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We Begin at the End

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There are two kinds of families: the ones we are born into and the ones we create.

Walk has never left the coastal California town where he grew up. He may have become the chief of police, but he’s still trying to heal the old wound of having given the testimony that sent his best friend, Vincent King, to prison decades before. Now, thirty years later, Vincent is being released.

Duchess is a thirteen-year-old self-proclaimed outlaw. Her mother, Star, grew up with Walk and Vincent. Walk is in overdrive trying to protect them, but Vincent and Star seem bent on sliding deeper into self-destruction. Star always burned bright, but recently that light has dimmed, leaving Duchess to parent not only her mother but her five-year-old brother. At school the other kids make fun of Duchess―her clothes are torn, her hair a mess. But let them throw their sticks, because she’ll throw stones. Rules are for other people. She’s just trying to survive and keep her family together.

A fortysomething-year-old sheriff and a thirteen-year-old girl may not seem to have a lot in common. But they both have come to expect that people will disappoint you, loved ones will leave you, and if you open your heart it will be broken. So when trouble arrives with Vincent King, Walk and Duchess find they will be unable to do anything but usher it in, arms wide closed.

Chris Whitaker has written an extraordinary novel about people who deserve so much more than life serves them. At times devastating, with flashes of humor and hope throughout, it is ultimately an inspiring tale of how the human spirit prevails and how, in the end, love―in all its different guises―wins.

384 pages, Hardcover

First published March 26, 2020

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About the author

Chris Whitaker

7 books1,646 followers
Chris Whitaker is the award-winning author of Tall Oaks, All the Wicked Girls, We Begin at the End, and The Forevers (YA).
His debut Tall Oaks won the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award.
An instant New York Times and international bestseller, We Begin at the End was a Waterstones Thriller of the Month, a Barnes & Noble Book Club Pick and a Good Morning America Buzz Pick. The novel won the CWA Gold Dagger Award, the Theakston Crime Novel of the Year, the Ned Kelly International Award, and numerous awards around the world.
We Begin At The End has been translated into twenty-nine languages, with screen rights going to Disney, where ‘Hamilton’ director Thomas Kail and producing partner Jennifer Todd will develop the book for television.
Chris lives in the UK.

Follow him on Twitter @WhittyAuthor
And on Instagram @chriswhitakerauthor

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5 stars
35,830 (41%)
4 stars
33,449 (38%)
3 stars
13,337 (15%)
2 stars
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1,040 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 10,038 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,194 reviews40.5k followers
February 17, 2023
Raising my glass for long live Duchess Day Radley, my one of all time favorite outlaw! She truly reminded me of Ozark’s Ruth Langmore’s younger version: taking no sh*t from anyone, taking care of her family even though she is only 13, a stunning badass character you never want to mess with!

I’m not gonna give away anything this time! I’m screaming at the top of my lungs: GO, BUY THIS BOOK ASAP! This is not only the best story with its best developed, freaking fantastic characters! Or it is not only the best thing I’ve read lately. It’s the best I’ve read for years!

What are you waiting for? Just READ IT! READ IT! READ IT!

Read for those broken characters. Read for loyal Walk, long time suffering Vincent King, resented Star, fiery Martha, angry Hal who procrastinated living their lives for 30 years!

Read for little, traumatized Robin, best loyal friend Thomas Noble, Dolly with flat chest!
You may even read for villains: Darke, Milton, Brandon!

Poetic, heart wrenching, mind blowing writing style with jaw dropping, heartfelt conclusion shaking you to the core!


I already declare : I will vote for this book at Goodreads Choice Awards 2021 from best fiction section and I’m so sure I never gonna chance my mind!

Giving my ten gazillion stars as I’m telling you one more time: don’t you ever dare to skip this book!!!!!
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
401 reviews3,477 followers
January 17, 2023
Destined To Be A Classic

We are dropped into the town of Cape Haven and introduced to a variety of characters. Duchess Radley is a teenage girl from a broken home. She takes care of her brother Robin while her mother Star is lost in her own world. We also meet Police Officer Walk who feels guilty because as a boy he turned in his best friend Vincent.

This is one of the best books of 2021! It is the new To Kill A Mockingbird. The characters were phenomenally developed, and there was surprise after surprise. The hallmark of a good book involves 2 things: 1) imperfect characters and 2) good story telling. This book had that in spades. 5 Stars all the way.

The audiobook was a rare treat. It was simply perfect!

Trigger warning to anyone with a neuromuscular disorder. As someone who has a severe neuromuscular disorder that shares many of the same characteristics of the one mentioned in this book, I was appalled at how this was treated in this book. If you are diagnosed with a neuromuscular disorder, your life is not over. It is not the worst thing possible in life, this cloud hanging over your shoulder. My life is definitely different than how I imagined it would turn out but this life isn't meaningless. Since I was diagnosed, instead of training for a 5K, I ended up doing what I could do - read books. In this short time, I have made a supportive bunch of friends, named as a Booktuber to Watch, and ranked among the top 5% of most helpful book reviewers. In essence, you could say that I began at the end.

See my video review here: https://youtu.be/QV_xNAmrNuA

*Thank you, NetGalley, for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest opinion.

2023 Reading Schedule
Jan Alice in Wonderland
Feb Notes from a Small Island
Mar Cloud Atlas
Apr On the Road
May The Color Purple
Jun Bleak House
Jul Bridget Jones’s Diary
Aug Anna Karenina
Sep The Secret History
Oct Brave New World
Nov A Confederacy of Dunces
Dec The Count of Monte Cristo

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Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,599 reviews24.7k followers
February 29, 2020
The award winning Chris Whitaker's latest novel is a stellar, intense and beautifully written novel, a study of small town America, set in Cape Haven, California and Copper Falls, Montana. This character driven book gives us the unforgettable, fierce and mesmerising 13 year old Duchess Day Radley, a girl that life has dealt the lousiest of hands, living hand to mouth, surviving by her wits, denied a childhood, all responsibilities and consequences, no friends, doing her best to look after her troubled single mother, Star, to all intents and purposes the sole carer for her beloved 6 year old brother, Robin, there is nothing she will not do to protect him. Often her own worst enemy, she copes with the adversity and trauma that comes their way by imagining and living with the persona of a Wild West outlaw, an enduring part of American history, an unassailable national myth and legend. This ensures, more often than not, that others fear and avoid her, and triggering from the best of intentions, a set of actions and decisions which bring with them the deadliest of repercussions.

