Adam Gnade’s third novel is held up by a Springsteenian sense of hope and a desire for redemption, of finding glory and escape, friendship and love in hard times. Like Dickens’ David Copperfield, Ferrante’s Neapolitan tetralogy, and Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle series, this is the story of a human life, kindergarten to adulthood, ratty beach apartment to bohemian party house, feverish basement to ramshackle farmhouse. Through the eyes of Gnade’s protagonist, James Jackson Bozic, we see how life scars you, changes you as you fight to find a safe place for yourself. It is, in turn, a murder mystery, a love story, and a vast, sweeping, panoramic look at America on the edge of collapse. It’s a story of displacement, strange shores, new mornings. As James says in the book, “I thought of how sometimes in the midst of survival, life will jerk you away from your home, how it will push you out across the map, away from the people you love, or into the path of others.” This Is the End… is about scratching and clawing for a better, safer, more satisfying life, even as the sky comes crashing down.
“A good story lets us sleep while keeping us awake; lets us breathe while spitting water. This Is the End… wants our sleepy, wakeful eyes, wants our water-filled lungs to bathe in harsh light; to fight and fuck and run with the wolves.” —Alexis S.F. Marshall, Daughters frontman, author of A Sea Above the Pains of Our Youth