Synopses & Reviews
A novel about obsession that makes for obsessive reading.
All Owen Patterson wants is an normal life, a happy marriage, and a stable family. But following the brutal and random murder of his brother-in-law, that dream is shattered. A year later, his wife is still in mourning and his in-laws won't talk about anything but their dead son.
The murderer, Henry Joseph Raven, has been put in prison, but as far as Owen is concerned, prison isnt punishment enough. He embarks on a quest to "balance the scales of justice," writing letters to Henry Raven under the pseudonym Lily Hazelton. His plan: to seduce the murderer, make him fall in love with his fictional correspondent, and then break his heart. From one letter to the next, Lily Hazelton develops into a curious amalgam of details from Owens imagination, snatches of his difficult childhood, and memories of his cousin Eileen, a suicide who was his first true love. Not entirely in control of his own creation, Owen dives headfirst into the correspondence, only to find himself caught in the trap hes set for Henry Raven.
Bringing together an epistolary game of cat and mouse with the harrowing record of one mans psychological collapse, The Interloper is a compelling and original debut from a bold new writer.
"As assured and sumptuously written as any first novel Ive encountered—Antoine Wilsons prose sings, and the story he tells here is both clever and compelling. This is writing at its very best." — T. Coraghessan Boyle
About the Author
Antoine Wilsons work has appeared in The Paris Review, Best New American Voices, StoryQuarterly, and other periodicals. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and recipient of the Carol Houck Smith Fellowship at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. He is a contributing editor of A Public Space. This is his first novel. He lives in Los Angeles.
Reading Group Guide
1. Why do you think the title of the book is The Interloper? Who or what is the interloper?
2. The Interloper portrays very different responses to death: the silent approach that denies death and the openly obsessional response of the Stocking family. How does Owen react to and embody the varied forms of mourning?
3. The Stockings are not seeking revenge. What do you think is involved in Owens decision to seek revenge for CJs death?
4. Owen thinks he is “in fine shape medically and psychologically” and considers himself “a civilized person, probably around 80% acclimated to the society” in which he lives. How does his lack of self-awareness set the tone for the book?
5. What other clues indicate that Owens account might not be entirely reliable?
6. In a very dark manner, The Interloper intertwines comedy with tragedy. What aspects of the book did you find humorous?
7. In a version of epistolary cross-dressing, Owen names his female correspondent based on his deceased cousin, “lethal Lily Hazelton. Hazel-eyed Hazelton, Lily the lily, a trumpet on a slender stem. An invitation for Raven to tend or pluck.” Lily evokes Nabokovs nicknamed Lolita, “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins, my sin, my soul,” whose full name was Dolores Haze. How does Owens own unspoken mourning for his lost forbidden love merge with the mourning around him?
8. How does the manipulation of gender work its effects on Owen?
9. When Calvins diary reveals something about what he was like, how does it reverberate with his familys obsessive mourning for him and with Owens demented program of revenge?
10. Did you find the ending to be a surprise? What do you think Owens intentions were when he met Henry Joseph Raven and what do you think happened—in his own mind and from an external point of view?