30 years ago, as a 15 year old, Thomas King was responsible for the death of 7 year old Sissy, the sister of Star, this resulted in his incarceration in prison for all those years. He is now being released, and he is returning to Cape Haven, and his home, now a prime target for developers, particularly the sinister giant of a man, Dickie Darke. Chief of Police Walk was the closest childhood friend of King, he loves King unconditionally, he is a man of integrity believing in King's essential goodness. Popping pills to get through the day, his ill health is threatening his ability to do his job. Through the years Walk has done all that he can do to keep an eye on Star and Duchess, so when tragedy strikes, he goes out of his way to drive Duchess and Robin to their estranged grandfather, Hal, in Montana, only for the horrors of Cape Haven and Duchess's actions to follow them.

Whitaker's hard hitting storytelling will leave an indelible mark on the reader, emotionally heartbreaking, of broken people, of history repeating itself, of love, loss, sacrifice, secrets, family, compassion, murder, revenge and retribution. It speaks of the search for absolution and redemption, and the impossibility of trying to saving someone who doesn't want to be saved. It illustrates how far people will go to protect those they love, with a willingness to compromise their integrity. The undoubted highlight of the novel is the creation and development of the indomitable Duchess, emotionally damaged, vulnerable, delving into the long empty branches of her family tree, willing to put Robin best interests above her own needs and desires. There are elements of small town America here that have echoes that remind me of the wonderful Michael Farris Smith. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Bonnier Books for an ARC.
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :).
991 reviews2,760 followers
January 7, 2022

This book tore me apart, made me laugh and made me cry, often !! I had been waiting for that first 5* book of 2021 that would blow me away, THIS IS DEFINITELY THAT BOOK!!

This novel has an amazingly intricate plot, perfectly paced, turns that you don’t expect, with characters that will be with me for a very long time.

We begin at the scene of a tragedy, a young girl is dead, and this small California coastal town will never be the same again.

Fast forward 30 years, Vincent King is getting out of prison. His old best friend, Sheriff Walker, “Walk” is on his way to pick him up and take him back to town. He was serving time for a crime he committed when he was 15 years old. Walk was the one who turned him in.

Star is the town beauty who has now been reduced to an addict’s life, really dependent on 13 year old Duchess. Her sister Sissy was killed when she was young.

Duchess is a fiery, determined, intelligent and loving sister to her young brother Robin. She takes care of her mom and her brother, all the while being taunted at school because of her clothes and her mom’s reputation.

Robin has had an extremely traumatized childhood only made tolerable because of his sister. She LOVES HIM FIERCELY !! and will do anything to protect him.

Tragedy strikes again, Star is murdered and the children are homeless.

Hal, the children’s grandfather takes the children to his farm in Wyoming. It is such a different atmosphere that it takes a bit for Duchess to feel safe. Robin is in love with all of the animals. Hal is an amazing man, gentle and caring, just what Duchess and Robin need right now. Things are good, until they aren’t!!

The characters are incredibly well developed and I felt for Walk, for his strong and fierce determination to keep Star and the children safe. He’s had some bad medical news that he is also dealing with.

He hovers around Vincent, making sure he settles in alright. He has placed a lot of burden on himself. I will never forget our heroine, Duchess and her incredible determination.

This novel is a family drama, a mystery, a coming of age book and so much more. The descriptions of Cape Haven and the visions of the summers and winters in Wyoming took me there, right now! Chris Whittaker made me “feel” what it was like on the cliffs of Cape Haven and in Hal's barn with the smell of hay and the comfort of horses.

Just when things start to look up for Duchess, who calls herself an OUTLAW, another horrible turn of events lands them back to being ALONE !

Back and forth we go, along for an incredible ride. Don’t miss this book, it will take you away from wherever you are and deliver you into the hands of a master storyteller!

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss.
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,109 reviews2,792 followers
April 1, 2021
We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker (Author), George Newbern (Narrator)

Thirteen year old Duchess Day Radley is the protector of her five year old brother, Robin. Their drug/drink addicted mother, Star, has never been able to take care of herself and never been able to take care of them. Duchess forgoes food so her brother can eat, she spends her school lunch period watching her brother, she arranges for him to sit with a teacher for three hours, in the afternoon, until she gets out of school and can take him home. Her mother doesn't even remember they exist most of the time. Kids make fun of them, towns folks talk of calling Social Services about them. Duchess doesn't help their reputation by stealing to provide food for Robin. Her life is misery, every single moment, but she's determined to give Robin the love and life he deserves. She's determined to hide how things really are from him. The only thing that keeps her from breaking more rules or laws is that she doesn't ever want to be separated from her brother. 

Their guardian angel is Chief of Police Walk. Thirty years ago, when his best friend, Vincent, killed Star's sister, Walk's testimony is what sent fifteen year old Vincent to prison. Vincent and Star loved each other and neither one of them has gotten over the other. Walk, Vincent, and Star seemed to be stopped in time in some ways, never able to move on from that time in their lives. Walk's main goal in life is to protect Duchess (who will cuss out anyone who tries to help her or give her any sign of kindness or mercy) and Robin. Nothing else is important to him other than keeping Star from sinking even lower into the cesspool of her bad habits and getting Vincent out of prison and back to their hometown. 

Now, thirty years after he went in, Vincent is out of prison and home. But there is trouble and Walk's protection isn't enough for Star, Duchess, and Robin. This story is heartbreaking, for Duchess and Robin, for Walk, whose body is failing him, for Star and Vincent, who are never going to crawl out of their depression and guilt. I listened to the narration of this story and it was wonderful, putting me right there in this hopeless and sad situation. Duchess could have been unlikeable because she wants to be unlikeable but my heart broke for her and her fragile brother, Robin. And Walk, always the good, honest, reliable person, never wanting to change, has a body that is changing too soon. Now, to save Duchess and Robin, he's going to have to go against everything he's ever believed. 

