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+Chapters Summary and Analysis
Prologue - Chapter 6
Chapters 7 - 10
Chapters 11 - 15
Chapters 16 - 21
Chapters 22 - 27
Chapters 28 - 33
Chapters 34 - 37
Chapters 38 - 42
Chapters 43 - 45
Chapters 46 - 49
Symbols and Symbolism
Themes and Motifs
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We Begin at the End Summary & Study Guide Description
We Begin at the End Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker.
The following version of the novel was used to create this study guide: Whitaker, Chris. We Begin at the End. Henry Holt and Co., March 2, 2021. Kindle.
In the novel We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker, as a teenager, Vincent King unintentionally hit and killed young Sissy Radley, a mistake that had catastrophic consequences. Thirty years later, Vincent was released from jail, setting off another string of catastrophic occurrences. Star, Vincent’s former girlfriend and Sissy’s older sister, was murdered and Walker, Vincent’s best friend and Cape Haven’s chief of police, must prove Vincent is not responsible even though he is taking responsibility for the death. We Begin at the End is a story of mistakes, redemption, and the length to which a person will go to protect a person he loves.
Thirteen-year-old Duchess Ray Radley, daughter of Star and self-proclaimed outlaw, has been protecting her brother, Robin, and caring for her mother for as long as she can remember. When her mother comes home with bruises after working a shift at Dickie Darke’s nightclub, Duchess retaliated by setting fire to the club and stealing the security tape.
Darke met Duchess at school the next day and threatened to hurt her if she did not return the security tape so he could file for insurance on the club. Walk, who was friends with Star and tried to protect Duchess, implied to Duchess he knew she was responsible for the fire. He warned her that if it was ever discovered she was the arsonist, he could not protect her from the consequences. When Walk questioned Vincent about the fire and suggested Duchess was responsible, Vincent asked Walk not to prosecute the girl.
Since Star had not bought Robin anything for his sixth birthday, Duchess rode her bike to a convenience store to purchase packaged cupcakes and a toy. She returned to find her mother dead. Vincent claimed responsibility. Robin was in the bedroom asleep. Child psychologists talked to him, but he remembered nothing.
Duchess and Robin were sent to Montana to live with Star’s father, Hal, a man they barely knew. In spite of Duchess’s resentment because she believed he had never tried to come to see them or care for them, Hal broke through to Duchess. She learned the truth that Hal had tried to see them, but their mother had not allowed the visits because Hal had paid a man to fight Vincent in jail. Hal did not believe Vincent should be released from jail on parole only five years after Sissy, Hal's youngest daughter, was killed. Vincent killed the man in the fight and was sentenced to an additional 20 years in jail.
Duchess, however, lived with the fear that Darke would find out where she was living and come for her. Hal promised he could protect her and sat out each night with a shotgun in case Darke came. One night while Duchess was at a school dance, Darke found the farm in Montana. Hal wounded Darke, but Darke fatally shot Hal. Hal was still alive when Duchess arrived at home, but he died soon after. Duchess and Robin were put in foster care.
At the group home where Duchess and Robin were sent to live, the two watched the end of Vincent’s trial. Duchess was shocked when she learned that Walk, the police officer she trusted, lied to make it seem Vincent did not shoot Star. Worse, Robin was terrified when he saw Vincent. He told his sister that was the man who killed their mother. He remembered him coming into his bedroom and telling him he would regret it if he told anyone what happened.
In a selfless sacrifice to help her brother be adopted, Duchess left Robin at the group home. A couple whom Robin loved wanted him, but they were afraid to adopt Duchess after she accused her foster father of molesting her. Alone, Duchess went on a mission to track down Vincent and kill him. She had come to believe Hal was right when he called Vincent the “cancer” (98) of their family.
Meanwhile, Walk has been collecting information about Vincent in his attempt to prove Vincent was not guilty of murdering Star. Walk has learned that the warden at the prison allowed Star to have private visits with Vincent. Duchess and Robin are Vincent’s children. After Vincent was out of jail, Walk followed Vincent and watched as he hid a gun. Walk recovered the gun and had it analyzed. Fingerprints on the gun used to kill Star belonged to a small child.
Walk confronted Vincent with what he had learned. Vincent admitted it was Robin who had shot his mother. Vincent said Robin had been aiming at Darke, who was at the house searching for the club’s security tape. Star had pushed Robin into a closet, but he came out with a gun when he heard his mother screaming. Vincent took responsibility for the murder and told Robin, who had been in shock at the time, that Vincent was responsible, hoping that was what Robin would remember. He did not want his son to live with guilt as he had.
Meanwhile, Duchess arrived back in Cape Haven. She visited the cemetery where her mother and Sissy were buried. She was shocked to find Vincent there. Duchess told Vincent that she was there to kill him for what he had done to her family. She screamed when Vincent stepped backward off the cliff, choosing to die by suicide instead of allowing Duchess to kill him. Walk later wrote a letter to Duchess telling her that Vincent was her father and outlining what Vincent had done to protect her and Robin. The novel ends with Duchess proudly presenting a school project in which she identified Vincent, the outlaw, as her father.
What is the theme of We Begin at the End?
“We Begin At The End” has a great theme in forgiveness and the inability to accept it. This is a tale of events and repercussions. Teenagers Walk, Vincent, Martha and Star were as close as friends could be.
What happened at the end of We Begin at the End?
Walk later wrote a letter to Duchess telling her that Vincent was her father and outlining what Vincent had done to protect her and Robin. The novel ends with Duchess proudly presenting a school project in which she identified Vincent, the outlaw, as her father.
Who was the killer in We Begin at the End?
Thirty years ago, when Vincent King was just fifteen years old, he accidentally killed seven-year-old Sissy Radley, the younger sister of his girlfriend Star Radley. Vincent was tried as an adult and spent thirty years in prison.
Is We Begin at the End sad?
Powered by extraordinarily deep character development and an impressively intricate plot, this novel is simultaneously a murder mystery, a love story, and a heartbreaking tragedy. The existential agony is palpable throughout, but so, too, is the hope at the end.