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.
Wow – what a stellar novel! This is a gripping, character-driven story that unwinds in such unbearable suspense that I couldn’t put it down until the last page. Thirteen-year-old Duchess Day Radley, a self-proclaimed “outlaw,” quickly cemented herself as one of my favorite characters in the book. She’s super feisty, determined, and sharp as a tack, and doesn’t take anyone’s crap. She’s also admirable in that she’ll do anything for her little traumatized brother Robin – especially whatever needs to be done to protect him. In this way (and in others), the story is a powerful look at how far we’d go and what we’d sacrifice for those we love.
Once we’ve been introduced to the story’s main characters, the author wastes no time in plunging us into the middle of a scintillating mystery. What follows is a roller coaster of a story with twists galore, some expected and some not. A wise and painful book in places, the story speaks of authenticity and loss — about how we convince ourselves to make irrevocable choices and mistakes and how these decisions harden us in the process.
I love a good story that pushes the boundaries, and Whitaker does that here in a mesmerizing way with his genuinely remarkable protagonists. The plot intertwines and unravels slowly into an intricate and unnerving tale of lies, secrets, grief, familial drama, heart-breaking motivations, deception, regret, and murder. This is a poignant tale that aches with past and present bruises, and several scenes brought tears to my eyes. The pages flew by for me, culminating in an almost cinematic speedup as the climax builds to its shocking conclusion.
Whitaker’s prose here is flowing, beautiful, dark, and eerily atmospheric, and his complex and multilayered cast of characters convincingly and impressively illustrate the best and worst of humanity. This is definitely the best book I’ve read this year, and I have little doubt that it will stay with me for a long, long time.
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