Publication March 9th 2021

Thank you to Macmillan Audio and NetGalley for this ARC. 
April 3, 2021
3 stars. A small town story of loyalty, loss and revenge.

It’s hard to keep secrets when everyone knows each other’s business. Local police chief, Walk, has lived in the same town his entire life. He makes it his mission to keep a close eye on those who he needs to protect the most.

I love small town crime fiction. This seemed right up my alley but unfortunately I felt underwhelmed upon finishing. I’m going to blame it on the hype which set my expectations far too high for what this book delivered. It’s a unique story but it failed to bring the powerful impact I had expected. It was averagely enjoyable, but it just wasn’t a great or memorable reading experience for me.

My main issue was that I didn’t connect with the characters. I liked them and was intrigued by their personalities and personal situations at the beginning, but I didn’t feel invested in their lives.

A large part of my lack of connection to the main characters was that I felt they were overdone. The “good guy”, the “outlaw”, the “innocent man”, etc. They were all “too much” and lacked any sort of depth required to make them feel real to me. Their actions and dialogue often felt forced and unrealistic. The ages of the children did not ring true which was a constant irritation as I have children these exact ages. I like what the author was trying to do but he didn’t pull it off for me.

This was a sad story. It should have broke my heart and had me in tears, however, it lacked any sort of emotional pull on me which is surprising as I’m a very emotional reader. The story was quite slow and dragged at several points. I kept waiting for an intense connection that never happened. I guessed a big twist early on which took away the suspense aspect.

The writing lacked flow to the point that I had to stop, backtrack and reread sentences several times because they didn’t come across smoothly and I found several narrative switches lacked ease.

Overall, this was just an “ok” read for me. Somewhere between 2.5-3 stars. I’m definitely the outlier as there are countless raving reviews which I encourage you to check out.
Profile Image for Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill.
539 reviews619 followers
April 1, 2021
Hang on to your Stetsons and hold on to your heart...this book will break it for sure...Wow! This book was absolutely brilliant. I had heard the rumors and I can confirm they are in fact true! You will want to read this book.

Why would a thirteen year old girl go around calling herself an outlaw? Self preservation that is why. Duchess has seen more heartache than most people do in a lifetime..by age thirteen....she is one tough cookie and she will do whatever it is takes to survive and protect her little brother Robin from the pure hell they have been through.

Small town U.S.A....right here...your police chief that you grew up with.. your neighbor still stuck in his glory of his high school days...mustang and all...the neighborhood butcher that everyone knew whether they wanted to or not...and Star..the shining star that lost her light..

The police chief is best friends with a murderer that has been in jail for 30 years...because he believes in him...is he being played the fool?

My emotions were all over the place with this book. It was a mixture of sometimes life just isn't fair...yet this is life.. the good, the bad and the ugly. This story was so well written and unraveled so perfectly. It was a mixture of family drama and mystery that will have you hoping against all odds this little family will make it.

Huge shoutout to Henry Holt and Company for my gorgeous gifted copy that I loved! This is a book that will stay in your mind for a long time.
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,285 reviews2,205 followers
March 6, 2021
This is NOT one of those past/present dual narratives that are so often found in novels these days. It is a present moment story, but the past is as present as the now. When we learn of things that happened in the past, the relevancy is stunning and sometimes surprising. I’m not going to discuss the plot. There are other reviews that cover those details. Yet, I could describe this in so many ways - gut punching, heart breaking, gritty. It is all of those things, but it’s mostly a story about love and the sacrifices that people make for those they love as they make their way through lives filled with tough breaks, to say the least. It’s so beautifully written and I couldn’t have been more moved.

Duchess, angry, foul mouthed, and 13, says hurtful things to anyone in her path . She might even throw a punch, knock out one of your teeth. She’s a self professed “outlaw”. Under normal circumstances you’d probably say she’s a troubled teenager who needs to be set straight. However, the circumstances of her life are far from normal. We know why she has to be so defensive to protect herself and her little brother Robin. Seemingly filled with hate, masking a grief that is so deep, as deep as her love for her brother, is why I felt so much for her. She is indeed a troubled young girl and she needs help. I wished I could have climbed into those pages to give her a hug even though she would have fought me off.

As it turns out, there are others to give her that much needed hug and help. There’s Walk, a small town sheriff with a heart bigger than the town. He carries his own personal burdens of both the past and now, but also the burdens of those he cares about. Star, the children’s mother, Vincent, his life long best friend, these children are among them. There’s Hal, their grandfather, who fills the void of his own losses with love and care for Duchess and Robin. There’s Dolly, who could be called a real guardian angel, one of my favorite characters. Several of my Goodreads friends highly praised this book, but I have to give a special thanks to Susanne, whose review let me know for sure that this was one for me . Like Susanne, I highly recommend it.

I received an advanced copy of this book from Macmillan/Henry Holt through Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Farrah.
221 reviews569 followers
March 30, 2021
I spent the first 40% of this book questioning why it was getting so many stellar reviews. I mean, I thought it was 𝘨𝘰𝘰𝘥 but I wasn't super impressed.
Then at 44% there's a scene that was so beautifully written that I was 𝘪𝘯 𝘢𝘸𝘦 and the book quickly took off from there.

-I 𝘼𝘿𝙊𝙍𝙀 Duchess.
-All the characters are well defined.
-The plot is clever and I had nothing figured out until it was revealed.
-The unique writing style is gorgeous and hypnotic.
-The ending is heartbreakingly perfect.

My only dislike is just a small one but I felt the pattern of the story became predictable.
A sweet or touching scene would mean that the following scene was gonna be a punch in the gut. It's a very effective technique because I was moved to tears a few times but I would have preferred the flow to be a little less obvious.

