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A small boy speaking an unknown language is abandoned by his father at an international airport, with only the clothes on his back and a handful of money jammed in the pocket of his coat. So begins The Volunteer. But in order to understand this heartbreaking and indefensible decision, the story must return to the moment, decades earlier, when a young man named Vollie Frade, almost on a whim, enlists in the United States Marine Corps to fight in Vietnam. Breaking definitively from his rural Iowan parents, Vollie puts in motion an unimaginable chain of events, which sees him go to work for insidious people with intentions he cannot yet grasp. From the Cambodian jungle, to a flophouse in Queens, to a commune in New Mexico, Vollie’s path traces a secret history of life on the margins of America, culminating with an inevitable and terrible reckoning.
With intense feeling, uncommon erudition, and bracing style, Scibona offers at once a pensive exploration of how we are capable of both inventing and discovering our true families and a lacerating interrogation of institutional power at its most commanding and terrifying. An odyssey of loss and salvation ranging across four generations of fathers and sons, The Volunteer is a triumph in the grandest traditions of American storytelling.
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It is August 15, 1953, the day of a boisterous and unwieldy street carnival in Elephant Park, an Italian immigrant enclave in northern Ohio. While 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.
"A portentous, labyrinthine debut novel of the epic search for home and the promise of a better future . . . Brooding, intermittently gorgeous, bittersweet, and devastating, Scibona's storm-cloud novel . . . twists together intense inner monologues and heartbreaking descriptions of smothering poverty and thankless labor, fractured families, and stabbing revelations of prejudice and racism. Add a ghost and subtle allusions to the radical changes industrialization wrought, and this is one loaded novel about twentieth-century-America’s growing pains." —Booklist
“Like no other contemporary writer, Salvatore Scibona is heir to Saul Bellow, Graham Greene, and Virginia Woolf, and his masterful novel stands as proof of it—a concordance of the immigrant experience from the beautiful to the brutal and everything in between.”
—ZZ Packer, author of Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
"One of the most evocative portraits of the American immigrant experience in recent memory." —The Times
"The End is an outstanding work in all the right ways." —Annie Proulx, The Guardian