Tag Archives: Coming of Age

Review: We Begin At The End

We Begin At The End

We Begin At The End
By Chris Whitaker
Henry Holt and Co., 9781250759665, March 2021, 384pp.

The Short of It:

If you are looking to be entertained by some unforgettable characters then you’ve found your book.

The Rest of It:

Duchess Day Radley is a thirteen year-old outlaw. You see, the Radleys have a history and Duchess knows it and has no problem reminding others of it every chance she gets. She is a pistol through and through and won’t allow anyone to bully her family in any way. This includes her young brother Robin and her wayward mother, Star.

Duchess spends her days looking after her brother, mostly because her mother has a tendency to pass out drunk in the font yard. Everyone in town knows Star, and they knew her sister Sissy too, the one who was killed by a drunk driver years ago and the man who did it was just released from prison and lives right across the street.

As reputations go, Star’s is not great although her heart is in the right place. She tries to do right by her kids, but seems to always fall short. That’s why there is an entire cast of characters looking out for her, one of which is Walk, short for Walker, who is Cape Haven’s Chief of Police. He and Star go way back. He does what he can to help her out, but one night, he’s not able to and the entire town is affected by the tragedy.

Small town life. Tragedy. Unforgettable characters. The hope of new beginnings. When I picked up We Begin At The End, I just knew within the first few chapters that this was going to be a story that would stay with me for a very long time. First off, the writing is beautiful. There were some passages that I read out loud just to hear the words. What pushed this book over-the-top for me, in a wonderful way, are the characters. Duchess is all edges, hard and bristly but you can’t help but love her even when her “tell it like it is” demeanor puts a wedge between her and anyone trying to get close to her.  Walk is kind-hearted, honest when he needs to be but also a realist and loyal to a fault. I’ve got to mention Thomas Noble. He’s a gentle young man who befriends the tough Duchess Day Radley and loves her regardless of all the pushback that she throws his way. What a lovable kid. He reminded me of Owen Meany in a lot of ways. I could go on and on about the characters.

“You’re the toughest girl I ever met. And the prettiest. And I know you’ll probably hit me, but I think my world is infinitely better because you’re in it.” ~Thomas Noble

This is one of those reads that you savor. You turn the pages slowly because you don’t want your time with these people to end. You read a passage and then find yourself staring off into space pondering what you just read. This story broke my heart in so many ways but man, did I love it. It’s still early in the year but this will probably be my favorite read this year.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Such a Fun Age

Such a Fun Age

Such a Fun Age
By Kiley Reid
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 9780525541905, December 2019, 320pp.

The Short of It:

A slow build but once I got into it it was like a time bomb ready to go off.

The Rest of It:

For once, I read a buzzy book when everyone else was reading it too. Such a Fun Age is making the rounds and getting a lot of praise. It was selected for Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club and although I’ve not read all of her selections, the ones I have read have been really good. This was no exception.

Emira is at a club celebrating with her friends when her boss calls her to ask if she can possibly watch her daughter due to an emergency. One, it’s late. Two, she’s dressed for the club. Three, she’s been drinking. Although she explains this to her boss, the desperation on the other line wins out.

Minutes later, Emira finds herself with three-year-old Briar in an upscale supermarket checking out the nuts, dancing in the aisle, doing whatever it takes to keep the kid occupied while her mother, Alix, tends to her emergency. Just minutes into their visit, they begin to draw the attention of other shoppers. Emira, a young black woman, and Briar, a young white child, wandering the aisles so late at night seems out of place. So much so, that a security guard begins to question her. Emira explains that she is Briar’s babysitter, which is the truth but she knows how it looks. Things escalate. That is where the story begins.

This is one of those slow-build books. Conflict is everywhere but you know something big is coming and as the story plays out, the one word that comes to mind is EXPLOSIVE. This is a book about race but also fetishsizing race, which I thought was interesting.

Two things stood out for me. One, the story is a little gritty. Not overworked or polished which I liked very much. The author did a good job of portraying each character’s POV. None of these characters are perfect and you won’t find yourself siding with any of them. They all play a role in how the rabbit falls down the hole.  Two, the portrayal of Briar, the young child seemed a little off. She’s critical to the story but her observations were often not believable to me and they took me out of the narrative at times.

However, there is a lot to think about here and you will find yourself eagerly flipping those pages towards the end because it’s like a train wreck and you can’t possibly look away. I wouldn’t say it was a perfect story but I don’t think it was meant to be.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.