Easy 4, maybe 4.5 ⭐
Profile Image for jessica.
2,533 reviews32.3k followers
February 8, 2022
this book reads like a nitty-gritty kristin hannah or fredrik backman story. and i loved every second of it.

i love the old time feel, small town atmosphere, raw emotion and harsh reality, and tragic mystery of it all. its a story that has so much depth to it, you hardly notice how deep you slip into it until youre fully immersed.

this definitely isnt your traditional mystery/thriller. its much more of a realistic fiction with a crime aspect. the focus is for sure on the characters, their lives, their struggles and their resilience in the face of those struggles.

really quite blown away by this. for sure the biggest surprise of my 2022 so far!

4.5 stars
Profile Image for JanB .
1,143 reviews2,492 followers
March 21, 2021
Duchess is a troubled young girl, marked by a life filled with tragedy and deprivation. Forced to grow up too soon In order to survive and take care of her 6-year-old brother, Robin, she’s hardened herself to protect herself from pain. Any softness in her is reserved for Robin, a sweet boy who wants nothing more than a family to call his own.

The bond between brother and sister was touching and their search for belonging is heart-wrenching. These children have known more pain and loss than any person should have to endure at such a young age. Yet, still more tragedy and loss is coming.

This is a murder/revenge tale that began 30 years ago, and continues to the present. It’s a book filled with pain and violence, but it’s the characters that wormed their way into my heart. All are vividly drawn and have a thread that connects them in one way or another to the tragedy that occurred 30 years ago. This event set a course that changes all of their lives. So much happens in this novel that to talk about the plot would involve spoilers.

But the characters!

- Walk, the small town sheriff, has struggles of his own but will stop at nothing to protect the children and seek justice for them. His best friend, Vincent, has just been released from prison after a 30 year sentence. Walk has never stopped believing in him, while Vincent has never forgiven himself.
- Hal, the grandfather, is a character that reminds me of the ones in Kent Haruf’s novels. He’s a man of few words but deep character.
- Dolly is a woman who knows pain but has a heart of gold. She can break through Duchess’s defenses when no one else can.
- And then there’s sweet Thomas Noble, a young boy who is also an outcast, and proves himself to be a great friend to Duchess.

This is an intricate tale with many surprises along the way that I didn’t see coming. This gripping emotional story took hold of my heart and wouldn’t let go, bringing me to tears more than once.

However, as much as I fell in love with Duchess, I do wish her tough exterior had been more nuanced. Her language and precociousness didn’t always ring true to me as the way a child (or even an adult) would talk.

It took a while for me to get into the story but my patience was rewarded. Once the setting moved to Montana, I couldn’t put it down. This is a book to savor, and one I won’t soon forget. The layers of this story are slowly peeled back with a final reveal that was shocking and heart breaking.

This was a buddy read with my friend Marilayce. It’s one we both highly recommend and will be in our top books of the year!

*I received a digital ARC of the book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
*Published March 2, 2021 by Henry Holt & Co
Profile Image for Debbie.
441 reviews2,782 followers
May 2, 2021
I can’t see!

Eek! I squint really hard, clean the wax out of my ears, but I still can’t imagine this 13-year-old character, Duchess. Every time I try to picture her, she opens her mouth and ruins it! She then becomes this entity that isn’t a character; it’s an idea that happens to talk. She has no age, she has no heart and no soul. She doesn’t exist—and there’s no way I can relate to this blank. I’m making this sound all weird—let me just say that Duchess’ voice is ALL WRONG. Her voice doesn’t match her age in any way. I’m trying to imagine a person, but I can’t, because the writer used the wrong puzzle pieces to create her. This book did a head trip on me. It jolted me, confused me, drove me nuts. I’ve never read a book where the main character was so unbelievable, seriously. Duchess kept her mouth shut more in the last part of the book, but it was too late. She basically remained a flashy neon blur.

Okay, I must must must give you some examples of Duchess’s utterances. Hold on, because you won’t believe them! And trust me, there are many more where these came from! Remember, she is 13!!!

“Then all that testosterone kicked in and shat on her dreams.”

“I think they’re too old to have kids naturally and now they want a second shot. Could be problems with his sperm, or maybe she’s barren as the Mojave.”

“Fuck, Walk. Stop saying that. Hand we get dealt, right. Fate, resignation. There’s no difference.”

“Free will is an illusion, sooner you accept the sooner you get on.”

“I told him you had a ten-inch cock.”

“What’s the attraction there, financial or fetishistic?”

“This better not be about your mother fucking the mailman.”

“Do I want to contract herpes, Hal?”

“If the good stand by idle, are they still good?”

See? Impossible to believe her, impossible. Plus, she’s a stereotype: She rebels against everything, she gives lip non-stop. A sassy teen who is totally obnoxious, boring, and predictable. This got old pretty fast and it was overdone. Picture a two-year-old who says “No” to everything.

And there are problems buying her 5-year-old brother, too. One of my favorite lines of his: “He’s an emotional pig!” Yep, a 5-year-old says this!

There are also a few logistic and point-of-view problems. I’ll spare you the details but I just want to say they bugged me a lot. An editor should have caught them.

I’m a bigtime outlier on this one. Blows my mind that people loved this book. Don’t throw tomatoes, please; I can’t help it that I didn’t like it!

Thanks to Edelweiss for the advance copy.
Profile Image for Regina.
1,136 reviews2,995 followers
May 9, 2021
“We Begin at the End" by Chris Whitaker is a novel by an up-and-coming author that's not to be missed. Call it a thriller, a mystery, a crime drama, or a coming-of-age tale, it's undeniably a slow burn story with more than its fair share of surprises.

The plot is intricate, with many connected characters essentially dealing with the aftermath of a tragedy that took place 30 years prior. At its heart is a vividly-drawn young girl named Duchess, a self-proclaimed "outlaw," who does whatever is necessary to raise and protect her younger brother. Their life circumstances are heartbreaking and somewhat of a mystery. Misfortune seems to follow them, and you can't help but hope they'll eventually end up on solid, supportive ground.

