The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is the story of a brilliant and troubled filmmaker, told by the six people who loved her most.
Sophie Stark uses stories from the lives of those around her—her obsession, her girlfriend, and her husband—to create movies that bring her critical recognition and acclaim. But as her career explodes, Sophie's unwavering dedication to her art leads to the shattering betrayal of the people she loves most. The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is an intimate portrait of an elusive woman whose monumental talent and relentless pursuit of truth reveal the cost of producing great art, both for the artist and the people around her.
Praise for The Life and Death of Sophie Stark:
“I read The Life and Death of Sophie Stark with my heart in my mouth. Not only a dissection of genius and the havoc it can wreak, but also a thunderously good story.” – Emma Donoghue, author of Room
“Anna North is a natural, butter-smooth storyteller, and The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is an elegant, kaleidoscopic look at a challenging artist and at the way our lives are, in some respects, only silhouettes made from the perceptions of those who know us.” – Maggie Shipstead, author of Seating Arrangements
“Anna North has woven a circle of longing and frustration around her commanding central character, the enigmatic Sophie Stark. This novel isn’t just a character study, though—it’s a story of art, manipulation, and dependence. And, in its unique and satisfying structure, it’s a narrative high wire act, deftly executed.” – Rebecca Makkai, author of The Hundred-Year House and Music for Wartime
“In this boldly conceived, superbly executed novel, Anna North explores the life of the brilliant, relentless Sophie Stark and the lives of those closest to her. The result is a portrait of a woman and her films so vivid and so painful that she leaps out of these pages into the reader's imagination. A wonderful novel about art and passion and how we accommodate the other.” – Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy
“Anna North's first novel, America Pacifica, was superb, and The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, her second, is even better: skillfully designed and deeply felt, of course, but also wholly and mysteriously alive, in a way that many books simply aren't. It explores the way people can be startled and changed—and frequently damaged and betrayed—by a confrontation with art, and proceeds in a round-robin of voices, each entirely natural, entirely human, yet filled with vibrancy and intimacy.” — Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Brief History of the Dead and The Illumination
“Provocative and deeply compelling, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is an incisive exploration of artistic integrity and ambition—and a haunting meditation on what it means to truly know another person.” – Jennifer Dubois, author of Cartwheel and A Partial History of Lost Causes
“The Life and Death of Sophie Stark succeeds wildly at the almost impossible task of making an artist and her art come alive on the page. Anna North captures with fierce clarity the compulsions and ecstasies of creation, the spooky force it exerts on those drawn into a maker's vision. Whether art is a gift or a curse is unflinchingly explored in this tight, suspenseful, and deeply empathic novel.” — Pamela Erens, author of The Understory and The Virgins
Sophie understood a lot more about people and how to play them than she ever let on. I think she knew that I still loved her and that I’d be flattered that she needed me. I think the minute I opened the door, she knew she had me around her finger. I thought all this even then. And I’d talked a lot over the years about how Sophie was bad for me. Just the week before, I’d told my castmates after a couple of beers that I thought she was too self-centered to ever really love anyone. But now when I think about that night, I think about something my stepdad once said when my mom yelled at him for quitting AA. He just told her in this sad, quiet voice, “Sometimes the sick part of me just seems like the truest part.”
America Pacifica is a story about the end of the world as we know it, and what people might choose to do afterwards.
In the not too distant future, eighteen-year-old Darcy lives on the island of America Pacifica – one of the last places on earth that is still habitable after the second ice age. While a few rich families indulge their nostalgia with hamburgers and baseball, most Pacificans – Darcy included – crowd together in cramped tenements and subsist on jellyfish and seaweed. Darcy craves more space and a dinner of real meat once in a while, but she doesn’t question Pacifica’s basic system – until her mother doesn’t come home one night. Then Darcy is forced on a quest through the dark underbelly of the island, a journey that will take her through Pacifica’s corrupt history and make her an indispensible part of its future. In the spirit of Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, America Pacifica imagines a world drastically different from the one we know today, and how we might continue to live in it.
The printing was cheap, doubled like drunk vision, but today’s headline was a screamer: “SEAGUARDS THWART HAWAIIAN ATTACK.” Below it was a line drawing – the few working cameras on the island had rotted into hunks of scrap long ago – of a ship with enormous guns jutting from its sides. Twice before in Darcy’s memory they had shot down invader ships, destroyers coming west from Hawaii. The last time had been ten years ago – Darcy was eight, and for weeks all the kids talked about nothing but boats and torpedoes and wars. Then the threat dimmed, and the western settlements became what they’d always been – far-off enemies, featureless and vaguely fearsome, a role to force the uncool kids to play in games of make-believe. Some of the kids in Darcy’s high school even claimed that all the westerners had died, that a hot ocean current had fried them just like the cold had frozen America. You got in trouble if your teacher heard you say so, but more and more in recent years Darcy had seen underground flyers posted around Little Los Angeles, their blurry type proclaiming, “HAWAIIANS DEAD! FIRE THE SEAGUARDS!” They were never up for more than a day.
“This happened yesterday?” Darcy asked.
The woman nodded. Darcy had never really looked at her face before. Her skin was coffee-colored, and lines sprouted from her eyes. She was still pretty. Darcy gazed into her lap at Founder Tyson’s morning column, all the way on the right edge of the flyer, above the baseball scores. Tyson’s face at the top was as avuncular and strong-jawed as ever. It was the face on the banners that hung across the Avenida, and across Wabash Ave. in Chicagoland, and across any other street big enough to make room for them. It was totally unlike the ancient, sunken face that made its way down from the northern tip of the island for each year’s Founder’s Day parade, turning slightly from side to side, smiling its fixed smile.