Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Book Review: "What Ends" by Andrew Ladd

In 1980, Trevor McCloud is the last baby born on Eilan Fìor, a small island off the coast of Scotland. While at one time the population of Eilan Fìor numbered in the hundreds, times have been tough, and only a few families remain. Trevor's parents operate a guesthouse, which mostly caters to tourists in the summertime, and the adjoining pub serves as the center of the continuously shrinking community.

Trevor's arrival is disruptive to his two older siblings—Barry, the studious boy who has enjoyed being the only pupil in the island school until Trevor's birth hastens sending their sister, flighty and creative Flora, to school as well. She'd rather draw and spy on the wealthy artist who lives in one of the big houses on the island. But until Barry must leave for boarding school (there is no high school on the island), he and Flora share a close bond.

One by one, the remaining families leave Eilan Fìor, until the McClouds are the only people living there permanently. While the parents, George and Maureen, have been reasonably content to stay there for the rest of their lives, their children—Barry and Flora in particular—want more out of life. Barry flees first and then Flora leaves to attend art school, after considering spending the rest of her life on the island helping her parents manage. While Barry never really looks back, Flora is unsure whether life off of the island is what she truly wants until she arrives.

What Ends is a somewhat elegiacal look at how time and circumstances can change the way of life you planned. It's a book about being torn between wanting more out of life than what is in front of you or settling for what you have been given. It's the story of wishes that never quite come true the way you hope, feelings and resentments left unexpressed and unsaid, and the obligations of family.

The book shifts in perspective among all of the McClouds, and spans from 1980 through 2005. Andrew Ladd has created a fictional island that seems very real, full of taciturn yet passionate people, and draws you into their lives. Much like the McCloud children, I wanted a little more from this book than I got. I felt the stories were a bit unresolved, and I didn't feel I got to know all of the characters as well as I would have liked. But Ladd's writing is beautiful, almost poetic, and you find yourself trying to picture Eilan Fìor in your mind as you read.

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