The novel is broken into four parts, and it wasn't until Part 2 when the setting and characters shift to small town Montana that I got sucked in. The other prominent setting is a small coastal California town. Both are equally atmospheric, but I sensed glimmers of hope in Montana compared to the dreary regret of the west.

The audiobook is confidently narrated by George Newbern (Scandal, Father of the Bride). His voice is familiar and comforting, but I can't help but think this is a book where you want to feel the weight of a hardback in your hands. For the audio format though, Newbern is always a reliable choice.

I would like to thank Macmillan Audio and the author for the opportunity to review an advanced copy via NetGalley.
Profile Image for Liz.
2,018 reviews2,517 followers
January 10, 2021
This is my first experience reading a book by Chris Whitaker. It’s a beautifully written book, but an incredibly sad one. Duchess is a thirteen year old who has had to grow up well before she should have. She cares for her little brother Robin, as her mother, Star, is usually too drunk to do so. But Whitaker manages to capture her innocence, too, her belief that she’s an outlaw just like in the Wild West.
Walker is a forty something chief of police who’s dealing with his own health problems while trying to watch over Star and her family. Add to this mix Vincent, who’s just been released after 30 years in prison for killing Star’s sister, Sissy.
What they all have in common is the knowledge that people are disappointing and life is going to screw you over given half a chance.
This is a book that just grabs you. At times, it felt almost emotionally draining. Duchess’s anger is palpable. I wanted so badly for things to finally go right for Duchess and Robin. This is a book that brought tears to my eyes.
Kudos to Whitaker for creating a wonderful set of characters. Not just the main trio, but Hal, Dolly and Martha as well.
I recommend this for fans of William Kent Krueger or Allen Eskins.
George Newbern is a great narrator. He captures the pathos of the story.
My thanks to netgalley and Macmillan Audio for an advance copy of this audiobook.
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,159 reviews36.8k followers
February 27, 2021
Review posted to blog: https://books-are-a-girls-best-friend...

My Cup Runneth Over and the Tears Spilled.

While reading this book, I was overcome with intense emotion and extraordinary heartbreak.

This is character-driven literary crime fiction about family, friendship, loss, and mystery that includes all of my favorite elements.
Dysfunction; grief, heartache; humanity; humor; love; loyalty, pain, regret, and unrelenting tragedy.

It’s a novel that is dripping with heart and that heart resides in the characters. Characters that I love with all of my heart and then some. Characters who I’ve thought about every darn day since I turned the last page.

It’s the characters of Duchess, Robin, Walk, Hal, Dolly, and Martha who bring this book to life and made my heartache.

Duchess Day Radley is a thirteen (13) year-old self-proclaimed “Outlaw.” Tough as nails, she’ll do whatever she has to do to take care of herself and her five (5) year old brother Robin, seeing as her mom has never been all that reliable, much to Duchess’ chagrin. Unfortunately for Duchess, after trying just a little too hard to take care of her family, she finds herself in a world of trouble, the likes of which I can’t imagine.

The bonds shared between brother and sister here are absolutely soul-wrenching. As if the characters of Duchess and Robin were real, I too found myself in great distress when tragedy befell these two time and again. If I could have scooped them up and taken them to safety, I would have.

“Walk” is Chief of Police. Though he checks in on the Radleys from time to time, he’s not a miracle worker and he has other fish to fry, including helping his former best friend, Vincent King rehabilitate after spending 30 years in prison. Walk, of course, has his own troubles, none of which he can run away from.

The mystery here is devastating, heart-wrenching, and gripping. Though there is tragedy here, there is also humor. Surprising, shocking, brilliant humor. The writing is beautiful and is full of grace and grit.

In truth: “We Begin At The End” by Chris Whittaker IS the BEST book I’ve read so far this year and I would be stunned if another book surpasses it. It will of course be at the top of my Goodreads best-of-list for 2021!

This is my first read by Chris Whittaker but it will most certainly not be my last. I will be searching for and reading his entire backlist shortly.

If this is not on your tbr, search it out! I switched back and forth between the book and the audiobook and loved both. George Newbern narrated the audiobook and his narration is phenomenal.

Thank you to NetGalley, and Henry Holt and Company for arc, and MacMillan Audio for the alc.

Published on Goodreads. Twitter and Insta on 2.10.21
Profile Image for Melissa ~ Bantering Books.
204 reviews783 followers
April 23, 2021
Be sure to visit Bantering Books to read all my latest reviews.

A month has passed since I turned the final page of Chris Whitaker’s glorious novel, We Begin at the End, and I can’t shake the memory of it. It’s a monkey on my back, ever present in my mind, refusing to leave me be.

And I don’t want it to leave me be.

Because the novel changed me. It reshaped me. Whitaker’s tragic story of thirteen-year-old Duchess and her five-year-old brother, Robin, caused me to reshuffle my priorities and be more present in my own life. And for this, I will be forever grateful.

I know the novel is not flawless. It certainly has its critics. Duchess is a bit overwritten, and the depiction of both children is not always age appropriate. The supporting characterization feels a bit flat. I also found it difficult to immerse myself in the California setting, and I would lose my sense of place when the story shifted back to the West Coast from Montana.

But my quibbles are insignificant in comparison to the novel’s beauty. We Begin at the End is masterfully written with stunning, literary prose. The mystery at its core is complex and surprising, and the story, while emotionally devastating, has moments of warm humor and hope.

I sobbed. I laughed. I sobbed some more.

And then I hugged my two boys. Tightly. (To their grumbling dismay.)

Because Duchess and Robin – these two kids broke my heart. Even now, my eyes burn for them as I write this.

For the unfairness of their lives. For their pain. For their resilience and strength of spirit.

For Robin’s undying optimism and willingness to try, try again. For Duchess’s selfless, protective love for her brother.

Mr. Whitaker, thank you. I have been touched, profoundly, by your words and your story.

Bantering Books
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,001 reviews35.9k followers
January 14, 2021
read by George Newburn

Duchess Day Radley, “self-described outlaw”, is thirteen years old.... ( going on thirty)...
Resilient, fierce, and ‘strong-like-bull’....she becomes ‘acting-mom’ to her six year old brother, Robin and caretaker to her often drunk mother, Star. The kids father was out of the picture.

