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by Max Ludington

THORN TREE by Max Ludington

For readers of Emma Cline and Jennifer Egan: A beautifully wrought novel on the aftershocks of the heady but dangerous late 1960s and the relationship between trauma and the creative impulse

Now in his late-sixties, Daniel lives in quiet anonymity in a converted guest cottage in the Hollywood Hills. A legendary artist, he’s known for one seminal work—Thorn Tree—a hulking, welded, scrap metal sculpture that he built in the Mojave desert in the 1970s. The work emerged from tragedy, but building it kept Daniel alive and catapulted him to brief, reluctant fame in the art world.

Daniel is neighbors with Celia, a charismatic but fragile actress. She too experienced youthful fame, hers in a popular television series, but saw her life nearly collapse after a series of bad decisions. Now, a new movie with a notorious director might reignite her career.

A single mother, Celia leaves her young son Dean for weeks at a time with her father, Jack, who stays at her house while she’s on location. Jack and Daniel strike up a tentative friendship as Dean takes to visiting Daniel’s cottage—but something about Jack seems off. Discomfiting, strangely intimate, with flashes of anger balanced by an almost philosophical bent, Jack is not the harmless grandparent he pretends to be.

Weaving the idealism and the darkness of the late 1960s, the glossy surfaces of Los Angeles celebrity today, and thrumming with the sound of the Grateful Dead, the mania of Charles Manson and other cults, and the secrets that both Jack and Daniel have harbored for fifty years, Thorn Tree is an utterly-compelling novel.

MAX LUDINGTON’s first novel, Tiger in a Trance, was a New York Times Notable book, and his fiction has appeared in Tin House, Meridian, HOW Journal, Outerbridge, and On the Rocks: the KGB Bar Fiction Reader. He lives in Brooklyn, New York and teaches in the writing department at Pratt Institute.

Early Praise for Thorn Tree:

“Telling a story of crime and heartbreak in the American west, Thorn Tree is about everything that truly matters: art, family, and especially love. Ludington’s novel is hard to put down and impossible to forget.”—Lauren Grodstein, author of We Must Not Think of Ourselves

“Max Ludington’s Thorn Tree explores loss, discovery, and intergenerational conflict in the wake of the sixties. With taut, exquisitely modulated prose, he delivers a gut-punch with the ease of a caress.”—Rebecca Donner, New York Times bestselling author of All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days