The End

The End

by Salvatore Scibona

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Overview

An incredible debut and National Book Award-nominated novel, described as "Memento meets Augie March. Didion meets Hitchcock" by Esquire, from the author of The Volunteer 

It is August 15, 1953, the day of a boisterous and unwieldy street carnival in Elephant Park, an Italian immigrant enclave in northern Ohio. As the festivities reach a riotous pitch and billow into the streets, five members of the community labor under the weight of a terrible secret. As these floundering souls collide, one day of calamity and consequence sheds light on a half century of their struggles, their follies, and their pride. And slowly, it becomes clear that buried deep in the hearts of these five exquisitely drawn characters is the long-silenced truth about the crime that twisted each of their worlds.

Cast against the racial, spiritual, and moral tension that has given rise to modern America, this first novel exhumes the secrets lurking in the darkened crevices of the soul of our country. Inventive, explosive, and revelatory, The End introduces Salvatore Scibona as an important new voice in American fiction.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594484056
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/06/2009
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 340,876
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Salvatore Scibona's first novel, The End, was a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Young Lions Fiction Award. His work has won a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, an O. Henry Award, and a Whiting Award; and The New Yorker named him one of its "20 Under 40" fiction writers to watch. He directs the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

Winner of the 2009 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award

It is a sweltering August day in Elephant Park, Ohio. The year is 1953, the Korean War has recently ended, and the neighborhood’s population of Italian immigrants is preparing up for its annual festival for the Feast of the Assumption. As the festivities reach a riotous pitch and forces from outside the neighborhood cause tensions to rise, five different people, linked by a secret, collide into each other and are plummeted into the past.

Rocco LaGrassa, the neighborhood baker, has just learned that his son has died in a North Korean POW camp. Abandoned seventeen years earlier by his wife and two other sons, Rocco, makes an unprecedented decision to close his bakery and search for his errant family. Before he sets out, however, he receives an unexpected invitation to dine with his neighbor, Mrs. Marini, which he cannot refuse. Constanza Marini now ninety-three-years-old, performs illegal abortions with a tenderness she exhibits in no other facet of her life. Childless and widowed, she cares only for Lina and Ciccio Mazzone, a mother and son she has watched over for years. An apprentice in Mrs. Marini’s illicit profession, Lina has just returned to Elephant Park after a seven-year absence and Ciccio, now sixteen-years-old, spends much of his time with Mrs. Marini as he struggles to forgive his mother for her desertion.

As the festival surges on and Rocco, Mrs. Marini, and Ciccio settle in at the table, and Lina takes her place at the shop down the street, Salvatore Scibona unspools half a century of their shared history in Elephant Park. And he introduces a shadowy figure, a neighborhood jeweler lost in the crowd outside, as the man whose crime binds them all inextricably together.

Inventive, explosive, and cast from the racial, spiritual, and moral tension that has given rise to modern America, Salvatore Scibona masterfully reveals, through the events of one day, the entangled fates of these five Americans. A National Book Award finalist, winner of the 2009 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, and recipient of the inaugural Cape Cod Norman Mailer Award, The End heralds the arrival of an electric new voice in American fiction.

 


ABOUT SALVATORE SCIBONA

Salvatore Scibona’s fiction has been published in Best New American Voices and The Pushcart Book of Short Stories: The Best Short Stories from a Quarter-Century of the Pushcart Prize. He administers the writing fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

 


