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Where I End
by Sophie White
Review

WHERE I END

Cover image of the book 'Where I End' by author Sophie WhiteMy mother.

At night, my mother creaks. The house creaks along with her.

Through our thin shared wall, I can hear the makings of my mother gurgle through her body just like the water in the walls of the house…

Teenage Aoileann has never left the island. Her silent, bed-bound mother is a wreckage, the survivor of a private disaster no one will speak about.

Aoileann desperately wants a family, and when artist Rachel and her baby temporarily move to the island, Aoileann finds a focus for her relentless love.

Cover image of the book 'Where I End' by author Sophie White

SOPHIE WHITE – (credit Kip Carroll)

Image of author Sophie White

Sophie White is a writer and podcaster from Dublin. She has a First-Class Honours Degree in Sculpture from NCAD

Her first three books, Recipes for a Nervous BreakdownFilter This, and Unfiltered, have been bestsellers and award nominees, and have been described by Marian Keyes as ‘such fun – gas, clever stuff’.

Her bestselling memoir Corpsing was shortlisted for an Irish Book Award and the prestigious Michel Déon non-fiction Prize. Sophie’s publications include a weekly column ‘Nobody Tells You’ for the Sunday Independent LIFE magazine. She has been nominated three times for Journalist of the Year at the Irish Magazine Awards.

She is co-host of the chart-topping comedy podcasts, Mother of Pod and The Creep Dive.

Sophie lives in Dublin with her family.

Cover image of the book 'Where I End' by author Sophie White

FIRST LINES

“My mother. At night, my mother creaks. The house creaks along with her. Through our thin shared wall, I can hear the makings of my mother gurgle through her body, just like the water in the walls of the house. I hate the sound. In the daytime, it is covered, wrapped up in the radio and the wind and the low hum of the electricity. But at night, in the silence, her insides gush, and she seems alive in a way that, during daylight, she does not. The gush forces thoughts of her effluent, her needs; of the things my grandmother takes care of but that I will have to do someday soon. I don’t want to, which makes me feel bad. I hate her body – it’s an awful thing”

Cover image of the book 'Where I End' by author Sophie White

MEMORABLE LINES 

“The island people are all cowed and crumbling, as though parts of the island have become dislodged and are moving about the place. Their heads are lumpen. At the front, eyes, nose and mouth are clustered together, huddled in the centre of the face. The chin and jaw reaches forward, jutting like the rocky outcrops that stretch into the water at the lower end of the island. Their chalky grey surface suggests no rush of life within. If I chipped at one, I imagine the organs would hang inside the hollow, fossilised. Even the children of the island are calcified. Their cries and laughter die in their throats”

.

“So, I can read and write. Through the books I learned about things I didn’t have and things I wouldn’t do. Some seemed unappealing. Jobs and exams and that. Other things were just baffling: the children in my books led lives of incomprehensible simplicity, lost balls in the park and new pets. I got a hold of the basics but, every month when Dada visited, I could see I was not doing it right. I became a mismatch. My body grew but my mind stayed small”

.

“Apparitions are scary but the real horror is to be found in people”

.

“She tells me she draws and paints and stitches. She tells me that drawing and painting and stitching are just doing, that what makes something art is the intention behind it. If the intention is to communicate some intangible feeling or slippery truth that resists capture by words, then it is art”

.

“I eventually did come out of the water and not a single second of my life has felt right since that moment. I’ve never felt right again. I can’t remember how it is to wake up without the terrible weight of absence”

Cover image of the book 'Where I End' by author Sophie White

REVIEW

“A horror story about being bound by the blood knot of family”

In my younger days, I was an avid reader of horror stories, and indeed, a viewer of any film with that discernible Yuk! factor. However, age appears to have drastically altered my perspectives and changed my tastes, so today it is a genre I tend to read or watch, sparingly. Likewise, I read novellas only on a very occasional basis, so when Where I End, a horror novella, appeared in my email, the decision to include it in my review schedule was not taken lightly. However, if this is an example of the excellent standard of literary prose, which can be crammed into so few pages, with such amazing results, I might well be persuaded to include more from the genre in my regular reading.

As part of my review, I generally like to offer a short resume of the storyline as I see it, just to whet the appetite for what’s to come. However, to feature even a potted overview of this book, runs the risk of giving away too many spoilers, so I am going to keep this short piece deliberately vague, but believe me when I say that my words barely scratch the surface of this gripping story…

Cover image of the book 'Where I End' by author Sophie White

On a remote and forbidding island off the coast of Ireland, a small community of fisher folk, most of whom have never learned to swim, live the same hand to mouth existence as they have for countless decades. Visiting tourists stay but a short time and are actively discouraged from doing so, by insular, inbred locals, who communicate in a dialect all their own and have a physical appearance which is unique and very disturbing to behold.

