Okay, so now you're asking - what is it about? From Henry Holt and Co:
"With We Begin at the End, 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. There are two kinds of families: the ones we are born into and the ones we create."
Thirteen year old Duchess Day Radley is a self proclaimed outlaw. A defensive measure as she is ostracized by her classmates - and many adults. She fiercely protects her five year old brother Robin and makes sure he eats, brushes his teeth and more. She also locks the two of them into their bedroom at night - unsure who her mother Star might bring home.
Walk and Vincent were friends with Star as kids, until a terrible tragedy changed everything. Thirty years on, Star is a mess, Walk is the local Police Chief and Vincent is getting out of prison. But the past has a long reach and a long memory. And Duchess and Robin are standing right in the way....
Whitaker's characters are so well drawn - they'll make you hurt, make you shake your fist at fate, make you want to close the book at the hard bits, but you won't be able to. The characters are all broken to some degree, even the supporting players. Each of those supporting players plays an important part in We Begin at the End. But within some are small fires, hope and redemption that drives them forward. None more than Duchess. But she makes mistakes and then the path twists and turns in another direction. (Scout Finch and Boo Radley came to mind as I read.)
"...Walk. You're like a kid. Better and worse. Bad and good. None of us are any one thing. We're just a collection of the best and worst things we've done."
Whitaker's plotting is just as good as his characters. There is a present day crime that is difficult to solve. My thoughts on whodunit changed often as the book progressed, as there are numerous suspects and motives. I was surprised every time Whitaker's plot took a new direction.
I was also surprised to find that Whitaker was British as the book is set in small town USA. He describes his setting well and I could easily picture the cliffs, the water, the wishing tree, the main street and more.
Whitaker's prose are beautiful. Stark and raw, beautiful in their honesty. And heartbreaking, yet heartwarming as well. See for yourself - here's the prologue of We Begin at the End.
The title is enigmatic at the beginning of the book, but is referenced many times throughout the narrative. It'll have you thinking. And I thought about Duchess long after I turned the last page. Absolutely recommended. Read an excerpt of We Begin at the End.