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Thursday, March 18, 2021

Review: We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

We Begin at the End
by Chris Whitaker

Thanks so much to Henry Holt and Co. for this free advanced reader's copy.

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Publish Date: March 2, 2021
384 Pages
Genres: Literary Fiction, Mystery, Contemporary

There are two kinds of families: the ones we are born into and the ones we create.

Walk has never left the coastal California town where he grew up. He may have become the chief of police, but he’s still trying to heal the old wound of having given the testimony that sent his best friend, Vincent King, to prison decades before. Now, thirty years later, Vincent is being released.

Duchess is a thirteen-year-old self-proclaimed outlaw. Her mother, Star, grew up with Walk and Vincent. Walk is in overdrive trying to protect them, but Vincent and Star seem bent on sliding deeper into self-destruction. Star always burned bright, but recently that light has dimmed, leaving Duchess to parent not only her mother but her five-year-old brother. At school the other kids make fun of Duchess―her clothes are torn, her hair a mess. But let them throw their sticks, because she’ll throw stones. Rules are for other people. She’s just trying to survive and keep her family together.

A fortysomething-year-old sheriff and a thirteen-year-old girl may not seem to have a lot in common. But they both have come to expect that people will disappoint you, loved ones will leave you, and if you open your heart it will be broken. So when trouble arrives with Vincent King, Walk and Duchess find they will be unable to do anything but usher it in, arms wide closed.

Chris Whitaker has written an extraordinary novel about people who deserve so much more than life serves them. At times devastating, with flashes of humor and hope throughout, it is ultimately an inspiring tale of how the human spirit prevails and how, in the end, love―in all its different guises―wins.

My Review:

"I'm the outlaw Duchess Day Radley."

Holy emotions, outlaw!  I thought I had no emotions left after a couple terrible days but I was wrong... I had plenty and WE BEGIN AT THE END just took them all.  Y'all, this is definitely in my top for this year.  My heart broke a little at the end of Part I, I was actively crying at the end of Part II... and Part III and Part IV.  I am spent... and it was all worth it because this is an absolutely amazing story.  This literary fiction, contemporary, coming-of-age mystery, beautifully written novel will stay with me for a LONG time.

My heart... oh my damn heart.  Duchess only has one thing she allows herself to love and that is her little brother, Robin.  She is an absolute spark of a girl who had to grow up way too fast.  Robin has such a strong bond with his sister but he just doesn't know what to make of her sometimes in how she acts and the words that come out of her mouth.  But at the end of the day, they absolutely love each other and you FEEL this pouring from the pages.  

Then there's Walk, the sheriff who tries to look out for them.  Hal, their grandfather, who is sickly and has secrets of his own... but handles himself, and the children with care.  I just want to hug every single one of these characters.  Not to mention Thomas Noble, who has such tenacity and oh so brave.  Dolly, the old woman who sees herself in Duchess.  And then our villains.... Darke, Milton, Vincent, Brandon.. I mean.... while they all play their roles, the author still brings such humanity from them.  Layers upon layers within every single character.  I appreciate that so much.

Listen, this can be a tough read at times but there are teeny moments of levity to help lighten this heavy load.  You'll go through the cycle of ups and downs with each character and it will leave you breathless.  It's been a while since I've gotten this worked up over a story.  I need to go check my eyes for leaks now and sew my heart back together.  Get this book.  Read it. Grab yourself some ice cream and a box of kleenex. Set aside some time because you're not going to want to put it down.  


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