''The End of Alice'' shocks -- A.M. Homes' new novel's violence has sparked debate

By Suna Chang
Updated February 23, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

This time, believe the hype.

Every once in a while, a young writer sets the publishing world abuzz with a startling work. Ever heard of A.M. Homes? No? You will.

In her third novel, The End of Alice (her last was 1993’s In a Country of Mothers), Homes has dreamed up a literary monster to rival Hannibal Lecter — an imprisoned, criminally insane pedophile who describes his sexual exploits to a 19-year-old pen pal. Even Homes, 34, is not sure exactly how she got inside the mind of such a horrifying character. ”I definitely spooked myself writing it,” she admits over cappuccino near the Greenwich Village apartment she shares with her dog, Alfie. In fact, Alice is so unremittingly raw and grim that Homes would not be surprised if it sparked a literary debate or two. ”If people hate it, well, they’re having a profound reaction,” she says. ”This one does get the heart going.” What everyone should remember, she says, is that Alice ”is a work of fiction, it’s from the imagination. It’s not anything more than that.”

Yes, try to keep that in mind — especially before you turn out the lights.