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.
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