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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

Whitaker's story builds into a tale of heartbreak and desperate hopes for redemption that folds back upon itself with unexpected turns and considerable depth.

Walk is the chief of police in the small coastal California town where he grew up. Decades earlier his account of a terrible event sent his best friend Vincent to prison. Vincent has tried to make his own suffering as great as possible behind bars by eschewing distraction and comfort, and now he's about to be released.

Duchess is a thirteen-year-old girl trying to keep her family together. Her mother Star is old friends with Walk and Vincent, and when Vincent reappears, the tenuous peace and calm Duchess and her steady family friend Walk have been able to secure for her household are disrupted.

Walk and Duchess are an unlikely pair, a milquetoast cop and a defiant young teen. But both of the longtime family friends are used to disappointment and both are used to relying on themselves. Can they somehow prevent Vincent and Star from destroying themselves and everyone who cares about them, or are Walk and Duchess inadvertently adding to the collapse?

I felt as though Duchess's repetition of "I'm an outlaw" and her wearing of a bow in her hair made her feel far younger than her thirteen years. I could imagine that each of these details, which are repeated, could be part of an understandable, thwarted maturity resulting from her difficult circumstances, although I'm not clear about whether or not that was the intention. She is suspicious and jaded in most ways, with her love for her brother her only clear weakness.

Whew, this book! It started a little slowly for me, then built into a tale of heartbreak and desperate hopes for redemption that folded back upon itself with unexpected turns and considerable depth. There are mysterious forces and machinations, many of which remain unclear to the reader until late in the book, when major unraveling occurs.

Whitaker offers up the story's compounding tragedies in often-beautiful language. The tone frequently reminded me somewhat of that of John Hart's books.

The secondary character of Thomas Noble was my favorite in the book. "Her relationship with Thomas Noble had blossomed into the kind of one-sided friendship where he confided in her and she used his secrets against him, without mercy." I loved him with Duchess.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

I received a prepublication copy of this book, scheduled for publication today, March 2, courtesy of Henry Holt & Co. and NetGalley.

I mentioned this book (along with The Arctic Fury and the new release Machinehood) in the Greedy Reading List Three Books I'm Reading Now, 2/24/21 Edition.


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