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End of Storyby Peter Abrahams
Synopses & Reviews
Ivy Seidel dreams of becoming a writer, a great American novelist. But running low on money and concerned that her writing might lack a depth and darkness, she takes a job teaching creative writing — at a maximum-security prison. It is a world she has never experienced before, one ruled by enigmatic codes of honor, ceaseless aggression and absolutely savage violence.
But one of the prisoners there is unlike any of the others, and unlike any man she has ever met before. Vance Harrow is unique. He is soft-spoken, charismatic and brilliantly talented. Two things trouble Ivy deeply. First, she suspects that Harrow shouldn't be in prison at all. He possesses an intellect that separates him from the other inmates and a selflessness that might just get him killed. Second, he has at the same time deep reservoirs of rage and brutality that seem perfectly in line with the other prisoners — a dichotomy Ivy finds difficult to reconcile.
Trying to understand the complex picture, perhaps even get some recognition for a writer as gifted as Harrow seems to be, Ivy begins to ask questions. How did such a man end up in prison in the first place? Is he truly guilty? If not, who could have been responsible for putting him there, and why hasn't he tried harder to free himself? But the more questions Ivy asks to free a man she believes to be innocent, the more attention she draws to herself. Soon other people begin to ask questions — about Ivy Seidel.
In the span of just a few days, Ivy's life will be completely turned upside down. What begins as an inquiry into one man's innocence may explode into a love affair, and what begins as an obsession to save one man's life might just end up costing Ivy her own.
"Abrahams (Oblivion) solidifies his reputation as one of the best contemporary thriller writers around with this psychologically deep page-turner evoking the classic noir of Cornell Woolrich. Ivy Seidel, a struggling would-be writer paying the bills by working in a New York City bar, finds herself drawn into an unfamiliar world when she's offered the chance to teach writing at an upstate prison. The nave teacher is startled to find that one of her students, convicted robber Vance Harrow, is actually more gifted than she is. Unable to believe that he could be both guilty and such a creative talent, Seidel begins to pick at the stray loose threads surrounding his case — despite Harrow's having pleaded guilty to the violent crime. Abrahams manages to make each individual step that his heroine takes into the twisted maze believable, even if it's clear that she's rapidly approaching a precipice that will threaten her life and her mental state. In 2005, Abrahams published his first children's novel, Down the Rabbit Hole." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Peter Abrahams is one of those writers you tell your friends about. This is the third of his novels I've read, and all, although dissimilar in plot, have been literate, suspenseful fun. Abrahams could be called a writer's writer — his fans include Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates — but his appeal should include readers who enjoy the offbeat talents of Martha Grimes, Elmore Leonard and the late... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) Lawrence Sanders. He's one of the most sophisticated storytellers at work today. A few years ago, Abrahams published 'The Tutor,' in which an entirely evil young man set out to destroy an American family but was finally defeated by the family's 11-year-old daughter. It was a classic conflict between good and evil, and there wasn't any doubt about which was which. 'End of Story' also pits good against evil, but the particulars are more ambiguous.Ivy is a would-be writer, a few years out of college, who's bartending in Brooklyn while she writes short stories. She's produced 61 so far, with only a pile of rejection slips to show for it, but she's not discouraged. After all, an editor at the New Yorker scribbled an encouraging note on her latest rejection, and that was enough to keep hope alive. Abrahams has a lot of fun with the absurdities and indignities of the writing life, as reflected in this sweet, naive and possibly talented young woman. When a friend sells a screenplay and departs for Hollywood, Ivy agrees to take his place teaching a weekly writing class to inmates in an upstate prison. She takes the job even though another friend, a young stockbroker who has visited an imprisoned colleague there, warns her that it's an evil place. 