaining her release. This room was the symbol of his success at last, thanks to a regime change that placed some of his carefully nurtured contacts into positions of power in the new government of national unity. This waiting flower vase, this pen set and notepaper, this space ready for water all meant that Lesedi herself was returning. He remembered her here from all those years ago, turned sideways on the desk chair, voluptuous and desirable in her little pink suit as she listened to him expound on the bureaucratic battles he was fighting to bring his colleagues into the twenty-first century and to convince his government that investment in selective breeding, maternal health programmes, and better care were critical to maintaining Tanzania’s pre-eminence in the slave trade.

“Feed them, treat them, breed them properly, and Tanzania will have the most valuable stock on the continent,” he’d told her.

“And it makes the slaves happy,” she smiled, raising an eyebrow.

“Happy workers make for higher productivity,” he’d rejoindered.

How often they had had that talk, Lesedi his sounding board for justifying better treatment of slaves?

Then it would be her turn to tell him her latest thoughts on the mutable relationship between space and time, translating near incomprehensible physics into thrilling possibilities.

“This science changes everything, even our understanding of time and space. We need to harness it to light the world, perhaps even reach the stars. Not use it to blow up our neighbouring countries.” Her eyes sparkled with intensity and intelligence he found inspiring and erotic.

They would have that life again, they would.

His heart lifted, slowed, and settled. The room was perfect. It was perfect, except Lesedi was still not home, was still stuck in the halfway house in Zanzibar City. Every promise of her release only led to further delays in their deliverance. For three days now, no word had come at all and he feared the latest shuffle of ministers would provide the Security Minister, a holdover from the previous all-white government, yet another excuse to keep his wife away from him. Should he again contact Curtis Nyere, his former senior advisor-turned-politician, or see what more Doris O’Brian, restored from the limbo of “special projects,” could do?

Excerpted from Seasons Between Us, copyright © 2021

A Grave Between Them (Karina Sumner-Smith)

The man in the black mask says this is what he has heard: that it must be her hand on the shovel, her breath and her earth; so no, he won’t help her dig. He won’t fall for her tricks.

He’s wrong in the details—wrong in the head—but there’s blood on his hands, more with each passing moment, and he has the gist of it close enough.

Avery nods, quick and afraid. “I’ll do it,” she says. “Whatever you want. Just let my family go.”

He doesn’t, of course. Instead he binds them tight and locks them in the basement, then bars the door while Avery watches, trembling. Her mom and Aunt Jenny she doesn’t worry about as much—they’re

bound, but beneath the duct tape and bruises their anger burns hot. They’ll have themselves free by morning, one way or another. No, it’s the kids that concern her: Katie with her head held defiant,

little Matthew sobbing into his stuffed dog, Lucas so silent and still that Avery knows he’s hidden himself away in the dark corners of his mind. She wonders how long it’ll be before she can coax him to

return.

“You can let them out yourself,” the man tells her. He adjusts the ski mask over his face, then bends down to pick up the blanket-wrapped body he brought to their door, struggling with the weight. “When

you’re done.”

He’s lying, but maybe she needs the lie.

“This way.” Avery clasps her hands tight so she can’t do anything she’d regret, and leads him into the backyard.

Excerpted from Seasons Between Us, copyright © 2021

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Seasons Between Us (Large Print)
Excerpt

Lay Down Your Heart (Liz Westbrook-Trenholm & Hayden Trenholm)

Jeremy inspected the spare bedroom, rearranging the pillows on the double bed. A vase on the night table awaited a fresh bouquet of flowers, and the small desk held a pen set and a sheaf of note paper. A space had been left for a fresh water jug and a glass. A single photograph adorned the wall, from their trip to the jungles of Bechuanaland to see the gorillas in 2007, the year before Lesedi went away.

Lesedi had always needed a retreat, a place to go when the troubles of the day—his or hers—led her in the night to abandon their marriage bed for a place of private repose. After twelve years of sleeping apart, he doubted either of them would easily grow accustomed to sleeping together again, no matter how hard he had worked for and fervently dreamed of that blessed day. She’d need the room more than ever, and it was perfect. He would have to commend Henry for the thoroughness of his preparations. He jotted an aide memoire on the pad he now kept tucked in his jacket pocket.

