Book summary (in my own words): Set in Waukesha, Wisconsin in 1907, seventeen-year-old Marie Reehs is haunted by the memory of her mother’s gruesome death and her suspicions that her violent father killed her. Unable to be free and independent, she resigns herself to working day in and day out at a laundromat as per her father’s wishes. Marie’s chance encounter and whirlwind love affair with a handsome and seemingly infallible youth, August, seems to pave the way for her chance at happiness, however, in time, she discovers the man she chose and the life she chose has inevitably led her to follow in her mother’s footsteps.
What I liked about the book:
*The narrative style. The book is only in Marie’s point of view, but I enjoyed the descriptions of what was around her. It really helped to conjure up the visuals of the scenery.
*The historical significance of Marie’s story. The End of Always is a work of fiction, though I didn’t find out until after I finished the book and read the back pages, which reveal Marie’s tale was based on real events. I can’t say much about it without giving out spoilers about what happens later in the book, but the author (Randi Davenport) is actually Marie’s real life great-grandchild.
*German fairytales. These are stories that Marie remembers her mother telling her and her sisters. I am a fan of fairytale lore, so this was right up my alley, lol. I was most surprised by the presence of magical dwarves in the fairytales and the different powers they have.
*Marie’s uncle Carl. He is mentioned in passing in one of the early chapters but later on he appears in order to help Marie. A certain something that he says to Marie made me start tearing up because of how right he was although Marie couldn’t see it at the time.
*Dark topics. A fair warning is that the book does delve into themes of violence and assault (physical and sexual). Of course I didn’t like reading such awful things, but what I took away from it was they were necessary to show the horrific situations people have endured and may continue to endure unless they find a way out.
*The sorta bittersweet but happy ending. The ending had a finality to it, in the sense Marie proved she was done and never going back to a part of her past life, even though she still had a bit of attachment to what once was (but will never have again). The book title made perfect sense for it.
What I didn’t like about the book:
*The fast pace of Marie and August’s romance. Marie starts to feel something for August (during their brief second meeting), which seems plausible, though I perceived August came onto her a bit strong by their third meeting. He says something with a fervent ardor during the third meeting which, in my opinion, was a bit cheesy and yet enough of a romantic notion that would be sure to stir up a young girl’s feelings, especially since novel-wise he was Marie’s first love. I can imagine that this kind of devotion from a man can only fan the flames of love and desire.
*The misogynistic attitude of some of the characters. While I did dislike that, I didn’t dislike the insertion of such characters in the novel as they were important to the story and to help the reader understand exactly the kind of world Marie was living in. It was a little infuriating that Marie’s sister Martha held those views too out of the belief that is just how the way life works for women. Towards the end of the novel, I was shaking my head at Martha and the things she was asking Marie to do for the sake of maintaining the order of such a twisted world.
Overall, I didn’t have a lot to nitpick about this book. 🙂 It was a very engrossing read for me. The message I got from The End of Always is a person can find the strength to move on from unimaginable horrors even if it means cutting out those who refuse to understand why it is necessary.