Thank you to Henry Holt Books for the gifted copy of We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker. #partner
This book. The hype is real. We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker is a character driven novel with a slow burning plot that will leave you speechless. I had been seeing it all over #bookstagram, which immediately makes me skeptical because I try not to fall into book hype, especially when it comes to new releases. This one lives up to the praise and I could not get enough of the characters. This story has a lot of heartbreak, so if you are looking for a feel good book with a happy ending, this one might not be for you. But if you are looking for strong character development, intense and realistic themes of family, death, and community, look no further.
Set in a nondescript coastal California town, Walk, Duchess, and Vincent lives all intertwine. Walk is the current police chief in his hometown and Vincent has recently been released from jail after a 30 year sentence for murder. Duchess' mother, Star, grew up with Walk and Vincent and Walk is overprotective over Duchess and her younger brother, Robin. Their lives all play into each other in the most tragic way. We Begin at the End is a story of the path life takes us on and the people that let you down along the way, making you question who you can truly rely on.
These characters are the likes where I cannot believe they are literary and not real. Duchess reminded me of a mix of Wavy from All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, and Betty from Betty. She is a tough 13-year-old girl, wise beyond her years, who is fiercely protective over her little brother and is more of a mother to him, than a sister. Their mother, Star battles addiction and depression and is essentially neglectful. Duchess hardens her heart at a young age because she knows how much people can disappoint you, even those who are supposed to protect you, while her brother maintains his childhood innocence under her protection.
I could not get enough of this book. The story flowed smoothly and the last few chapters held twists that I did not see coming. Like I mentioned, this is a sad story. I felt like Walk and Duchess were dealt blow after blow. But what I loved about it is that life isn't always rainbows and unicorns. Life can be real damn hard and these characters depicted that. There are also plenty of content warnings including graphic death scenes, sad depictions of foster homes, and bodily threats against children. This is not a story for the faint of heart, but for whatever reason, those are the ones I am drawn to.
We Begin at the End is a stellar novel with a perfect balance of literary fiction, mystery/suspense, and courtroom drama. A perfect mix of "whodunnit" and pull at your heartstrings characters. I could not get enough. And that ending tho....if you've read it we MUST discuss.
"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."