The characters in The End are not woven together neatly like a tapestry; instead, they resemble a tangled ball of yarn. The relationships are complicated and filled with decades-old resentments and misunderstandings. Scibona examines some of these problems extensively but gives others only a cursory glance. This insistence on incompleteness and chaos in characterization is an indication of Scibona’s modernist program. The author does not attempt to tell a complete story because he knows that is impossible. One telling fact about Scibona’s construction of character in The End is that of all the families in the book are broken in some way—whether by death, distance, or silence.

Although the book begins with Rocco, the bereft baker cannot be called the book’s central protagonist. Indeed it is difficult to name any of The End’s cast its main character, but through her relationships with all of the other central characters, Mrs. Marini emerges as the book’s center. Mrs. Marini engages all of the book’s major themes—the morality of abortion, the complications of the immigrant experience, the tenuousness of love. One of the sources for Mrs. Marini’s cold nature, and possibly her desire to help women in need, is the death of her infant son, Alessio, which is mentioned only twice in the novel. In another example of how The End’s formal construction mirrors its thematic preoccupation, Alessio’s death is buried in the novel in the same way that it is buried in Mrs. Marini’s psyche.

Alessio’s death partly explains Mrs. Marini’s relationship with Ciccio, the novel’s other central figure. Mrs. Marini clearly feels a maternal impulse toward Ciccio. Although Ciccio does not know the facts of his paternity, he seems instinctively drawn away from his family. Examples of this include his penchants for sports and reading (neither hobbies his father enjoys) as well as the literal fact that...

(The entire section is 758 words.)