Tag Archives: Fave Reads

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: The Beauty of What Remains

The Beauty of What Remains

The Beauty of What Remains
By Steve Leder
Avery, 9780593187555, January 2021, 240pp.

The Short of It:

I did not expect a book about death and grief to be one of my favorite reads of the year.

The Rest of It:

As the senior rabbi of one of the largest synagogues in the world, Steve Leder has learned over and over again the many ways death teaches us how to live and love more deeply by showing us not only what is gone but also the beauty of what remains. ~ Indiebound

The Beauty of What Remains is my book club’s pick for March. When I picked it up, I really had to push myself to read a book that is essentially about death and the grief that follows it. Death is depressing to me. It’s probably depressing to most people but this book is incredibly uplifting and hopeful. Leder, having sat by thousands of deathbeds as a rabbi knows a thing or two about death but it never really dawned on him what true grieving was until his own father passed away from Alzheimer’s a few years ago.

Death is a great teacher if it impels us to serve the living. ~ Steve Leder

Through anecdotes and real life experiences from those who have sought his counsel, Leder provides a revelatory look at how death can look to loved ones who are forced to face it. It doesn’t have to be the sad, depressing life passage that we’ve come to expect. Leder provides a different viewpoint, one that focuses on the good and his easy, affable way is like the hug you never knew you needed.

“We are helpless in death, but we are not helpless in life.” ~ Steve Leder

I’ve heard countless times how people need comfort reads right now. This pandemic is finally showing signs of moving on and yet, we are still a little raw and on edge. Comfort reads, food, the warm embrace of a loved one (once vaccinated) are all things we need right now. If you don’t think you can get anything out of this book because you haven’t lost anyone recently, think again. Leder’s writing can help you through any loss and we have all experienced loss lately. He has this amazing way of putting things. I would love to just sit in a room with him and listen to him talk. Here’s a clip from the Today show that effectively illustrates what I mean.

The Beauty of What Remains is a beautiful book. It’s funny and hopeful and a valuable resource for anyone who has ever wondered what to say to a friend after they’ve lost a parent or a child. It’s filled with heartwarming examples of how loved ones can be honored before and after death and includes very practical information for anyone who has to plan a funeral or a celebration of life. This stuff is gold. I never thought a book like this would end up on my list of faves for the year but it’s earned a spot on it. I highly recommend it.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.