Thirty years ago, in the small fictional coastal town of Cape Heaven, Ca., Police Chief, Walk, put his childhood best friend, Vincent King, behind bars...( due to a car incident that killed Star’s sister, Sissy).
Vincent has just been released from prison.
Walk, (with years of guilt, secrets, health issues, and struggles of his own), has not only tried to look after Duchess, Robin, and Star ( childhood friend with both Walk and Vincent), for many years when Vincent was in prison — but now tries to help Vincent re-enter and re-adjust to life on the outside.
Nothing is an easy as one hopes — for anyone in “We Began At The End”....
Relationships run deep -are complicated-and entangled.

Vincent gets mixed up with a dubious guy named Dickie Darke.
Star is murdered....
....an investigation follows....
...prompting Duchess and Robin to move to another small town, Copper Fall, MT., to stay with their grandfather, Hal...(they had never met). Hal was Sissy’s youngest daughter.

This is a heartbreaking- heart beauty-terrific novel.
The character driven memorable-characters-feel like real people we come to love and emphasize with.

The mystery crime - whodunnit- is only part of what makes this a gripping read.
It has a heartbeat so loud and pure—
filled with tension, tears, tragedy, humor, unexpected turns, joy, people we come to love, with so much humanity....
one would have to be in a coma not to feel emotionally spent by the end.

****Heart-tugging**** powerful and highly imaginable. It would make a great movie.

Thank you, MacMillan - audio- publishing Netgalley, and Chris Whitaker ( beautiful written)
March 26, 2021
I am going against the grain here and I know I read a very different book than most people. Lol. If I was to rate this one based on entertainment I would rate it 4 stars. It did entertain me and I tried really hard to just go with it. The more I think about and now feel about it I would rate it 2 stars. So I am settling on 3 stars.

Not all books are for everyone and this one was not for me. Unfortunately I bought this one based on the hype created for this one. Lesson to me, I know better. I should of looked at who the publisher was first.

Profile Image for Linda.
1,226 reviews1,274 followers
February 14, 2021
How do we close old wounds without opening new ones?

Next to impossible I'd say.

We Begin at the End takes us on a long journey over nearly thirty years. Hard years. Unforgiving years.

But Sheriff Walker, known as Walk, looks down at his shaking hands and feels the draw and the pull of his vertigo. He knows that the diagnosis hasn't been good and the little white pills are no longer serving him as well as they once did. Walk maintains his same daily schedule in Cape Haven no matter what. It's who he is and will always be.

Today Walk will be driving several hours to pick up his childhood friend, Vincent King. Vincent has served thirty years for a crime that he committed when he was fifteen years old in his hometown of Cape Haven on the coast of California. Walk carries the weight of those years as well. It was Walk who turned his best friend in.

Chris Whitaker will introduce us to quite an array of characters who've known each other well for years. The focus will be on Duchess Radley, a thirteen year old girl who constantly has her antennae up. She hovers over her wayward mother, Star, who's taken to too much drink and too many drugs. Star has a long history in Cape Haven since she herself was a teenager on the loose. Duchess looks out for her five year old brother, Robin, long on sweet and short on motherly care. And Duchess now feels the hard edges that such a life has bestowed upon her. In fact, she refers to herself as an outlaw......tough, mean, and take-no-crap-from the crap-givers.

The re-entry of Vincent King into this town will have a mighty impact. Whitaker will take us on winding roads that seem to circle around bad decisions and bad outcomes. He knows how to chisel away at the heart continuously throughout this story. And we as readers dig in deep and brace ourselves for more.

I will tell you quite honestly that this story will stay with you long after the last page. You will recognize the downside of human nature in what happens here as well as the uplifting attempts to get life right. We're all at the receiving end of someone else's life choices. It's just a fact that we're born with. But we can also search for the crack of light in the doorway where someone has held it open for us......to get to the other side.

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Henry Holt and Company and to Chris Whitaker for the opportunity.
Profile Image for Petrik.
673 reviews42.7k followers
December 18, 2020
I have a Booktube channel now! Subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/petrikleo

4.5/5 stars

Melancholic, compelling, and so beautifully written.

This was a book I never thought I’d read, and I certainly didn’t expect I would love this one. We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker is a novel highly recommended by my co-blogger, Emma; she has been pushing this book to everyone in Novel Notions since the start of this year. I don’t read a lot of crime fiction, and my knowledge of what elements in a story would make a book be categorized as crime fiction—other than there’s a crime taking place, I guess?—is also very limited. I honestly thought this would be your standard murder-mystery, one that will thrill me for a while, and then I’ll forget about it quickly. But We Begin at the End is more than that. It is beautiful, it is melancholic, and it is quite likely unforgettable.

“Better and worse. Bad and good. None of us are any one thing. We’re just a collection of best and worst things we’ve done.”

I personally found the characters in We Begin at the End to be superbly characterized. For the majority of the novel, we follow two main character’s POV—Walker and Duchess—but the main characters weren’t the only focus of the story. Vincent King, Robin, Star, Hal, Darke, and many more characters in the story were equally important, and they’re all magnificently crafted. When I was reading the book, I truly felt that the characters behaved as if they’re real human beings with their respective struggles, feelings, motivations, and emotions. I started reading this book knowing absolutely nothing; all I know was that it’s going to be an emotional read, and I think future readers will benefit from setting their expectations accordingly when they’re going to read this book.

“Death has a way of making saints out of mortals. But with children… there is no bad. She was small and beautiful and perfect.

This was the first time I read Whitaker’s book, and his prose in We Begin at the End has this incredible capability to conjure an atmospheric and melancholic tone that lasted from the first page to the last. The writing style did take me a bit of time to get used to, but once I’m settled, I realized that I couldn’t put down the book. I feel like this is all I can say about the book without going into spoiler territory; if you want a better review on what made this book such a great read, I suggest checking out Emma’s review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

“Tragedy has a way of making saints out of sinners.”

