Surviving Lions is an emotional tale that centers on Elena Mae, a feisty mulatto who grows up in Savannah, Georgia, the second of six children crammed into a small home during the Jim Crow era.
Elena Mae is named after her mother, a southern beauty from a proud, hardworking family of tenant farmers in a rural Georgian town. She is the apple of her father’s eye, an Army vet and doggedly devoted family man, who was abandoned at birth. Her fiery, temperamental personality complicates her relationships with her siblings who love her but don’t understand her. Soon, her rebellious antics stretch the boundaries of her parents’ patience, straining her relationship with her mother and drawing her father closer than ever. Ultimately, she completely rejects her parents’ way of life and leaves home by 16. By her early 20’s, Elena Mae makes a huge leap of faith when she emigrates to the bright lights and big city in New York. After freeing herself from the confines of small-town life, she believes her life is on a promising, new trajectory. Elena Mae marries and raises four daughters amid a life in the city ripe with strife, misfortune and disaster. Years later, when she goes home to heal after her husband’s murder, she runs head-on into her last misfortune.