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • Although the novel follows the lives of five unique characters, why do you think we meet Rocco LaGrassa first among them? Is he more sympathetic than the others? How does his situation—abandoned by his family and on a quest to find them—resonate with the greater themes of the book?
  • When Rocco is at Niagara Falls, he is certain that he and the ice cream man share a moment of mutual recognition, although the latter denies it. Why is the moment so bright in Rocco’s memory? What do you think this scene illumines about the role of memory in the rest of the book?
  • Mrs. Marini describes her breasts as “withered medlars … unique among fruits in that it is inedible until it starts to rot” (p. 69). It is a description that could be applied to Mrs. Marini herself. What do you think Mrs. Marini is trying to say about herself? Could anyone else in the novel be similarly described?
  • Before he goes out and follows Lina, the jeweler recollects being chastised by his mother. “She said, ‘You’re bored because you don’t know the names of things’ ” (p. 123). What was she trying to tell him? Knowing what the jeweler has done, what do you think this means in the context of his crime?
  • Why does Patrizia stay on at the grape farm after Umberto abandons it to return to Italy? What do you think Francesco means when he calls Ashtabula County’s soil “too good … to grow respectable wine grapes” (p. 173)? How might this sentiment also apply to the neighborhood of Elephant Park?
  • “He felt shame and didn’t know what it was coming from, what purpose it was serving. He had to examine it. It was a warning of some kind. It was his heart warning his will of something” (p. 206). In what way is Ciccio’s shame intertwined with his sense that “he had become a grown man” (p. 206)? Do you think this sense of shame can be linked to something else in Ciccio’s life? In Lina’s?
  • Assimilated and successful, Gary—a second-generation Italian-American, who opens Part Four of the novel—is the realization of every immigrant parent’s aspirations for their children. How does his experience of the festival epitomize the paradox of the American dream? How is his experience in America different from Rocco’s? Ciccio’s?
  • Despite the circumstances of her departure, Lina comes back to Elephant Park. Why do you think she came back, even when the place haunts her? Was it only for Ciccio?
  • Asked by one of the priests whether it’s better to feel or to think, Ciccio replies, “”That’s easy! … To feel” (p. 222). Later, Constanza laments, “I have never known, and do not know now, my own feelings; I can only feel them” (p. 292). Do you attribute their differing opinions to age, gender, or something else? What do these assertions reveal about each?
  • The day of the carnival is saturated with an underlying sense of racial menace yet no act of violence is actually committed against the African-American characters. What is the role of race in the novel? How else is it manifested in the story?
  • Women in The End mostly work in jobs that can be performed out of the home—Lina as a drapery seamstress and Mrs. Marini as an illegal abortionist—but they are often left exposed in public. How else are the female characters in control of their world? How are they at the mercy of their surroundings? How is it different now for working-class women than in 1953?
  • Mrs. Marini closes the novel in a reverie to her dead husband and it’s here where we see a bit of the deeper emotional fabric that she suppresses in most of her daily life. What do you think she means when she says, “My darling darling, you have killed the past. You have broken my heart. You have given me the present moment?” (p 314) And what do you think this statement reveals about the way the past and present are linked in the novel itself?
  • There is so much that the novel leaves tantalizingly unsaid. Why do you think Scibona leaves so much to be inferred by the reader? If it were possible, what unknown would you most like to have resolved?
  • The End is a powerful work of fiction about an American immigrant community. What character do you identify with the most and why? What other novels did it remind you of? Why?

