Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Book Review: "The End We Start From" by Megan Hunter
Each day they worry about whether the floods will find them. When they take refuge with R's parents, they discover that the fear is never far away from them. And while the woman is worried about what is happening in the world around her, and how R is reacting to it all, she spends so much of each day simply marveling at her baby and how he is growing, flourishing even as the future is uncertain. She is overwhelmed by her maternal feelings, by the miracle she and R created.
As the trio moves to a camp where other displaced people are living, the claustrophobia, the uncertainty, the panic becomes too much for R to bear. He leaves his wife and baby, ostensibly to see what other options are out there, but both know what this departure could signify.
"He says it will only be for a week or so. To get a break. To look into other options. He says we should stay, that it is safer. The relief is hanging from him, a loose shirt. I look at the car before I lose it. I try to take in all of its details. Before he leaves, I put his full hand over my face, like a mask. I do this even though there is no point. Even though smells can't be held."
As circumstances force her to move again, she begins making friends with others in similar situations. But she longs for her husband, reflects on their love, and tries not to stagger under her feelings of love and responsibility for her son. She cannot stop living even though she misses her husband, because she must live for her son. She must show him love, experience his moments of joy and sadness, and watch him grow.
I never would have imagined a book so sparsely written could be so lyrical, but The End We Start From feels almost poetic at times. Megan Hunter chose her words so carefully, it was as if she wanted to be sure no excess words distracted from the beauty of her writing.
"Our city is here, somewhere, but we are not. We are all untied, is the thing. Untethered, floating, drifting, all these things. And the end, the tether, the re-leash, is not in sight."
As much as Hunter's prose is breathtaking, the story itself could use a little more meat. Maybe it was her intent for her readers to fill in the blanks she left in the story, but I would have preferred a bit more narrative. I also found the gimmick of referring to every character with their first initial (the protagonist only interacted with one person per letter, it appeared) to be a little twee. I'm never a fan of books that refer to people or places that way.
This was a moving, thought-provoking read, one that I completed in one sitting. (I took a bit longer for lunch because I had to finish this book.) I liked it a good deal but didn't love it as I'd hoped—it's not perfect, and Hunter's storytelling choices may rub some the wrong way. To me, however, The End We Start From signifies the birth of a new literary talent. Megan Hunter is definitely one to watch, because if this is her first novel, I can only imagine what comes next.