Twain's End

Twain's End

“Reputation-squaring novel. Cullen splashes a surplus of fuel onto her incendiary raw material.” —New York Times

“Ms. Cullen is the Bronte of our day.” —Huffington Post

A “People Pick”

“Intelligently drawn.” —Library Journal

Starred Review from Publishers Weekly

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 reimagines 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 and letters, and events in Twain’s boyhood that may have altered his ability to love, Twain’s End explores this real-life tale of doomed love.
  • Gallery Books | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476758961 | 
  • October 2015
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Twain’s End includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Lynn Cullen. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

 
Introduction

Isabel Lyon worked as the private secretary to Mark Twain for nearly seven years, the devoted and tireless companion of America’s most beloved author. In 1909, with Twain’s blessing, Isabel became engaged to Ralph Ashcroft, his business manager. Just one month later, both Isabel and Ashcroft were fired, their dismissal followed by a scathing 429-page rant penned by their former employer that called 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 took their tirade against Isabel to the newspapers, erasing her years of devoted service to the Clemens family. In Twain’s End, bestselling and highly acclaimed author Lynn Cullen reimagines Isabel’s dramatic shift from Twain’s indispensable secretary to a woman he set out to destroy. Based on Isabel’s diary and events in Twain’s boyhood that may have altered his see more

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About the Author

Lynn Cullen
Photograph by Parker Clayton Smith

Lynn Cullen

Lynn Cullen grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana and is the bestselling author of Twain’s End and Mrs. Poe, which was named a Target Book Club Pick, an NPR 2013 Great Read, and an Indie Next List selection. She lives in Atlanta surrounded by her large family, and, like both Poe and Mark Twain, enjoys being bossed around by cats.

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