The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door
The new novel by Stephen Stark is now available in paperback!
Former standup comic turned a meteoric sitcom star Ellen Gregory flees Los Angeles and the shooting of the new season of her smash hit show, Girlfriends, after shooting a stalker dead in her own home. Depressed and terrified, she sneaks out of LA and goes to the only place she knows she can feel safe—the house where she grew up in Iowa, a place she has not been back to since leaving in the middle of the night, half her life ago, to parents she hasn’t seen in equally as long.
What Ellen finds is entirely unexpected—love.
After a lifelong romance with her own ambition, she finds not just the welcoming love of her parents, but the first real love of her life. Michael Webster is a Ph.D. candidate and a super good-looking super geek, and he helps Ellen find the other thing she feels she’s lost—the self that seemed to have disappeared into magnetic particles on video tape.
Loving Michael will change Ellen’s life forever—and she begins to discover that Michael has created a computer interface that may also change her life forever.
The Black Box—intended to be Michael’s dissertation research—appears to do something that no machine could do, or should do. It carries the user on trips to other places in time, perhaps into other versions of their own lives. It’s a mistake, but a brilliant mistake, one with the potential to save her life, or end it.
When Michael is killed and Ellen loses her left foot in a brutal shark attack, that should be the end of the romance. Except in the Black Box, the impossible is suddenly possible. But at a cost.
Back in LA, recovering, trying to get on with her life, the Black Box makes it possible for Ellen not only to reunite with Michael in a virtual world, but also with her foot. But is it real? Or is it “more real than real”?
The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door explores the possibility that a life derailed can be reclaimed and love can triumph. This remarkable new novel by the author of Second Son asks profound questions about love and loss, about what it really means to know someone, while delivering a searing love story made for the big screen.
What people are saying:
“This blurb can’t capture my admiration, or how entertaining, thought-provoking, and beautiful I found The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door. It is like no novel you’ve read. At the same time it is an extended and leisurely meditation on all things related to the human condition, it is a roller-coaster of psychological suspense. Ellen Gregory and her fellow-characters are so alive as to seem uncanny, and yet larger than life. This novel is full of realism and archetypal resonance. The writing, in is precision, is poetic and casual at once. “It’s a flashy business compiling algorithms.” Stephen Stark has as much in common, as a writer, with Cormac McCarthy as he does with James Ellroy. The result is a novel that is at once a page-turner and an echoing chamber.”
—Laura Kasischke, award-winning poet and author of The Life Before Her Eyes, Be Mine, and Suspicious River.
“A celebrity tries to find herself with help from her dead lover’s reality-bending invention.
“Somewhere between her early days scraping by doing stand-up in New York clubs while wearing an assless tutu and her current multimillionaire, Hollywood lifestyle as the star of a popular sitcom, Ellen Gregory stopped recognizing herself. Her 17-year old self that carried a dream and ran away from home no longer exists. Neither does she know Ellen from the wildly popular TV show Girlfriends, who now makes a home on tabloid covers. So Ellen runs away again, except this time, back to her childhood home. While hiding from the world in Iowa, she meets Michael Webster, a man she falls in love with; only weeks later, though, he dies in a shark attack while the two are on vacation. Michael, a Ph.D. student, had invented the Black Box, a piece of unintentional brilliance that intertwines the human brain with a computer interface in a way that opens new windows into reality. The novel starts with the shark attack, thrillingly throwing the reader into the depths before the narrative slowly pieces together the psychological puzzle of Ellen’s world. In starting so dramatically, Stark (Second Son, 2011, etc.) sets the stage for his wild style of storytelling, in which he marvelously toys with point of view, the timeline and the novel’s internal reality to envelop the reader in alternating layers of acuity and confusion—the exact feelings Ellen and Michael experience in the Black Box. That seemingly impossible technological masterpiece is central to Stark’s dig into Ellen’s head; the contraption allows Ellen to enter an unknown world that even Michael, its creator, isn’t sure is real.
“An intense, unexpected mind-meld in a captivating blend of technology and romance.”
“A shark attack, a starlet in hiding, a mysterious black box. The opening pages of Stephen Stark’s The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door have all the makings of a Hollywood page turner, but the novel’s style places the author in a far more literary league…. Complex, ambitious, and genre-bending, The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door is a philosophical page-turner that dares to ask what it means to really know someone.”
—Small Press Reviews