This novel can be read, enjoyed, even found meaningful without thinking about the title or about the Appalachian mountain lion that figures in the beginning, the end, and the middle of this novel. But that panther also adds another element of intrigue to contemplate. Which character is most like a panther? Is it Chris Bright, the ecoterrorist apparently responsible for the bomb that exploded in the Tazewell County, Virginia, water-bottling plant? Is it his lover, Mara, the divorced mother whose young son died of a terrible illness? Or is the female mountain lion simply a symbol of stealth, of power, of the need for an environment free of excessive human intervention? This is the seventh novel by Mark Powell, a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina who directs the creative writing program at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. No wonder Ron Rash called Mark Powell, “The best Appalachian novelist of his generation.” “Emotionally wrenching. . . . Haunting (and haunted) in the best possible way.”- Kirkus Reviews (starred review). “Powerful and layered, this is a tour de force . . . dark, moody, and mesmerizing.” - Foreword Reviews (starred review). “Lioness is a darkly compelling portrait of an artist who evolves into a homegrown ecoterrorist. Mark Powell’s brooding, twisty novel is packed with a distinctively American, highly explosive mixture of religion, art, sexual obsession, mental illness, and environmental menace.” - Tom Perrotta. “Mark Powell’s Lioness is an immersive rendering of the human quest for love and healing amidst a world on fire—a fire we have set and cannot tame.” – Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle. “In this haunting novel of passion and intrigue, Mark Powell takes on the environmental collapse coming at us and the people driven to action. Powell is a writer with mountains of talent, and here he creates complex and fascinating characters trying to figure a way out of grief and despair. Even love is sometimes violent.” - Janisse Ray. “A thriller with quickness and elegance, Lioness asks tough questions about our responsibilities to the natural world and to one another. In offering no easy answers, it achieves something beautiful and haunting. Mark Powell has written a gorgeous, enthralling, immensely readable novel that will hook you until the very last page.” - Kayla Rae Whitaker. “Mark Powell’s Lioness is a force of nature: moody, twisty, stormy, and supercharged with the fierce blue voltage of top-notch storytelling. It’s a riveting ecothriller that’s also a profound exploration of grief—grief for one another, and grief for the earth. What a powerful novel.” - Jonathan Miles.
Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2022. 304 pages. Trade paperback.