We Begin at the End

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker has been described as part western, part crime, part tragic family drama. Based in California it is the gritty tale of the Radley family. Sissy Radley’s murder 30 years before has affected the Radley family ever since, her sister Star’s life has not gone well and her niece, 13 year old Duchess Day Radley, a self-proclaimed ‘outlaw’,  is left to look after both her brother and her druggie mother best she can. Small town America watches on and judges every move she makes and when her Aunt’s murderer returns to town after his prison release the family is scrutinised even more. Chris Whitaker manages to make the character of Duchess Day so compelling that we feel her every heartache, every struggle against an unforgiving world. The police Chief, Walk, is torn between his concern for her and her mother and the tension of doing his job and protecting the convicted murderer, his childhood school friend. Time has been served and the penalty paid but the town has a long memory.

It is Duchess who stayed with me long after I reluctantly read the last page- tragic, spunky, older than her years, loyal to a fault – the family bond is heart-breakingly strong between her and her young brother and she demonstrates her fierce love for him with every move she makes.

This was one of my recent ‘novels of the year’. It’s not often that I am left feeling so bereft when I have finished reading a novel. It’s not an easy read, sort of like a mix between True Grit and Where the Crawdads Sing, but it is intensely readable. The style of writing is unusual, colloquial, with rambling half-finished sentences, but once I got used to that I became immersed in Duchess’s world.

Submitted by Jillian