But wait. Where was the book? He’d told Henry to put it there. Told him he wanted Lesedi to see it. That book, that book about—he scrabbled through his notepad, looking, looking.

No such book exists. His own scrawl, just that sentence and a date. A memory sputtered to life. He’d shouted at Henry, accusing him of stealing the book, and Henry’s dark eyes, gentle as he reminded him that they had talked about it before, that he did not own such a book, that Master Falconbridge himself had searched and found no such book had been published.

Jeremy lurched to the window, leaning on the frame and pulling in deep breaths. Two men stood across the street, watching the house. He leaned closer to the glass, squinting to make them out. They resolved into one figure only, the single hawker who always waited forlornly beneath the palms for someone to buy his fruit cups.

Jeremy’s face flushed with sudden heat, and he raised the sash to relieve it. The dry season was well begun and the morning air was cool against his skin, though the wintery July sun promised heat before the day’s end.

He thought briefly of a trip he and Lesedi had made on one of the few occasions the Tanzanian Institute of Advanced Physics could spare its assistant director, to the Serengeti highlands, waking to frost on the ground and the duttering of an old bull elephant half hidden in the high grass at the edge of their camp.

Warmer than that here, and the breeze carried the smell of curry from the small restaurant on the corner and, faintly beneath, the honeyed scent of jacaranda trees. Beyond the fruit seller lay Bagamoyo at its most beautiful, the turquoise Indian Ocean lapping languidly on white sand, empty of all but a few of his neighbours, huddled beneath open-sided tents away from the browning rays of the sun. A liveried slave stood to one side, awaiting the whims of his owners. A momentary unease filled him, like the stomach drop in an elevator, and the sand was filled with laughing children—black, brown, and white—playing together under the watchful gaze of their loving parents. Absurd imaginings.

The never-ending hum of traffic was underlaid with the faint rhythm of drumming from the free town of Jijilabure, on the far side of Bagamoyo. Rehearsal for the evening festival which he had promised to let Henry go to. Perhaps he and Lesedi could join him. . . . He turned to ask her.

Jeremy stumbled back to the bed and sank onto its edge. He forced his thoughts into coherence, planting himself firmly in the here and now, Lesedi in prison for twelve years because she would not help the government weaponize her work, and he, expending his dwindling political capital in obtaining her release. This room was the symbol of his success at last, thanks to a regime change that placed some of his carefully nurtured contacts into positions of power in the new government of national unity. This waiting flower vase, this pen set and notepaper, this space ready for water all meant that Lesedi herself was returning. He remembered her here from all those years ago, turned sideways on the desk chair, voluptuous and desirable in her little pink suit as she listened to him expound on the bureaucratic battles he was fighting to bring his colleagues into the twenty-first century and to convince his government that investment in selective breeding, maternal health programmes, and better care were critical to maintaining Tanzania’s pre-eminence in the slave trade.

“Feed them, treat them, breed them properly, and Tanzania will have the most valuable stock on the continent,” he’d told her.

“And it makes the slaves happy,” she smiled, raising an eyebrow.

“Happy workers make for higher productivity,” he’d rejoindered.

How often they had had that talk, Lesedi his sounding board for justifying better treatment of slaves?

Then it would be her turn to tell him her latest thoughts on the mutable relationship between space and time, translating near incomprehensible physics into thrilling possibilities.

“This science changes everything, even our understanding of time and space. We need to harness it to light the world, perhaps even reach the stars. Not use it to blow up our neighbouring countries.” Her eyes sparkled with intensity and intelligence he found inspiring and erotic.

They would have that life again, they would.

His heart lifted, slowed, and settled. The room was perfect. It was perfect, except Lesedi was still not home, was still stuck in the halfway house in Zanzibar City. Every promise of her release only led to further delays in their deliverance. For three days now, no word had come at all and he feared the latest shuffle of ministers would provide the Security Minister, a holdover from the previous all-white government, yet another excuse to keep his wife away from him. Should he again contact Curtis Nyere, his former senior advisor-turned-politician, or see what more Doris O’Brian, restored from the limbo of “special projects,” could do?