'You're talking me into it,' Ivy jokes, even as she wonders, 'Was evil missing from her work?' Soon, evil will cease to be such an abstract concept. She heads upstate on a beautiful fall day ('it was as though God had fallen under the influence of Camille Pissarro'), only to find that the men in her writing class tend to be huge, semiliterate and violent. Their poems and fragments of prose frighten her, and a bloody fight disrupts one session. And yet one of the inmates fascinates Ivy. His name is Harrow, and he's serving 25 years for armed robbery. On the plus side, he's handsome, charismatic and, she thinks, a remarkably good writer. Perhaps, she fears, a better writer than she is. She asks herself if great artists — she mentions Hemingway, Brando and Picasso — are invariably ruthless: 'Was that what she lacked?' It's clear enough where this is going. Abrahams has one of his characters say it: 'For God's sake, Ivy, it's a cliche — those women on the outside who get romantically involved with inmates.' But what isn't clear is how it will all turn out. Harrow was convicted of being part of a gang that robbed an Indian gambling casino. But as Ivy digs into the case, she becomes convinced that he was framed by a friend and that he confessed to save his wife from prosecution. Ivy's thinking about Harrow is not purely rational: 'He leaned close, his lips brushing her ear, causing so much static in her brain she hardly heard the words.' As her infatuation grows, her fantasy is to find the missing wife, prove Harrow's innocence and then help this great writer achieve his destiny. One day, driving through the woods near the prison, Ivy sees something 'horrible and bloody.' She is seized by terror — 'the first real terror Ivy had ever felt' — as she realizes she is watching a bear devour a deer. Is there symbolism here that eludes her? Is Harrow a good man who has been wronged — or is he an entirely evil man who is about to devour her? Would she be so foolish as to help him escape the prison? Will she simply end up in prison herself? She keeps recalling what one of her writing teachers told her: You don't have to be a good person to be a good writer, 'but you have to understand your badness.' Is there badness in Ivy? Or goodness in Harrow? Abrahams keeps us guessing. Abrahams, a connoisseur of irony, alternates Ivy's dangerous game at the prison with her rising fortunes in New York. She borrows an idea from a dishwasher and shapes it into a short story that the New Yorker almost buys. Then she shows the story to Harrow, who gives her the idea that enables her to rewrite the story and make the sale. As the novel races to a climax, we aren't sure if Ivy is about to become a new literary star in Manhattan or wind up dead because of her meddling upstate. Or both. The novel is a delight and, if you haven't discovered Abrahams, a fine place to start, despite an ending as unnerving as it is abrupt." Reviewed by Patrick Anderson, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Peter Abrahams is one of those writers you tell your friends about....
"Hip, crisp dialogue and swift prose rife with apt, unflashy literary allusions; a credibly brilliant and likable heroine; an effectively chilling behind-bars mise en scene; and a firecracker plot all add up to a very cool, smart thriller." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] slow build, relying more on psychological traps than harrowing escapes, but by the end, it's almost physically impossible to stop turning pages. Abrahams' prose, cool and vivid, keeps the focus exactly where it should be: on the story." Booklist
"Abrahams's latest...affirms his position as one of the leading authors in the psychological suspense genre. His writing displays a wonderful combination of intensity and compassion blended with a silky delivery from start to finish. Recommended." Library Journal
"A stickler for realistic detail, Abrahams writes prison scenes that can curl your toes, but nothing captures the brutality of the life more expressively than the material turned out by Ivy's class." Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
Aspiring author Ivy Seidel accepts a part-time position teaching writing to a group of convicted criminals hoping the experience will add depth and darkness to her own work.
But in the haunting writings of charismatic inmate Vance Harrow she discovers a talent possibly greater than her own. And in the startling, disturbing stories Harrow has to tell, Ivy finds a dangerous new purpose—and a terrifying temptation that lures her into an inescapable world of shadows.
While teaching writing skills to prison inmates, Ivy Seidel discovers that Vance Harrow, convicted of a terrible crime, shows tremendous talent. Ivy sets out to investigate his past and to correct an injustice, but someone doesn't want the past disturbed.
About the Author
Peter Abrahams is the bestselling author of Down the Rabbit Hole, Oblivion, The Fan, and Lights Out, for which he received an Edgar Award nomination. Mr. Abrahams makes his home in Falmouth, Massachusetts, with his wife and children.
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