Salvatore Scibona - The End (4 stars)

Salvatore Scibona - The End

(Jonathan Cape)

Salvatore Scibona is being hailed as a major new voice in American literature. On the heroic evidence of The End, his debut novel, it’s little wonder. Possessed of a dizzying capacity for character description and observation, Scibona’s epic (but not overlong) account of immigrants in 1950s Ohio variously follows a downtrodden baker, an elderly abortionist, a jeweller, a teenager and a seamstress – and then leads them all to a particular place, a particular crime and a particular day.

Brimming with poetic prose and focused on themes of family, home, morality and racial alienation, Scibona’s entangled narrative is firmly of its time (the prevalence of barbers; the Korean War backdrop) and yet resonant today (‘money doesn’t exist, really; it’s more a theory’). It’s also spiked with bone-dry humour, and boasts some tragically comic inner monologues – not least the passage that witnesses the recently bereaved bread-maker Rocco mistaking a sunrise for nuclear annihilation.

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