The Lizard Cage by Karen Connelly
Beautifully written and taking us into an exotic land, Karen Connelly’s debut novel The Lizard Cage is a celebration of the resilience of the human spirit.
Teza once electrified the people of Burma with his protest songs against the dictatorship. Arrested by the Burmese secret police in the days of mass protest, he is seven years into a twenty-year sentence in solitary confinement. Cut off from his family and contact with other prisoners, he applies his acute intelligence, Buddhist patience, and humor to find meaning in the interminable days, and searches for news in every being and object that is grudgingly allowed into his cell.
Despite his isolation, Teza has a profound influence on the people around him. His very existence challenges the brutal authority of the jailers, and his steadfast spirit inspires radical change. Even when Teza’s criminal server tries to compromise the singer for his own gain, Teza befriends him and risks falling into the trap of forbidden conversation, food, and the most dangerous contraband of all: paper and pen.
Yet, it is through Teza’s relationship with Little Brother, a twelve-year-old orphan who’s grown up inside the walls, that we ultimately come to understand the importance of hope and human connection in the midst of injustice and violence. Teza and the boy are prisoners of different orders: only one of them dreams of escape and only one of them will achieve it—their extraordinary friendship frees both of them in utterly surprising ways.
A quote: His prison stories also convinced me that, contrary to popular belief, we do have political prisoners in North America. But we prefer to call them mentally ill, drug-addicted, Native, and black.