Review: We Begin at the End

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We Begin at the End is the story of two people, 13-year-old Duchess and an aging police officer who goes by Walk. Duchess and Walk live in (fictional) Cape Haven, California. Duchess's mother Star is a woman broken by life and her battle with addiction. Duchess is left to parent her brother Robin, and Walk tries to look out for Star, Duchess, and Robin. It isn't going well at the start, as once again, Star has OD'd and is rescued from the brink of death. In this small town, everyone knows about Duchess's private life. In the meantime, Walk is preparing for the return of his best friend from his youth, Vincent King, a man he helped send to prison at age fifteen for manslaughter in the death of Star's baby sister, Sissy. Once in prison, Vincent was implicated in the death of another prisoner and sentenced to an additional twenty years. Walk is still consumed with guilt over the role he played in his friend's imprisonment, though it was justice for Sissy. Star cannot quite deal with Vincent's imminent return, for complex reasons the reader will learn over the course of the book. Star, Duchess, Robin, and Walk are linked to Vincent in complex ways and his return to the town sets up a series of tragic events.

This novel is a poignant murder mystery. Duchess, in particular, lives through so much heartbreak. She is incredibly resilient and I found her behavior, based on my years in the child welfare world, to be authentic. You keep reading because you have to know who did what, but everything about the lives it recounts is just heartbreaking. Don't be deterred by the sadness. This is such a good book.

The audiobook is warmly narrated by George Newburn, whose voice I recognized from the much-loved Boy's Life by Robert McCammon.

CW: addiction, murder, PTSD.

I received a digital audio and paper review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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