Excerpted from Seasons Between Us, copyright © 2021

A Grave Between Them (Karina Sumner-Smith)

The man in the black mask says this is what he has heard: that it must be her hand on the shovel, her breath and her earth; so no, he won’t help her dig. He won’t fall for her tricks.

He’s wrong in the details—wrong in the head—but there’s blood on his hands, more with each passing moment, and he has the gist of it close enough.

Avery nods, quick and afraid. “I’ll do it,” she says. “Whatever you want. Just let my family go.”

He doesn’t, of course. Instead he binds them tight and locks them in the basement, then bars the door while Avery watches, trembling. Her mom and Aunt Jenny she doesn’t worry about as much—they’re

bound, but beneath the duct tape and bruises their anger burns hot. They’ll have themselves free by morning, one way or another. No, it’s the kids that concern her: Katie with her head held defiant,

little Matthew sobbing into his stuffed dog, Lucas so silent and still that Avery knows he’s hidden himself away in the dark corners of his mind. She wonders how long it’ll be before she can coax him to

return.

“You can let them out yourself,” the man tells her. He adjusts the ski mask over his face, then bends down to pick up the blanket-wrapped body he brought to their door, struggling with the weight. “When

you’re done.”

He’s lying, but maybe she needs the lie.

“This way.” Avery clasps her hands tight so she can’t do anything she’d regret, and leads him into the backyard.

Excerpted from Seasons Between Us, copyright © 2021

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Shades Within Us
Excerpt

Porque el Girasol Se Llama El Girasol (Rich Larson)

Girasol watches as her mother shakes the entanglers out onto the hotel bed. They are small and spiny. They remind her of the purple sea urchins she was hunting in the netgame she can’t play anymore, because they had to take the chips out of their phones and crush them with a metal rolling pin before they left Las Cruces.

She is not sure she will be able to swallow one. It makes her nervous.

Her mother plucks the first entangler off the bedspread and peers at it. Her mouth is all tight, how it was when they checked in and the clerk passed her the little plastic bag.

“Peanut butter or grape jelly?” she asks, because she took a fistful of condiment packets from the breakfast room.

“Jelly.”

Her mother peels the packet open and rolls the entangler inside, globbing it in pale purple. Girasol takes it in her hand, getting her fingers sticky, and stares down at it. Ten points, she thinks. She puts it in her mouth.

She gags it back up. It pokes in her throat and she thinks she can feel it squirming a little, like it is alive. Her eyes start to water.

“Squeeze your thumb in your fist when you do it,” her mother says. “Squeeze hard.”

It takes three tries, and when it finally stays down Girasol is gasping and trying not to sob. Her throat is scraped raw. Her mother rubs between her shoulder blades, then takes the second entangler and swallows it. Her face twitches just once. Then she goes back to rubbing Girasol’s back.

“My brave girl,” she coos. “Brave girl, sunflower. Do you feel it?”

“I don’t know. Yes.”

For a few moments, Girasol feels only nausea. Then the entangler starts to prickle in her gut. Warmer, warmer.

“You should feel it.”

“I do. I feel it.”

“It should feel like a little magnet inside your belly.”

“I feel it.”

Her mother’s voice is stretched out like it might snap. “Okay.”

***

They test the entanglers outside, on the cracked and bubbled tarmac of the parking lot. Emptiness on all sides. Their motel is last in a ragged row of gas stations and stopovers, after which there is only the highway churning away to horizon. In the far far distance, they can see the Wall: a slouching beast of concrete and quickcrete latticed with swaying scaffold. Workers climb up and down it like ants; drones swarm overtop of it like flies.

Girasol has never seen the Wall in real life before. It makes her feel giddy. Her teacher only showed them photos of the Wall in class, and had them draw a picture of it on their smeary-screened school tablets.

While Girasol drew, the teacher stopped over her to ask, in a cheery voice, what her parents thought of the Wall. She gave the answer her mother told her always to give: their country was so good that bad people always wanted to come in and wreck it, because they were jealous, and the Wall was good because it kept them out. Then the teacher asked Fatima, and then Maria, but nobody else.

Girasol is still staring off at the Wall when her mother’s charcoal coloured scarf drops over her eyes. She feels her mother’s strong fingers knot it behind her head.

Excerpted from Shades Within Us, copyright © 2018

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