However, even as they are shown prejudice by the mainlanders, they themselves have shown nothing but open distrust and hatred for the mainlander who was brought into their midst as a bride almost twenty years ago, ostracising the entire island family she had joined and particularly the offspring the marriage had produced. The family live apart and remote from their fellow citizens, who neither know nor care what goes on in the back to front house on the edge of the cliff.

In fact, three generations of women eke out an existence in this lonely outpost, visited once a month by a guilt-ridden son, husband and father, who himself now chooses to live on the mainland. His motives for relocating are known only to the two older women, however his daughter Aoileann, is keen to discover his secret, although she may wish she had let sleeping dogs lie when the horrific truth is revealed.

Aoileann’s mother and grandmother exist as emotionally empty human shells, whilst her father is so consumed by self-loathing, having convinced himself that he is the sole victim of this terrible tragedy, that Aoileann has grown up with only the company of the treacherous thoughts which race around in her own mind.

As part of the mainland authority’s decision to try and boost tourism to the island with the addition of a new museum, a visiting artist, Rachel and her new-born baby Seamus, are allocated housing for a few weeks, so that she can prepare an opening exhibition of her work. Immediately Aoileann is smitten with the new mother, although she develops a very unhealthy obsession with her breastfeeding habits and begins to resent Seamus in a disturbing way. Rachel is so consumed by the tiredness of new motherhood and the need to produce her artwork apace, that she completely misses the signs of Aoileann’s conniving, lies and duplicity, which become life threatening as they grow in magnitude.

Once Aoileann has worked out a plan, she decides that she is going to manipulate the situation so that she is able to leave the island with Rachel when she goes – Will she be able to adapt to mainland living, or is her mental health too badly damaged? And will Rachel live (or die) to regret her decision?

Cover image of the book 'Where I End' by author Sophie White

For me personally, this unconventional, unique, intriguing and oh! so dark storyline, takes edge-of-the-seat thriller writing to a whole new level, especially when I arrived at the section in my reading which I recognised as being the source of inspiration for the book’s eerie cover art.

The actual footprint this story occupies is quite finely focussed, however the narrative surrounding the physical appearance and ‘feeling’ of specific locations is wonderfully descriptive, creating excellent enhanced visual awareness, for any confirmed ‘armchair travellers’ who are brave enough to visit.

There are many layers to this intriguing, wonderfully textured and immersive storyline, with some unexpectedly intense and highly emotional twists only adding to the deeply insightful, evocative, and utterly unforgettable relationships between Aoileann and her family, and Aoileann and Rachel. The tense and claustrophobic atmosphere, together with some fantastic lugubrious narrative and dialogue, engendered feelings of dread, fear, loathing and yes! even pity, as I was reading. Despite having so few pages, author Sophie White, also managed to explore so many emotionally controversial subjects, from traumatic birth and post-natal depression, to infant mortality and extreme mental health paralysis.

A small and well-defined central cast of characters held sway over this story, with their dour and brooding persona and aura of impending doom. They were all pretty uncompelling, disturbing, loathsome individuals, and not one of them did I have any real empathy with, or sympathy for. Yes! They were definitely given a strong voice with which to tell their story, however it got to the stage where I simply couldn’t trust a single word which came out of any of their mouths! At best they were complex, volatile and unreliable, at their worst they were manipulative, duplicitous and malevolent. Every time I had the slightest urge to feel even slightly sorry for any one of them, within seconds they had said or done something else to have me seething and truly angry with them, all over again. A cast of ‘extras’ were alluded to, but thankfully didn’t appear in any important capacity, as I don’t think I could have stood the strain.

Aoileann’s every word, thought and deed, oozed hatred and malignant, malevolent intent. However, this was beautifully balanced and nuanced against some barely discernible and well disguised moments of loss and longing, as she searched for that illusive something she knew she had lost, or maybe never had, knowing it had left her damaged and somehow incomplete, whilst at the same time her awakening femininity saw her trying to disseminate and come to terms with her own sexuality.

They do say that ‘revenge is a dish best served cold’, however Aoileann turned that saying on its head, as for her, revenge was sweet and definitely to be savoured, no matter what the temperature. I definitely never saw that final sting in the tail coming, which knocked me sideways right towards the end of my reading.

What always makes reading such a wonderful experience for me, is that with each and every new book, I am taken on a unique and individual journey, by authors who fire my imagination, stir my emotions and stimulate my senses. This story was definitely one of a kind, having the power to evoke so many feelings, that I’m sure I won’t have felt the same way about it as the last reader, nor the next. Therefore, I can only recommend that you read Where I End for yourself, to see where your journey leads you!

Photo credit Kip Carroll

Alternative image of author Sophie White

A complimentary download of this book for review, was made available by publicist Helen Richardson PR

Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion, and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes the book or its author.

I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However, some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well-deserved 5 out of 5 stars!

Thank you for taking the time to read my review, I appreciate it!

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Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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Written by Yvonne