The End of Always: A Novel

The End of Always: A Novel

3.8 7
by Randi Davenport
     
 

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A stunning debut novel, THE END OF ALWAYS tells the story of one young woman's struggle to rise above a vicious family legacy and take charge of her own life.

In 1907 Wisconsin, seventeen-year-old Marie Reehs is determined: she will not marry a violent man, as did her mother and grandmother before her. Day after day, Marie toils at the local laundry,

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Overview

A stunning debut novel, THE END OF ALWAYS tells the story of one young woman's struggle to rise above a vicious family legacy and take charge of her own life.

In 1907 Wisconsin, seventeen-year-old Marie Reehs is determined: she will not marry a violent man, as did her mother and grandmother before her. Day after day, Marie toils at the local laundry, watched by an older man who wants to claim her for his own. Night after night, she is haunted by the memory of her mother, who died in a mysterious accident to which her father was the only witness. She longs for an independent life, but her older sister wants nothing more than to maintain the family as it was, with its cruel rules and punishments. Her younger sister is too young to understand.

At first, it seems that Marie's passionate love affair with a charismatic young man will lead her to freedom. But she soon realizes that she too may have inherited the Reehs women's dark family curse.

Set in the lush woods and small towns of turn-of-the-century Wisconsin, and inspired by real events in the author's family history, THE END OF ALWAYS is a transcendent story of one woman's desperate efforts to escape a brutal heritage. Both enthralling and deeply lyrical, Randi Davenport's novel is also an intensely affecting testament to the power of determination and hope, and a gripping reminder of our nation's long love affair with violence.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
02/24/2014
In a first novel as lyrical as it is harrowing, Davenport (author of the memoir The Boy Who Loved Tornadoes) explores the darker side of the American dream and women’s exclusion from its freedoms. Marie Reehs, the child of German immigrants, comes of age in Waukesha, Wis., in the first decade of the 20th century. When she’s 17, Marie loses her mother to a gruesome injury; though the death is deemed an accident, awareness of her father’s violence make the naturally questioning, even visionary girl doubt that convenient explanation. Later, working grueling days as a laundress, Marie reencounters August Bethke, one of the passersby who helped bring her mother home as she was bleeding to death from a stab wound. Soon trysting with him in the woods at night, she finds herself in conflict with her family, her employer (who begins to make passes at her), her coworkers, and her fellow townspeople, who look down on her affair with August. Her elemental passion seems to promise a less constricted future, but Marie finds that neither her family’s painful legacy nor her own female vulnerability is easily escaped. Davenport shapes her story—drawn from her own family history—with scrupulous patience, deftly juxtaposing striking images of the Midwestern landscape with evocations of Marie’s vivid inner world. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-20
Set in Waukesha, Wis., at the turn of the 20th century, this is a gritty yet hopeful tale about a young woman determined to escape her family's legacy of abuse. Seventeen-year-old Marie Reehs has grown up enthralled by the folklore of Rügen, Germany, her parents' birthplace, and its recurring theme: Although hope may end, hope will continue to survive. That hardly seems the case in their run-down home, where Herman Reehs returns each evening from his work at the local bar and lashes out at his wife and three daughters for any—or no—reason. Herman's abusive behavior is as much a part of the Reehs household as the air they breathe; and when strangers carry her mother's bloody and broken body into their home, and she dies, Marie knows that her father is responsible. Without her mother to protect her, Marie is sent to work at William Oliver's laundry, where she spends long hours trying to avoid the owner's bold advances. She's fallen in love with August Bethke, one of the men who carried her mother home after the beating, and is convinced he's a kind, gentle man who will never harm her. After they eventually marry, Marie notices signs that August might not be perfect after all, but she does what other women have done for years—ignores her instincts and then hides evidence of abuse from prying eyes. Like others before her, she's too ashamed to reach out for help. But before she ends up like her mother, strangers and a relative step in, and with their backing Marie decides she can no longer be a victim. Basing her story on true events, Davenport (The Boy Who Loved Tornadoes, 2010) employs court documents, oral histories and existing records to lend substance to a character who exemplifies the spirited determination of one young woman as she fights to overcome the belief that women are no more than chattel, to be treated as their menfolk see fit. It's an accurate commentary about the times that, sadly, may still apply behind the closed doors of many households today.
From the Publisher
"Extraordinary. A lament straight from the heart of young womanhood in early twentieth-century America. You can feel this story in your bones."—Amity Gaige, author of Schroder, O My Darling, and The Folded World

A "deeply affecting historical novel of a courageous young woman's struggle to survive in an overtly sexist time is both a sobering and stirring

tribute to determination."—Booklist

Library Journal
05/01/2014
Set in 1907 Wisconsin, Davenport's (The Boy Who Loved Tornadoes: A Mother's Story) fiction debut tells the story of Marie Reehs, a young woman raised in a violent home. She vows not to marry a man like her father, whom she believes killed her mother. To supplement the family income, Marie begins working long hours in a commercial laundry. Propositioned by her boss and desperate to escape her abusive father, Marie is drawn into a passionate relationship with the charming August, who proves to be as destructive as the father she left. This is a claustrophobic world where the lack of freedom allowed to women hangs over Marie and influences her choices, as well as those of her friends and sisters. VERDICT Evocative descriptions of the Wisconsin landscape and Marie's intensely felt first love serve as a balance to the harsh reality of her life. Despite the sympathetic portrayal of Marie, the detailed descriptions of family violence may upset some readers. A moving story with skillfully crafted characters, this book will appeal to those drawn to strong female characters, as well as readers of literary and American historical fiction.—Sarah Cohn, Manhattan Coll. Lib., Bronx, NY

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781455573073
Publisher:
Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
05/06/2014
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
383,793
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 5.80(h) x 1.20(d)

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