Cover Image: Where I End

Where I End

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Member Reviews

3.5/5 Stars
Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to get this ARC. I had never read anything from Sophie White before, and this was a very fascinating novel. If you like creepy books this is the one for you! I really enjoyed, makes you uncomfortable but at the same time you can't stop reading. I highly recommend you grab a copy this next October 2024, it would make a perfect Halloween reading!

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3 Stars!

I really was not sure what to expect when I picked up Where I End by Sophie White. What I did know was that the book was a winner of the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel and was billed as gothic horror, so I was definitely intrigued and ready to slip into the darkness the book held within.

Aoileann only knew one way of life. She has never left the small island off the coast of Ireland, and that enough may seem like a lonely life for many. It was even lonelier for Aoileann. She could not go to school. She had no friends. She was completely shunned by everyone on the island except her family. Her family offers no support or even companionship. It is just her, her mother, and her grandmother. Making things even worse, her mother is a bed-ridden wreck of a person who does nothing for herself. Aoileann calls her the "bed-thing" and must do everything for her. It feels like she is in a prison from which there is no hope of escape. Then the artist and her baby come to the island, and nothing will be the same again.

When Aoileann met the artist, it was the first time in her life that anyone was kind to her. It is almost as if something has awakened within her for the first time and she is not ready to deal with the emotions she feels. The artist is a ray of light in her dreary existence, and she knows immediately that she loves her and that she must be with her. Unfortunately, darker emotions can be more powerful than love and the darkness of the island has crept into Aoileann's soul. The artist may turn out to be her redemption. Or Aoileann may end up being the artist's destruction.

Where I End certainly fits the bill of a dark, gothic novel. It is very dark from the very first page as the reader comes to know the "bed-thing." White does not immediately reveal what the thing is, that slowly unfolds over the course of the novel, but the reader can easily pick up the clues. This serves to make it all the more horrific as this shell of a person is such a non-entity that she does not even deserve any exposition. Aoileann is really the only clearly defined person in this novel. Everyone else seems to be more of an ideal with her family being the fog that surrounds her life and the artist a shining beacon of what can be. This lack of depth in the characters is not a detriment to the story. In fact, it adds to the atmosphere as Aoileann's confusion with the emotions she is experiencing is enhanced by the uncertainty in the world around her.

Where I End is a very dark coming of age story. It is a tale of emotional isolation and abuse carried out over years. Aoileann never had the chance to live. She was an outcast on the island and a servant in her home due to no fault of her own. Even her father treats her as if she is nothing when he visits from outside the home. It is easy for the reader to feel sympathy for her as the story progresses, but this does not mean that she is without faults. While the damage done to her, which is slowly revealed over the course of her story, may have shaped her, the reader comes to realize that Aoileann is capable of evil as well. The artist enters her life and gives her the means to escape and become something better, but the true tragedy of the story is whether or not Aoileann can take this opportunity or if she will turn it into more torment and sorrow for herself and others. There is also an element of whether evil is part of nature or nurture, and this question is left hanging as well. Where I End is not a perfect novel and can be difficult to read at times, but it is a novel that will make the reader think. I would recommend this book for readers who are looking for a challenge and who are not afraid to take a stark look at the dark side of human nature.

I would like to thank Kensington Books/Erewhon Press and NetGalley for this review copy. The new Erewhon Press edition of Where I End is scheduled for release on September 24, 2024.

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Holy crap ... what did I just read?! That was the most f'd up, horrifying, subtly hostile, mess-with-your-head thing I've read in a long time.

A nineteen year old girl is raised on an island helping her paternal grandmother care for her extremely ill, bedridden mother. She knows her mother no other way. Just a purely nightmarish burden that requires turning, lifting, feeding, toileting, and bathing day after excruciating day. She doesn't even see her mother as a mother. She dehumanizes her, referring to her as the bed thing and It. She resents It. She loathes It. She tires of It. And as she begins to develop feelings for a visitor she meets at the beach one morning, she begins to experiment with acting out against It while simultaneously uncovering a dark secret that's haunted her for as long as she's been alive.

