Literary Fiction Short Stories

The Lion’s Den – Anthony Marra

28 December 2019
The Lion's Den Book Cover The Lion's Den
Inheritance Collection
Anthony Marra
Amazon Original Stories
December 19, 2019

Exposing his father’s transgressions in a tell-all was the ethical, righteous—and profitable—thing to do. What’s left but to slink back home for a humbling face-to-face with the man whose secrets he sold?

He was a notorious government whistle-blower. Depending on whom you ask, he’s a treasonous felon, a folk hero, a validated patriot, or a national disgrace. To his son, Michael, he’s the father who threw his family into upheaval. Now, having moved back home at the age of thirty-four, Michael is getting to know him as a man. And getting nearer to understanding his motivations that have remained a mystery in this darkly humorous short story of sacrifice and betrayal by New York Times bestselling author Anthony Marra.

Anthony Marra’s The Lion’s Den is part of Inheritance, a collection of five stories about secrets, unspoken desires, and dangerous revelations between loved ones. Each piece can be read or listened to in a single setting. By yourself, behind closed doors, or shared with someone you trust.


The Lion’s Den is a beautifully written short story that is fascinating, clever, and insidiously probing. Packed with dark humour and satirical prose the observational settings that are painted are vivid and highly revealing. This is a story of a troubled relationship between father and son, with multiple side reflections that spark contemplation in areas such as ethics, religion, respect, honesty and morality.

The ethical debate around the role of a whistle-blower is a challenging dilemma – should someone break rules or laws to expose greater crimes. I couldn’t help relate the father to Edward Snowden with the notion that people will see him as a traitor or hero, as someone who acted in the public’s best interests against the nation’s best interests. Is it right that he who holds the power possesses the capacity to act with impunity from the law, while the whistle-blower is derided and ostracised?

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke

The metaphor of going into the Lion’s Den, is wonderfully placed, as the world that awaits a whistle-blower having to face an insurmountable backlash, especially against government perpetrators. The courage to position yourself amongst the lions is an incredible show of fortitude and belief.

Michael’s father was sentenced to federal prison for revealing government information on how it acted towards its own population. Pardoned by President Obama, six years later, he has never spoken about the claims or consequences. Michael, however, for financial gain wrote a memoir, betraying his father’s wishes and setting himself as a critic against his father. When he is asked to step in as a last-minute keynote speaker replacement, at his old Catholic School’s Ethics Symposium, Michael realises that he’s not there as a role model but as a cautionary tale.

Michael’s father is dying of cancer and after he passes away, Michael performs an act of symbolism that illustrates how much he respected and loved his father, in contrast to the damning memoir he had written years before. Michael takes the wheelchair to the lion enclosure in the zoo, parks it and walks away.

“Finding an empty wheelchair in front of a lion enclosure is like finding a pair of shoes at the ocean’s edge. You might look to your left and your right, but in your heart, you know the only way their owner went was in.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this book for its depth of meaning and the observational humour that brought life to this superbly written short story. I would highly recommend reading this book and I would like to thank Amazon Original Stories and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC version in return for an honest review.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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