Monday, December 19, 2011
Review: THE END OF EVERYTHING by Megan Abbott
A haunting tale of the sinister magic of growing up and the recognition that life is more mysterious than we suppose. 13 year old Lizzie Hood lives in a Midwestern world of friendly, familiar neighbors and teasing friends. But the world she values most is the one next door - the perfect world of her best friend Evie Verver whose dad Lizzie idolizes.
When one day, 13 year old Evie disappears and the only clue is a maroon car seen cruising the school block, Lizzie is suddenly cast adrift. As the only witness to a possible kidnapping - she had noticed the car out of the corner of her eye - Lizzie becomes the center of attention as she, unable to believe what's happened, decides to ferret out a few clues for herself.
That's the basic plot, though what appears to be happening behind the scenes is what gives this book its special resonance. As Lizzie begins to think about what she may or may not have noticed, may or may not remember, she also wonders if she ever really knew her best friend Evie at all.
The story develops from Lizzie's point of view as she's forced by awful circumstance to see and deal with the fissures in a perfection she'd envied.
Megan Abbott has created a cast of characters who will stay in your mind and heart, especially Lizzie and her quest for a truth she might not be ready to understand.
But for me, the one character who, in the end, remains most enigmatic, memorable and larger than life is Mr. Verver, Evie's very likable, grief-stricken dad. He is the heart and soul of the book far as I'm concerned. He is the real mystery at its heart.
Here is a man who is unintentionally alluring, a man who can't help attracting the devotion of his daughters (he has two) and his daughters' friends. There is no overt intention to do harm so far as I can tell, but the fact remains that Verver is the sort of man who can easily become the center of a young girls' life. In many ways, he is an idealization. I could feel his attraction as the story progresses, his sexuality hovering just below the surface, adding confusion to the mix as Evie's disappearance becomes a nightmare of waiting.
Remaining curiously unaware of his own borderline dangerous allure, Verver continues to turn to Lizzie for the comfort of talking about Evie and what might have happened, as his own wife is sedated and unable to cope with the tragedy.
THE END OF EVERYTHING is an absorbing, disturbing look at the mysteries of growing up and the hard realization that things can never remain the same, no matter how desperate we are to believe they will.