Begin at the End is an unexpectedly intense and unforgettable story of
family, loss, and hope. I've seen this classified as crime fiction a
couple times since reading it, and although there is technically a crime
in this book that needs to be solved, I wouldn't go into this expecting
a regular crime novel. Whitaker's storytelling is deliberate and
eloquent and I am so glad I had a chance to go on this journey, even if
it did completely break my heart at multiple turns.
We Begin at the End follows
the thirteen-year old self-proclaimed "outlaw" Duchess Day Radley and
sheriff Walker--more commonly known simply as 'Walk'--as they both try
to navigate their own individually difficult lives that occasionally
intersect due to Duchess' mother, Star. Our story takes place in a small
coastal town in California that is lowly but surely being overhauled
from the quiet town it was into something more modern and developed. The
people living in this town are largely resistant to the changes, which
reflects well with the general sluggish atmosphere of its residents and
the difficult, complicated lives they all seem to lead. The story kicks
off when Vincent King, a man who has been in prison for the last thirty
years, returns to town and some unexpected events occur.
the first POV we follow, is an incredibly well-developed character that
is both utterly compelling to follow and similarly difficult to follow
throughout the many tragedies that occur in both her and her younger
brother Robin's lives. Her anger at the world is entirely justified, in
my opinion, and it was heartbreaking to watch her attempts to protect
Robin and keep her family together as best as she can. Her character
undergoes so much change and development that I couldn't help but feel
impressed at Whitaker's writing. She is an incredibly complex character
dealing with a myriad of trauma, grief, and the taking on of parental
roles she shouldn't have to at her age. Everything about her is a closed
off wall of anger, but the way she manages to navigate the world and
learn to maybe trust or accept others was beautiful to watch.
sheriff, Walk, is our second perspective and was someone that I found
similarly compelling to follow, but in a different way, as his life
stage is one completely different from Duchess' (understandably, given
their ages and life situations) yet is just as difficult and melancholy
as Duchess'. His story is a quieter one than Duchess' as he struggles
with feeling physically and mentally unwell, as well as his rather
mundane day-to-day life as sheriff. His change and development is much
more subtle than Duchess', but it's unavoidably there and brings so much
depth to his story and character. His relationships with Star and
Vincent are both so complicated, but the ways in which Whitaker brings
those out and showcases them is deftly done and adds many layers of
nuance to everything.
We Begin at the End is a slow burn of anger, dejection, loss, and hope all rolled into one extraordinarily moving story. This is a story that with a slow, steady pacing that kept me hooked on the lives of each character and unable to turn away from the pages. This was a deceptively difficult story to read, and i Mean that in the sense that I didn't expect to hit as hard as it did or to make me feel as sorrowful and sad as I did for these characters stuck in these lives. I wanted for nothing more than happiness for each one, but because this book is so unfortunately real and raw, things didn't always end up as I'd hoped. And even though the ending is technically probably considered to be an uplifting one, it still made me feel a quiet sadness at how everything resolved. It's the sort of ending that you understand and that may be best as a result of everything that's happened, but it's not a satisfying one that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. But that's okay, because I feel like that's just what life is--things happen, and all we can do is learn to make the best of everything in whatever way we can.
Overall, I've given We Begin at the End
five stars. This is a beautiful and heartbreaking book that I would
absolutely recommend to anyone interested in following the lives of some
truly captivating characters.
*I received an ARC of We Begin at the End courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*