From the bestselling and highly acclaimed author of the “page-turning tale” (Library Journal, starred review) Mrs. Poe comes a fictionalized imagining of the personal life of America’s most iconic writer: Mark Twain.
In March of 1909, Mark Twain cheerfully blessed the wedding of his private secretary, Isabel V. Lyon, and his business manager, Ralph Ashcroft. One month later, he fired both. He proceeded to write a ferocious 429-page rant about the pair, calling Isabel “a liar, a forger, a thief, a hypocrite, a drunkard, a sneak, a humbug, a traitor, a conspirator, a filthy-minded and salacious slut pining for seduction.” Twain and his daughter, Clara Clemens, then slandered Isabel in the newspapers, erasing her nearly seven years of devoted service to their family. How did Lyon go from being the beloved secretary who ran Twain’s life to a woman he was determined to destroy?
In Twain’s End, Lynn Cullen “cleverly spins a mysterious, dark tale” (Booklist) about the tangled relationships between Twain, Lyon, and Ashcroft, as well as the little-known love triangle between Helen Keller, her teacher Anne Sullivan Macy, and Anne’s husband, John Macy, which comes to light during their visit to Twain’s Connecticut home in 1909. Add to the party a furious Clara Clemens, smarting from her own failed love affair, and carefully kept veneers shatter.
Based on Isabel Lyon’s extant diary, Twain’s writings, letters, photographs, and events in Twain’s boyhood that may have altered his ability to love, Twain’s End triumphs as “a tender evocation of a vain, complicated man’s twilight years and a last chance at love” (People).
The extraordinary relationship between the popular, complicated author Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, and his longtime secretary Isabel Lyon is wonderfully reimagined in this absorbing novel. Cullen (Mrs. Poe) depicts an immensely talented and virile, yet crude, hot-tempered, self-centered late-in-life Samuel, whose own children fear him and who remains tormented by his childhood with slave-owning parents sordid realities that lie beneath the famous wit. Raised wealthy, Isabel must work after her father dies; she becomes social secretary to Livy Clemens, Samuel's seriously ill wife, but in reality, she works for Samuel. Isabel is devoted, scheduling appearances, managing employees, paying bills and becoming the confidante to an aging, increasingly troubled, regretful man: "I kill the people I love with words," he confides to Isabel. An intimacy develops, yet certain lines are not crossed. Messy romantic entanglements involving Samuel's daughter Clara and her lover, Samuel's business manager and Isabel, and even a visiting Helen Keller and her teacher's husband make Samuel enraged and distrustful. Isabel and Samuel's memorabilia are the basis of Cullen's fascinating interpretation of this early 20th-century literary immortal, distinguished by incisive character portrayals and no-holds-barred scrutiny.