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The End

3.4  ·  Rating Details ·  485 Ratings  ·  133 Reviews
A brilliant debut novel about a single day in 1953 as lived by six people at an Ohio carnival

A small, incongruous man receives an excruciating piece of news. His son has died in a POW camp in Korea. It is August 15, 1953, the day of a tumultuous street carnival in Elephant Park, an Italian immigrant enclave in Ohio. The man is Rocco LaGrassa, and his many years of dogged l
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published May 13th 2008 by Graywolf Press
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Dec 25, 2008 Jim rated it it was ok
This book is good, I'd even say brilliant in some parts, but I just didn't like it. I don't think Scibona is trying too hard to be clever, or deep, or thoughtful: I think he IS clever, deep, and thoughtful, but as a novel, I had difficulty tapping into these things because the entire book is so heavily reliant on fanciful language. The first 100 pages were completely inaccessible, and usually if that's the case, I'll put the novel aside, but I was urged on by a few people to continue, so I did. ...more
Mar 24, 2008 mike rated it it was amazing
Oh, if only there were another star to give this book. Six stars--that's my rating. I don't mean to raise expectations, but even if I do, The End is going to exceed them. This book accomplishes what I suppose all my favorite books do, maybe what every good book will do, and that is it provides you with a new way of experiencing the world. I'm walking around seeing things differently; I'm a new kind of observer of places and people and the things they do for having spent time with this book. That ...more
May 27, 2011 Fionnuala rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I imagine, and this book certainly gives permission to imagine in the sense of cogitate, that if Scibona were asked who he was writing for, he might say, for his characters, or for the previous generations who may have inspired those characters, or maybe for the real life place that inspired his multi stranded yet singularly focused story, or for himself. I would be surprised if he said that the reader was foremost in his mind as he was writing. That is a pity as I think the writer of a novel as ...more
Nov 20, 2008 John rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: readers who want to know the world in its noisy entirety
Recommended to John by: received the book for review
My God, the sentences of Signore Scibona! Constructions hard-headed yet lovely, precise yet inventive: "Night, for children, was more a place than a time." And: "…Lina was a child. She lacked the natural cruelty that a conversance with the marital act encouraged one to refine." And: "The city was a mammoth trash heap -- even the lake was brown -- but it was an honorable place. It put pretty to one side." THE END is a debut novel -- a runner-up for the current Nat'l Book Award -- and it has a lot ...more
Justin Evans
Mar 06, 2011 Justin Evans rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I remember reading in a review of Bellow's letters the idea that some writers can craft remarkable sentences, but can't write a paragraph to save their life. I guess you can broaden that theme: some people can write a great statements, but not much in the way of dialogue. Scibona is clearly a sentence and statement guy. Part of this is because this book is so overwhelmingly narrated as interior monologue. If he'd made it too ordered or comprehensible, some people would complain that it was unrea ...more
I keep wondering how to rate this and how to feel about it and I'm conflicted. On one hand, I like the idea of a theme being the connection to the story like a symphony, but on the other it felt so disjointed and pointless. Somethings tied together too neatly and others are thrown in with no relevance or conclusion. On one hand, some of the writing is beautiful and thought-provoking and on the other all that introspection with no character development. We never understand anything about the char ...more
Sep 15, 2008 Gina rated it it was amazing
This novel haunted me for weeks. It takes place across the span of several decades, weaving forward and back from a single day in 1953 in Elephant Park, Ohio, in an immigrant neighborhood, and tracking multiple characters who are as doomed as any of the characters in L'Inferno.
Nov 18, 2008 Maggie rated it really liked it
One of five finalists for The 2008 National Book Award, The End is an impressive debut whose serpentine plot hovers around a single tumultuous moment during a Catholic street carnival held in an Italian-American enclave of 1953 Cleveland. Amidst a backdrop of racial tensions, poverty and immigration, this pivotal moment ties together the beautifully developed characters who makes up this highly psychological drama: There's Rocco, the town baker, who has just received word that his son has perish ...more
Aug 30, 2010 Gena rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Full disclosure: Salvatore is a friend, and we wrote letters during the time he was working on this novel, and he included one of my own childhood habits confessed in one of these letters in the pages of the manuscript, so that, in a small way, I am *in this novel*. It is very exciting. When I read the passage, my heart pounded a little. So of course I'm not an objective reader, but then, who is? This is a gorgeous novel. It seems much too wise for a debut, but it was in the works for a long tim ...more
Michael Shilling
Jan 03, 2009 Michael Shilling rated it it was amazing
Needs to be read slow. Maps the mythic weave that constructs certain American identities. No I'm not sure what that means either but it feels right to say. A WOW of a book.
Oct 22, 2008 Beth rated it liked it
Shelves: 1940s1950s
Despite the fact that this book was written in an accomplished and unique voice, I did not enjoy reading it. To me, it was frustrating and unnecessarily opaque.
Let me defend those 3 stars, starting with a little backstory.