At first, you think you're just reading a coming of age story about a teenaged girl who's starved for friendship, who's been cooped up her whole life and kind of been forced to grow up too fast. But around the 100 page mark, you realize nope, that's not what you're reading. Because it took a turn I didn't anticipate and just kept getting darker and more messed up the further I read.

Where I End made me PHYSICALLY uncomfortable but I loved it. I'd be afraid to recommend it to people... but I loved it. And if you've read it, you'll understand why.

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This is a revelation. From the first page the reader knows there is something very wrong with the narrator, a girl of about 19, who lives in a broken-down, remote cottage on a distant Irish island, with her grandmother and 'the bed-thing'. Although ostensibly a horror story, it is also a psychological thriller and investigation into the long-term damage of childhood trauma. Looking after the 'bed-thing' is all the narrator knows, never having been schooled, never having left the island, and totally ostracised and tormented by the other island dwellers. The horror builds and builds until the final page: will she, won't she? She is confused about her sexuality, drawn irresistibly to a young woman with a baby who is visiting the island as resident artist at a new museum soon to open, showcasing the life of the island - such as it was and is. There is consternation that this young woman seems to have befriended the narrator, as all the islanders take care to give her a wide berth. But why? I can't pretend this is an enjoyable read, but it is engrossing, well-written and propulsive, and I recommend it.

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Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for this arc

I enjoyed the premise of the book and it definitely had me saying wtf alot, overall I had a fun time reading the book. 3.5 🌟

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This novel weaves together elements of suspense, mystery, and unsettling human psyche in a really masterful way!
Aoileann is a young girl who takes care of her mother who is in a really dire state.
along with the atmosphere of isolation, sickness, and feel of dread. this premise of itself made me tense, and eager to keep reading the whole time.
It's a unique experience for sure.
loved that book, and thanks netgalley for providing the copy

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

This book may or may not have taken several years off my life with the sheer amount of stress and uncomfortable tension it caused me... It had me staring at a wall for a solid 30 minutes after finishing it and made me contemplate the question of what even ís “good horror fiction” ? Is it supposed to be enjoyable? Because I can’t in good conscience use that word to describe my experience with this book.
Is it supposed to evoke the emotion of horror? Because it did so more than perhaps any other book I’ve read in a long time.
Is it supposed to be memorable? Because I will probably never forget some of the images mrs White put in my brain, thank you very much…
To me, horror is successful, when it does what it sets out to do. Whether that be fun-spooks, causing soul-clenching terror, or showing real-life people or situations in such a dark light that it viscerally disturbs and unsettles you… On that last front, Where I End is a deeply twisted masterclass.

The story:
On an isolated island off the Irish coast lives an equally isolated family of three, shunned by even their fellow few neighbors for their cursed reputation of bad luck and “soul-stench”.
20-year old Aoileann has never left the island. Raised by her Grandmother, she spends her days as the full-time caretaker for her bedbound mother, who’s been left silent and disabled after a tragedy shortly after Aoileann’s birth. The monotony of her grey and wind-wrecked life is shaken up by the arrival of a new inhabitant to the island; a young mother Rachel and her baby Seamus. What starts as a chance meeting between the two young women on a briny beach, soon turns into a dark obsession… Here’s the story of what happens when “loving” and “caring for” become disconnected. And it can only end one way…

What I loved:
Sophie White answers the above-mentioned question in the most visceral way possible, and executes that answer to perfection. It all begins from page one, with her phenomenal word-choice in painting the setting of this creaking, dark and murky house, with its similarly spirited inhabitants. We witness a portrait of a family grown distant from each-other, despite their forced and claustrophobic physical near-ness. Through small everyday events, White shows us the impact of unspoken resentment, dependence and emotional neglect, left festering between these characters for decades. The result is a cast of characters that are rotten to the core, and it was often difficult to read from their perspective. Yet they’re never “villainous”. Oh no, they’re far too human and plausible for that…
Where I End's brand of terror taps into some of the themes and questions that disturb me personally the most. It plays with mother-daughter dynamics, the ugly side to disability and caretaking and the toll that can have on a relationship, grief, guilt and desperation, and the emotional numbness and alienation that can result from it.
Although to me, the event within the Family Walls were the most disturbing, Aoileann’s obsession with Rachel (observing the way Rachel’s care for her son is so vastly similar, yet vastly opposite to the care she give to her mother, and later casting Rachel as an object to project her own desperate love on), is equally disturbing, and provides a brilliant mirror-image to the other storylines.

