By Solange Jazayeri
Jason Allen’s debut novel, The East End, proves he has a distinct and dynamic voice with staying power. There are books that need pairing with a box of Kleenex with which to wipe away your tears. Reading The East End, however, requires a bottle of Visine for your unblinking eyes. Allen’s cinematic style reads like a high-intensity TV series worth binge-watching all night. His narrative brings with it poetic gravitas but at a thriller’s pace. From its suspenseful start to its explosive end, The East End traps all your senses in a state of high alert—and it doesn’t let you go until you’re through reading (and maybe not even then).
Allen’s characters reside in the Hamptons, his old stomping grounds, where he illustrates the polar realities of the 1 percenters and the townies who serve them. In my interview with Allen, he says, “Growing up there as a teenager, it felt so intense all the time. Someone else’s perspective would be, ‘You live in such a calm and peaceful place; what could you possibly be so full of tension about?’”
Told through multiple points of view with a psychologically complex cast, The East End showcases that tension by exposing our human need for being acknowledged and understood.
The story begins on the eve of Memorial Day weekend. The night before the Sheffield family and their guests are due to arrive in the Hamptons, Corey Halpern breaks into the family’s estate to deploy a prank on his mother’s employers. Anticipating a vacant manor, Corey is shocked to find he is not alone. The palatial estate is, in fact, housing several guests, including Leo Sheffield, the billionaire owner, who is entertaining an unknown guest. And before Corey has time to sneak out, a poolside accident ensues. Now an inadvertent witness to a tragedy, Corey must decide whether he’ll also become an accomplice.
“Growing up there as a teenager, it felt so intense all the time. Someone else’s perspective would be, ‘You live in such a calm and peaceful place; what could you possibly be so full of tension about?’”
Allen does not shy away from strong scenes that take the reader down the dark tunnel of addiction, saying it is an important theme throughout the book. “Really, all the main point-of-view characters have issues with substances as coping mechanisms,” he explains. “It was very important for me to humanize that, or to give it multiple faces, so people could identify or connect with these characters, if only through someone that they know—maybe someone from their family or a friend. They would be able to understand that person just a little bit more after reading the book.”
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About author Jason Allen
Jason Allen grew up in a working-class home in the Hamptons, where he worked a variety of blue-collar jobs for wealthy estate owners. He writes fiction, poetry, and memoir and is the author of the poetry collection A Meditation on Fire. He has an MFA from Pacific University and a PhD in literature and creative writing from Binghamton University. He currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where he teaches writing. The East End is his first novel.