Recently I was following this thread on a livejournal blog and there were several people debating the validity of Young Adult books as suitable fiction for adults. “Can’t you find enjoyable books that aren’t made for 14-year-olds?” someone asked. Now, I’ve read and loved plenty of non-YA stuff, my literary canvas is very all-encompassing, however, it is true that I read quite a lot of YA as well. So thank goodness for the blogger who
Nov 04, 2009 Janessa rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-group
This is another one of those books that defies the star rating. Scibona takes writing to the level of true art, and for that The End is fascinating and intriguing. However, reading it is difficult. It challenges perceptions, and forces the reader to take an entirely new approach to following story and narrative structure.

The main reason for this is that there really is no narrative structure. The characters and their lives, the causes and effects, do not carry the story toward its conclusion. In
As I should have guessed in this National Book Award Finalist entitled The End, the end actually occurs several times (from various perspectives) in the middle of the book, and the end is actually not an end at all, and leads me to question why I felt so unsatisfied when finally reaching this end that is not an end. There is a reason that the end comes at the end, and god bless it the experiments in structure and form, I still want an end at the end. Scibona is talented in creating character and ...more
Jul 28, 2013 Susan rated it really liked it
Writing style made this a challenging read, but I enjoyed setting, and strange characters. Elephant Park, OH is a fictional name for Murray Hill, Cleveland's Little Italy.
Nov 25, 2009 Tim rated it it was amazing
So far, fantastic. It hovers and moves in whorls. It's a bit like staring at a dam--same lingering, same mesmerism.
Oct 17, 2009 Lori rated it it was ok
Didn't really like it. Boring. I ended up listening to most of it just to get through...
Feb 05, 2017 Chase rated it really liked it
A first offering from this author, which was shortlisted for the National Book Award a few years ago.
The story line (if it could be called that) is a swirling, omniscient peek into the lives of several people living in and around the Italian immigrant community of Elephant Park, Ohio in the 1950's. Their lives overlap and touch, sometimes minutely, sometimes with far reaching consequences.
A baker, estranged from his wife and children, learns that his son has died in a Korean POW camp, and refuse
Carolyn Kellogg
May 09, 2009 Carolyn Kellogg rated it liked it
Salvatore Scibona's debut novel, "The End," is set in an exquisitely rendered Italian immigrant community in early 20th century Ohio and does not open up so much as catch and slowly reel in. It opens on Assumption Day, 1953; baker Rocco LaGrassa, "a soul liberated from worry by luck and self-conquest," learns his son has died in Korea. He denies the death, insisting that the young man will return home soon, but his rigorous self-deception loosens his carefully held discipline. For the first time ...more
Open Loop Press
If the act of creation is the epitome of elegance, a waltz between the writer’s conscious and unconscious mind, then Salvatore Scibona has performed the dance perfectly. A telephone call to his grandmother on her birthday, a patch of conversation overheard and written down, the view from his writing desk of a clothesline drying laundry — these are this language artist’s broadest strokes, transformed by his conscious mind into crucial, telling details. In “The End,” Scibona’s award-winning first ...more
Andrew Smith
Dec 24, 2010 Andrew Smith rated it really liked it
Salvatore Scibona is one of the American writers chosen by The New Yorker for its ’20 Under 40’ feature in 2010. ‘The End’ is all the more impressive for being Scibona’s first novel. But how to explain what I found so remarkable about this book that, on the surface, concerns itself with the Italian immigrant experience during the first half of the 20th century?
Reading this book is a bit like dreaming, but there are none of the puzzling, supposedly metaphoric events that make up dreams — Scibona
Jan 07, 2009 Preeta rated it really liked it
Well, I read this slowly, like Michael said (I read everything slowly anyway), but I'm still not sure about it. The opening is absolutely one of the most brilliant passages of writing I've ever read, and there was no way I was not reading this book after that. I keep going back and reading it again and again like it's a poem. But then... Scibona takes some risks I've never seen before; there are very few books about which one can say, wow, this really is doing something NEW, and I think this is ...more
Jun 10, 2010 Charity rated it really liked it
Shelves: nytop20under40
I started this book once and set it aside after the first page, which contained a paragraph-long sentence describing the baker. "Ugh," I said and went off to read some non-fiction. After being bolstered by another book, I gave The End another chance, mostly because it's set in Ohio, and I'm kind of a sucker for books and stories set in Ohio.