What I didn’t love:
I realize I’ve just praised Where I End for its ability to viscerally disturb me, but that is also my biggest piece of warning to those considering picking it up. The book hit extremely close for me, due to my personal background as a caregiver for a disabled mother, as well as having a disability myself. For those of you who come to me for “disability recommendations”: this is not one of them. The depiction of disability and caregiving is profoundly warped and toxic. It’s intentionally so, as that warping is the entire core of the horror here. That doesn’t make it less hard to read, however, and it requires a fairly strong stomach and ability to not internalize the protagonist’s views. Aoileann and Mórai’s coping mechanism for the everyday horrors of caretaking is to completely dehumanize Aoife. In fact, we only first learn her name from a letter Aoileann’s father sent to her. Until then, Aoife is referred to by our protagonists as 'the bed-thing'. To them, she is less than human, less than animal; an object to be compartmentalized and kept alive through mere mechanical procedures…
White’s depiction of this cruel mindset of resentment and dehumanization is brilliant. There’s even a scary morsel of truth to it; a dark thought many care-takers may have felt, but pushed down immediately for good reasons. (truly, that’s where the real horror is at…) Yet it’s taken to such grotesque proportions for the purpose of this story that I don’t recommend it to those “close to the subject”.
In other words: trigger warning for everything regarding disability on this one. Not because the representation is bad, but because it might just be a little too good…

Many thanks to Kensington Books for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this advanced reading copy.

Absolutely horrifying. A visceral treatise on the fears of motherhood. Sophie is an absolutely BRILLIANT writer. The sense of dread and atmosphere she creates is second to none.

One of the best folk horror novels I've EVER read. 6 stars if I could.

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I struggled to get into this book. I really tried to read it to get a feel for it but it just wasn’t matching me. I had to DNF this book which is a shame as it is well written just not for me.

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This is uncomfortable horror, and I loved it for that. Body horror, genuine evil, disturbing. It preys on our fears of isolation, being shunned, being the outsider -- we empathize with our outcast main character, who really is so young. AND it preys on fears that something monstrous will weasel its way in an harm something truly good and innocent.

The only issue I had was with pacing, the mystery is strung out for a long time and revealed in a burst where doling things out a little more consistently would have racheted up the suspense. But overall I am glad I read this well written, slender little shocking novel.

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A genuinely creepy horror story, told in bleak and beautiful prose. The setting is atmospheric and forbidding and the story is twisty with genuine wtaf moments. Not one for the faint of heart but very enjoyable if you’re looking for something dark.

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Living on an island is meant to be idyllic, a safe harbour away from the mainland where dangers lurk everywhere. For Aoileann her island home is the danger, she is shunned by the local women and children, abused by the men, treated as a house slave by her grandmother and ignored by her father. Her days revolve around the caring of the thing, her mother who has been confined to bed after an incident many years ago. It is an existence of serving the needs of others and her only release is to swim in the sea. It is here that Aoileann meets Rachel and her newborn son Seamus. For the first time Aoileann can see hope but is it possible for her to escape what the island has made her into.

The story is told from Aoileann’s point of view, she is a very unreliable narrator and as you become more in tune with her world you understand why. With the brutality of her grandmother, the indifference of her father and the dehumanising of the mother, it is no surprise that Aoileann is a complex, twisted character. You are never sure if you should pity, loathe or be terrified of her. For Aoileann, finds herself caught in a situation not of her own choosing and it is not until the end that she is able to understand the reasons why. As a child she is conditioned by the grandmother to no longer acknowledge the existence of her mother but to treat her as a thing, a household chore.

You know that her mother has suffered some kind of traumatic incident, while she is immobilised in the bed, there are attempts to flee and indications that she may be quite cognizant of her surroundings and situation. It makes you wonder if she is being held against her will or if it is for her own protection. The grandmother is a woman bound by duty to her son and does not demonstrate any kindness to Aoileann or her mother. She has is harsh, steeped in superstition, resentful and has no care as to what her words are doing to Aoileann.

