“Everything looks funny now. But I don’t think it’s really changed. I just never saw it before. The pieces just got switched around.”
Transformations in life happen gradually most of the time. We don’t always see them until the process is over.
Such changes are accelerated by sudden events. Traumas and delights both. In ‘The End Of Everything’ we are taken through a series of events where everyone is affected by the gravity of what happens.
When teenager Evie disappears, we get to experience the unfolding of events through Lizzie, Evie’s closest friend.
Lizzie’s whole being is brought sharply into focus as tragedy and the brooding shadows grow. Her eyes are our filter, sometimes microscope, sometimes binoculars, often a Kaleidoscope.
Lizzie positions herself in the middle of the piece, assisting police with their enquiries and, more importantly, Evie’s father Mr Verver with his pain.
Mr Verver’s the kind of amazingly wonderful man you might expect to find inhabiting an F Scott Fitzgerald novel. He shines in everything he does, has everything he needs, attracts the local women like a lighthouse might moths. I pictured him in Technicolor, always in sunlight and always with a smile on his face. It’s the way Lizzie sees him, her crush as big as The Ritz, her need for him bigger still.
And like Mr Fitzgerald’s creations, there is the visible cracking of the veneer.
With all the adults in the piece, Lizzie wonders where the former lives they talk of so freely have gone, why there is no sense of the child and the potential within that child in any of them. The same becomes true of Mr Verver.
“The records all speak to him of memories, but they are old memories, older than me, older than Evie. They are about his father and his old girlfriends and the pals he used to go on road trips with, to see concerts, big outdoor concerts that lasted all day.”
As Lizzie becomes Mr Verver’s hope and comfort, she takes on the role of investigator, the wheels and cogs of her mind a constant whirl. Slowly she manages to put pieces together after a fashion. With each newly uncovered element, the picture becomes more complex. At each revelation, she is forced to make tricky decisions about what to tell the police and to Mr Verver, how to go about it and when.
It produces a delicious pressure that is so beautifully written to make it impossible to speed through the words to get to where you need to get; instead the pain and the tension need to be savoured, phrase by wonderful phrase.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Felt nourished as a reader, writer and a human being by the end.
This is a coming-of-age story to rank up there with the best of them ('Rumblefish' and 'The Outsiders' coming immediately to mind).
Lizzie tells all, her hopes and desires as well as her deepest fears and her early probing into life’s sexual adventure. Her style is poetic, finding folds in the smoothest of passages and then folds within them, working and reworking images until they’re perfect. Collages, montages and Kaleidoscopes.
There are parallels to be made with this book and ‘The Lovely Bones’. ‘The End Of Everything’ echoes all that is good about ‘Lovely Bones’ whilst avoiding getting tied into knots and bolting on an unsatisfactory ending, making Megan Abbott’s work far superior.
I found myself wondering how much of the author is in this. Perhaps this is my own delusion, that to tell so frankly and expose such raw feelings it must stem from experience. The way I ended up looking at it is this: either Megan Abbott has laid herself bare before us and, in doing so, produced one of the most stunning books I’ve read for a good while, or she’s managed to protect herself and her experiences and applied an amazing authorial talent to produce one of the most stunning books I’ve read for a good while; it matters not which is real.
Lizzie often describes herself as being full to bursting in one way or another. That’s my main feeling about the book, that as I read I was always full of something – trepidation, wonder, fear, delight – that had me tingling with pleasure and holding my breath all the way through, and always on the verge of bursting.
A little plea from me. Should you read this and enjoy it even half as much as I did, check out a wonderful little book called ‘Blue Sky July’. Though the subject matter couldn’t be more different, there’s something in the rhythm and the use of words that I think you’ll also delight in. Tres bien.