cover image The Life and Death of Sophie Stark

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark

Anna North. Penguin/Blue Rider, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-399-17339-4

The ending of North’s (America Pacifica) provocative new novel is a foregone conclusion; it is the journey there, revealed by the intimates in Sophie Stark’s life, that draws the reader in. The difficult and tenacious filmmaker Sophie inhabits the same world as the rest of us, but she doesn’t really live in it. Her intensity informs her filmmaking, which in turn conveys her vision and emotions. A by-product of her hyperfocus is that she manipulates people to achieve her art. Those in her orbit come to understand this too late to have a happy relationship with her. As such, the book’s narrators—among them a college basketball player, a musician, and a movie producer—disappear and reappear years later, interrupting the narrative flow. Mitigating that flaw is the character of a film critic, whose writings about Sophie’s films are a constant for the reader. The other constant is Sophie’s talent. Though derived from her existence as an outsider, it is the vehicle that allows her to bring an uncanny emotional depth to her work. North’s nuanced prose and emphasis on characterization result in a thoughtful, moving read that explores the creative process and its effects on relationships. Agent: Julie Barer, Barer Literary. (May)