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The End 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
The End Salvatore Scibona Riverhead, Oct 2009, $16.00 ISBN: 9781594484056 In 1953 in the Italian neighbored Elephant Park in Ohio, the residents enjoy the annual August Feast of the Assumption. "Unwifed" and "Un-children" baker Rocco cannot accept his family left him; in fact he rejects the military informing him his son died in action in Korea. He expects every one of them to come home shortly. The workaholic jeweler with nothing else in his life, the bone weary seamstress, the runaway teen, and the acrimonies elderly abortion doctor attend the Feast. They are just as lost as the baker is as they cannot accept desertion although each in some way has been affected by dissimilation. In fact in a macabre way they have each other as they and others unite when a few blacks try to enjoy the festivities but are not just unwelcome but hostilities turn violent with The End justifying the means. This not a simple linear historical tale that goes from one point to the next until the end is reached; instead the story line is convoluted and difficult to follow, but once the reader adapts, he or she will appreciate a deep look into the window of the souls. A sort of Eleanor Rigby starring in the Outcast of Poker Flats; The End is a profound tale of what makes a community as the coming together is not necessarily positive. Not for everyone, Salvatore Scibona provides to his audience a resonating character study in which each of the key cast members find their respective past converge on a hot humid August 15 1953, a day of infamy for the lost residents of Elephant Park Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very difficult to follow. No continuity. Characters disappear and other characters appear... All without much coherence.
ChazzW on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Salvatore Scibona's debut novel The End, is not an easy or quick read. And though I waded through several passages and came out the other side with a resounding, "huh?", there were certainly moments of beauty and deep insight. One thing Scibona has done very, very well here, is draw his characters. Most especially the character of widowed abortionist Costanza Marini.The narrative takes place for the most part in Elephant Park, Ohio, a Cleveland neighborhood - an Italian immigrant community, and moves back and forth between the years 1913 and 1953. The anchoring event for both of those years is an Italian Street Festival celebrated on the 15th of August., the Feast of Ascension.The time shifting is one thing. What I had trouble with were the shifting voices of the characters. Not that there are tat many of them. But somehow I kept missing the shifts and the relationship between them, until too late. And I find it drudgery to go back and re-read whole sections because I only realized too late who was narrating at the time. Probably I should start keeping basic character notes. I keep promising myself I'll do so but rarely do.But it's the characters themselves that are the real pleasures here anyway. And chief among them is Mrs. Marini. Costanza Marini is on the surface a manipulative, grizzled and embittered old woman. But she's been carrying on an internal dialogue with her long dead husband for many years, and she's a keen observer of the human soul. There's this chilling observation: A gull encountering a fish on the beach, she considered, will first dig out its eyes, which are softest and easiest of access and provide a clean route to the brains, which are soft, too. Is that why we look to the eyes? If I look you in the eye and you flinch, do you suspect me of plotting where to aim my spoon?One of the concerns of the novel is with the immigrant experience. And the experience is seen from several generational points of view. I loved this observation from Mrs.Marini. Especially since it certainly put me in mind of some similar thoughts that can be found in the novel I had read before this one, Hari Kunzru's The Impressionist. You have not become an American until you have learned to impersonate yourself in a crowd. A long-time widow, she has changed her perspective finally. About Death. About how she's lived her life. And she began to sum up, to tie contrary judgments together with a phrase and put them to one side. In this way discarded old remorses and confusions and made way for last things.Mrs. Marini has decided to pass on things, or 'apprentice' a neighborhood girl, Lina. She has this wonderful description of Lina's mind - her "I": Deliberation did not cause, precede, or otherwise clutter her deeds; this was what you admired her for. Her mind was not a chamber in which a crowd of lawyers competed to direct and obstruct her will; it was a forest, and deep inside, alone, in a cool pond, her I swam freely on its back and scrutinized the tangled canopy of thought overhead. Mrs. Marini, who is old anyway, is starting to feel very old. Once inside, she kept her long johns on and wore a stocking hat in place of her hair. She couldn't remember a chill that had lingered so long and defied so many means of throwing it off. She made herself wear a shawl - and she despised shawls. The urge to wear a shawl is the body's advice that you had better get your paperwork in order and unhide the petty cash so your heirs won't miss it.This is a book that may require two readings to uncover pleasues thatr may have been missed the first time around. That's fine for those who have that instinct. As for me, I must be off to the next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Disapoofs -_-
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She Sighed. See what ive said in the second reslut... from sliverstreak..
bubrock More than 1 year ago
Very interesting book. The sort that at the end you know it had much to say but you're not absolutely sure what. The characters are very nicely drawn and their every detail, emotion, truths and untruths are explored. At times it gets very bogged down in philosophical and theological questions on people, truths, sins, evil, family, you name it, but I kept on wanting to like it, as the characters do draw you in. This book is not an easy read, and it's certainly not for those looking for a linear read. It's a commitment but worth that commitment....I think???
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She trotted in, and whispered, "Dawnflower?"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He looked at his paws. "I've seen her around there. Why did Striking order someone to kill your sister ?" He asked curiously.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She runs back to the old training place.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*waits*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
That. Was. AWSOME!!!!~AS68
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Now i have to repeat it. Again. The tendrils if darkness will be stopped by a crash of light and the frost of a jay will glisten and spread that light as one who once trekked alone will harmonize and restore peace, and though the spread of evil will never stop, the lightning of the stars will be there to keep it at bay.
Gothenberg More than 1 year ago
Impenetrably over-written and, as a result, thoroughly dull. The word "egoism" crops up so many times in the course of this book that one can't help but wonder if the author was somehow aware of his own while writing it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Random symbol
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its jayfrost. Prophacy at happy north result 21.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A tom with white fur and gold eyes he had ninetails can i join