Although I haven’t read many books in the genre yet, I do believe all the praises and acclaim We Begin at the End has received are utterly well-deserved. This is a great book, and if you want to read a novel that’s equally heart-wrenching, compelling, and tense, look no further. You should read this.

You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions

Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing!

My Patrons: Alfred, Alya, Annabeth, Blaise, Devin, Diana, Edward, Hamad, Helen, Jimmy Nutts, Joie, Lufi, Mike, Miracle, Nicholas, Zoe.
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
695 reviews1,073 followers
June 15, 2021
“Ours is a small story, Chief Walker. Sad enough, but small. Let’s not pretend different.”

I enjoyed this novel, it was gripping, full of flawed and complex characters with some twists and turns thrown in for good measure.

There were a fair amount of characters, I got a bit lost in places, but still entertaining enough.

Vincent King is finally getting out of prison after 30 years. The woman whose sister he killed, and also his ex girlfriend Star Radley is struggling. Her daughter Duchess is basically the carer of her younger brother Robin.

Duchess is a troubled young girl, seen far too much for her age and she puts on a brave front. When someone hurts her mother she decides to take revenge - outlaw style.

This one act reverberates throughout their town, suddenly all sorts of secrets are coming to the surface.

I loved Walk’s character, but then I love a good old small town police officer 😂 I loved following the plot to see where it would go next. I wouldn’t say I’ll remember every part and who did which act because like I said, I got a bit lost at times. But it was an enjoyable ride.

Didn’t even realise this was the same author who wrote ‘All the Wicked Girls.’ The characters in that one were great!

Really looking forward to it. Just picked it up from the library 📚
Profile Image for Debra .
2,279 reviews35k followers
February 26, 2021
4.5 stars

Self-proclaimed Outlaw, Duchess Radley is thirteen-year-old girl who must care for her five-year-old brother, Robin. She should be enjoying her childhood, going to school, hanging out with friends, and having fun. Unfortunately, she is a parentified child who must look out for her five-year-old brother. She makes his lunch, has arranged care for him at school, and has had to resort to stealing to provide food for him. She goes without food so that he can eat. She remembers his birthday when their Mother, Star, does not. She is the one who calls 911 when there is trouble. Her mother does not look out for her, she looks out for her mother. She is the one who stands up for them both when others make fun of them. They are talked about and judged. Their mother and her life choice are the source of the town’s gossip.

Walk, the town sheriff looks out for Duchess, Robin and Star when he can. He has a lot on his plate and his own personal issues. He grew up with Star and still feels the guilt and heartache over providing the testimony that sent his friend, and Star’s fifteen-year-old boyfriend, Vincent King to prison. Vincent going to prison impacted their lives in various ways. Walk, Vincent and Star have never truly recovered. How could they? Walk and Star seem to both be on a collision course of self-destruction. Thirty years have now passed, and Vincent is being released. What will the future hold? How will this further change their lives?

Talk about being dealt a rough hand in life. All these characters should have had bright futures but life, as they say, got in the way. Devastating loss, hardships, life changing and altering events, heartbreak, grief, guilt, burdens, secrets, pain, sacrifice, love, friendship, revenge and family are all throw into the mix in a harrowing way.

This book is gritty, gripping and heartbreaking. Talk about packing a punch. I could not help but root for tough as nails, Duchess. A brave outlaw who does not always make the right choices but is fiercely loyal to her brother and tries to make things better. She has a tough exterior to hide the fact that she is a young girl trying her best to survive. The children pulled on my heartstrings and had me engrossed in their plight. The adults in this story will evoke strong emotion from readers as well.

There will be some twists and turns and a reveal that I did not see coming. The plot was riveting, and I could feel the characters desperation, heartache and pain. This is a story that I will be thinking about for days to come.

Beautifully written and perfectly paced. This was my first book by Whitaker, and I look forward to reading more of his work.

Thank you to Henry Holt & Company and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Sheyla ✎.
1,813 reviews474 followers
April 10, 2021
If you want to be depressed about the world by all means grab this book.

I’ll be an OUTLAW, sorry meant an OUTLIER and say it: The story fell short for me. I do believe the author had great characters especially Duchess and Walk but something was missing for me to rate it higher.

What did I like about We Begin at the End?

-I liked how much Duchess loved her brother, Robin. She was willing to do anything for him.

-Walk being there for his best friend Vincent, Star, Star's kids, and his town despite what was happening in his personal life.

-Hal's patience with Duchess.

-Dolly being there when she was needed.

-Martha bringing spice to Walk's life.

What did I learn from We Begin at the End?

If you have been born into a bad life, you will live a bad life and you will probably die because of your bad life too.

In my opinion, this novel didn't have much hope, redemption or forgiveness.

The ending frustrated me. I don't need to read rose-colored glass stories but if a story is having an against all the odds type of feeling, then I want more from it.

Take my opinion for what it is, my opinion . I know so many of my book friends truly loved it and I'm glad they did.

Lastly, I switched back and forth from the ebook to the audio. The audio narrator did a good representation of the characters and kept the flow of the story.

Cliffhanger: No

3/5 Fangs

MrsLeif's Two Fangs About It | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,733 reviews14.1k followers
March 22, 2021
Duchess Day Radley, outlaw. At thirteen outlaw is the persona she takes, this young girl who has already seen and experienced so much. She takes care of her brother Robin, aged 6 and tries to keep her mother Star, alive. She has a world of hurt on her , but is determined to protect her little family against incredible odds. The only person she trusts is the Sheriff, a man who has known Star since they were kids and does his best to help Duchess. Soon though a man, Vincent King will be let out of jail and Duchess will committ an act that will be a point of no return.

Duchess is a character I will long remember. This young girl with the tough attitude, wearing a bow in her hair. This girl filled with much hurt but also a fierce love. This is a story that I found consuming and heartbreaking. Lives and how they go astray. How one act can cause so much harm, change ones fate as well as the fate as others. It is a poignant story. A story of good people who can't seem to catch a break. People who will do anything for family and those they love, no matter what. An engrossing and memorable story that ends with an ultimate act of love.