I'm glad that I gave it another chance. The interwoven stories weren't woven as skillfully as they could have been, and I became disoriented a few times with
This is not an easy book to get into - it takes patience, a lot of patience. But it is definitely worth it.

For the most part, the book is set in Cleveland, Ohio. A central event is a holiday celebrated by the Italian community (the feast of the Assumption) in 1953. It concerns Italian immigrants and their children. The Italians created their own little ghetto in Cleveland but by 1953 it is starting to break up.

The Goodreads description should be avoid until after you've read the book, if you w
Jan 07, 2009 grant rated it really liked it
A very good book except for one irksome characteristic.
I applaud the ultimate, Prousty point about how we know nothing about others and ourselves, that we make a version of what we are in the present that is no more real than the stories we tell ourselves about who we have been in the past, "we name our reasons for doing, we tell ourselves these private fables, all the time knowing they are at incompletely true."

Yet we are real people inhabiting real places, with people who share the same bloo
Dec 30, 2009 Molly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"She refreshed the water every ten minutes, draining a little and refilling, reading the book cover to cover, until she could have peeled her toenails out of their slots." pg 194

This book felt shelled; I couldn't quite penetrate the hull. Some of the language sparkled through, and I love a good character study. But I simply found myself befuddled at what exactly was going on, and I know my assessment isn't entirely fair, as I only read in fits and spurts between diaper changes and whatnot.

Aug 17, 2011 Al rated it it was ok
The End is a thick, textured and poetic novel featuring a connected group of Italian immigrants in the mid 20th century. The writing is beautiful, mysterious and dreamlike. However Scibona leaves the writing too cerebral and obfuscating (vocab word for you!) throughout the first segment of the book. The reader feels isolated, looked down on and utterly unwelcome in the story. After the first third of the book the poetry remains but the details behind it become clearer, but by this point the read ...more
Aug 19, 2012 Teressa rated it it was ok

I tried really, really hard to love this book. I did, in fact, adore the first man character, Nico, mainly because he reminded me of my Italian great-uncle. There are some brilliant snatches of prose, but it wasn't enough to motivate me slough through the remaining 180 pages. In the end, this author gets carried away with himself. He is self-conscientiously writing a "serious" piece of literature, a work of art, and it just ruined the whole thing for me. Sometimes simple is more powerful. There
Aug 04, 2010 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So I rarely really like books about plausible people in possible places doing things. This, though. This is great. How I've missed Scibona until now I don't know. His prose is so exciting. Probably two dozen (plus) sentences made me laugh out loud. Not jokes, really; just sheer gall. He writes things I've never even thought of reading, if that makes sense. The sentences are utilitarian in that he does seem to be mostly interested in telling this story, but with the language's beauty aimed at the ...more
Tom Romig
Jan 03, 2014 Tom Romig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The people living in the closed enclave of Elephant Park, an Italian neighborhood in a city described as "a mammoth trash heap," struggle to find direction and meaning in their lives. Spanning the period from the late 19th to mid-20th centuries with a focus on one day, the Feast of the Assumption, August 16, 1953, the novel explores universal themes: the hold of the past; the often illusory but compelling notion that "there is another place promised to you" where there is a "solution"; whether i ...more
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He is an award-winning American novelist and short-story writer. He has won awards for both his novels and short stories, and was selected in 2010 as one of The New Yorker "Fiction Writers to Watch: 20 under 40"
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