ARC from Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Provin Martin.
240 reviews31 followers
April 16, 2021
This book was so good for me! I enjoyed every word, and felt so many emotions. Duchess is a modern day outlaw. She and he brother have been let down by all aspects of life. This book details her struggle to find her place in this world and a better life for her and her brother Robin. A struggle to allow herself to love, trust others and respect herself.

I can see a lot of my teenage self in Duchess. She’s a bratty teenager forced the grow into adulthood way to fast. A girl who was dealt a difficult life that she has no control over. But she can control the wall she builds around herself and her brother. A wall strong enough to protect them from all the horrible things life has in store for them.

The book is expertly written. The Author keeps the readers attention, making We Begin at the End an intoxicating and spellbinding book. I hope to read more of his books ASAP!!
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
April 7, 2021
OMG, OMG, OMG. Chris Whitaker's new novel, We Begin at the End is worth every bit of hype it is getting!!

Can your heart be broken and be filled with love simultaneously? Asking for a friend.

“Hal said we begin at the end.”
“So where are we now?”
“I’m not sure it matters.”
“Wherever it is, I hope we can stay here a little longer.”

More than 30 years ago, the small coastal California town of Cape Haven was rocked by the death of a young girl. Fifteen-year-old Walk gave the testimony that put his best friend Vincent in jail. He’s never forgotten how badly he feels about that, and it haunts him every day, even now that he’s the police chief of his hometown.

Vincent is about to be released from jail after 30 years. The town is on edge, no one more than Star Radley, who was friends with Vincent and Walk when they were younger. She has been struggling for years, particularly lately, leaving her 13-year-old daughter, Duchess, to take care of herself and her younger brother, Robin (not to mention Star, quite a bit of the time)

Duchess, a self-proclaimed outlaw, is blunt and brash, but fiercely loyal to those she loves. She knows Walk is trying to protect her mother and them, but she doesn’t have much faith that men can be good.⁣

What follows is an unforgettable, emotional story about chosen family vs. blood, loyalty, love, the difficult decision about whether to trust people, friendship, secrets, and love. These characters are truly some of the most memorable I’ve read about in a long while and they have stolen my heart.

So much of We Begin at the End 's strength comes from letting things unfold without much knowledge of what's to come. I will say I stayed up until 1:30 a.m. to finish this and my eyes are still kinda swollen from crying.

In short, read this.

Check out my list of the best books I read in 2020 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2021/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2020.html.

Check out my list of the best books of the last decade at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2020/01/my-favorite-books-of-decade.html.

See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com.

Follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.
Profile Image for Whitney Erwin.
190 reviews
August 14, 2022
Wow, so this book was AMAZING! This is my favorite book of 2022 thus far!! I’ve had a few dud books lately and I really needed this one!! It made gave me all the feels and made me so emotional. It is so beautifully written; I’ve got to go check out this author's other books now. The characters were all fantastic, so deep and well done. I loved everything about this book. Go read it!!
Profile Image for Karen.
573 reviews1,114 followers
March 24, 2021
Dare I call it early and say this will be my favorite novel of the year?!
What a story!
What a cast of characters!
At this story’s center is self proclaimed “outlaw”
Duchess Day Radley, 13 yrs old ...forced to grow up to early by her troubled mother, Star ... and she takes incredible care of her little brother Robin.
I’m not even going to go into any details.. I went in blind and I’m so glad I did!
Thriller, sibling relationship, tear-jerker, western elements, love relationships.. JUST.SO.GOOD!!!!!
Profile Image for Libby.
581 reviews157 followers
March 25, 2021
Vincent King is leaving prison after serving a thirty year term that he began at age fifteen. His friend Walk is the chief of police in Cape Haven, California. In those early years of adolescence they were a team of four. Star was Vincent’s girlfriend; Martha and Walk were also an item. When Vincent goes away to prison, their worlds explode. Nothing is as it would have been.

Thirty years later, Star’s self-destructiveness threatens to engulf her two children, Duchess, thirteen and Robin, five-years-old. Duchess has armoured her heart with an impenetrable wall, imagines herself an outlaw, that’s what keeps her going, gives her skin the thickness it needs to survive her mother’s neglect. Star doesn’t remember Robin’s birthday; it’s up to Duchess to see that Robin gets a present. Robin is the center of Duchess’s universe. She cares for him as a mother should, sees that he’s dressed, brushes his teeth, gives him emotional support, hugs, changes his linens when he wets the bed, beats up kids who give him a hard time, calls him a Prince.

When Duchess complains about her name to Walk, he tells her that her name was going to be Emily. Duchess responds, “Sore must be the storm,” lines from Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘Hope is the thing with feathers.’ Everything in life has conspired to take hope away from Duchess. She seethes with resentment and spews curses against those who try to help her. I almost think Duchess is too damaged for hope, but her love for Robin says otherwise. It is a bright and shining gem, a light in a world that has been darkened by blighted trust and fate’s dismal pronouncements. Duchess is self-aware; her behavior, especially when impulsive, is understandable.

The plot is well-paced, relentless, driving the reader forward. Chris Whitaker uses incomplete and run-on sentences as if they were the writer’s best friend. I had to catch the rhythm of them at the beginning, but it wasn’t long before I could see their beauty, attend to their peculiar ability to focus my attention. The tone of the story is set by the commingling of sadness with love/loyalties. Themes are loss, atonement, retribution and its cost, what makes a person good or bad, how do we deal with an unfair world and keep hope. The characters are complex with nuanced inner lives. They are not always predictable. Dialog is great except for a couple of times when Duchess sounds too mature for her years.

One of my favorite parts of the book is when the children go live with their grandfather, Hal Radley, on a hundred acre farm in Montana. They do chores, take care of the chickens and horses. Hal’s kindness and dependability carve out a place in Robin’s heart. While prickly Duchess dishes out anger and recriminations against Hal for not being in their lives all these years, Hal’s steadfastness erodes some of her bitterness. But Hal is trying to work out his own atonement. His past action is part of the darkness that threads throughout the novel. Highly recommended!
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