White has created an atmospheric novel that seeps into your being. From the superstitions of the islanders, the bareness of the island, the sparse living conditions there is nothing attractive about living on this island. White’s style is quite languid, a gentle rhythm that masks the ugly reality of Aoileann world. Littered through the story are moments that are clues to what has been and what may occur. Incidents are exposed that are shocking and demonstrate the worse our intolerance and lack of empathy towards others. White has dived deeply into the ugliest parts of the human psyche, crafted a very grey and ambiguous character in Aoileann that you find yourself hoping will find the light.

This is a really good read, not a page turner, not a thriller, but an engrossing story about really flawed characters where nothing is as it seems.

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This is a very dark read with some WTF moments. The narrator is a young woman who lives with her grandmother on a small island off the coast of Ireland. Together they are the carers for her severely disabled mother. The rest of the islanders treat her as cursed so she has grown up almost in isolation except for the monthly visits of her father. There some truly awful events in this book but it’s impossible to stop reading. Intense and atmospheric.

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I didn’t feel comfortable for a moment when absorbing this novel. It is classified as a horror novel, which is appropriate, because it is horrific, disquieting, and puts you on edge the whole time, plagued by conflicting emotions. The story is told in the first person, which makes it intimate, sometimes painfully so, and it does a wonderful job of developing a depth to its characters through this one-sided exploration of them. As unreliable as our narrator is we quickly come to understand how this isn’t here fault, how a life permeated by neglect, abuse, unfair responsibility, xenophobia, and superstition can leave someone living in a world of perpetual gray, beautifully paralleled by the harsh environment of the island this story takes place on. The story itself is small, because our narrator’s world is so small, and that is part of the horror. As readers we know how much bigger the world is, we know how much more she could have and experience and be if she only were able to exist somewhere other than where fate finds her. This discrepancy, the space between what the average reader knows about the world in both its majesties and cruelties, and what the narrator knows, is where the horror takes root and grows, steadily through the story, a tension that is equal parts dread and sympathy.

The writing is beautiful. It is hard to write first-person stories in a compelling way, finding the right balance of interiority and action, balancing exposition with experience, and Sophie White does it really well here. Her use of the Irish language throughout the novel, sometimes with the phrase repeated in English but oftentimes not, is an incredible literary device. The novel was originally published in Ireland and only now years later being published in the US, and I am not sure if the dramatic effect is the same for an audience more familiar with Irish, but it had a great effect for me, as someone not familiar with the language. Firstly, it continually situated us in the place, making the environment and world even more real. More importantly, though, it insistently reminded me that there is something unknown here, something beyond my ken, which sometimes context can help me understand but not always. It kept me at arm’s length, in the same way the narrator has a continual gulf between all the other characters and herself, a chasm of meaning and experience untranslated, leaving her to constantly second-guess herself, trying to fill in her ignorance of her own history with hearsay and legend.

I really enjoyed this novel. It was a slow, dreadful, dreary thing that made me root for someone to find joy and meaning even as I was shocked by her actions. There is some slight body horror adding to the mix, to the unease, and it all works together to offer a deeply introspective story. The story is horrific, but that is because it feels so personal, so real. Everything works together here, from pacing to world-building to character depth and exploration. Every page left me needing to keep going, hoping for some relief to the tension, for something less monstrous to happen. It has depth and heart and was tragically affecting, and has stuck with me since finishing it.

I want to thank the author, the publisher Kensington Books, Erewhon Books, and NetGalley, who provided a complimentary eARC for review. I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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Where I End started off slow - not necessarily bad, but it felt repetitive. It does pick up about a third of the way through the book, and finishes by sprinting to the finish line.

The ending felt a little rushed, but was an enjoyable read overall.

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This is one of those books that creeps in under your skin and lives there. The ambiance is dark and foreboding, and let me tell you, so is this story. Some of the passages of taking care of an ill family member - I literally could not take. I had to skip as the descriptions were so vivid and painful… to the character and me! I still feel like I can hear the howls and echoes of the island from here.. a full two days after I finished the book. The setting was absolutely killer. That kind of isolation plays tricks on your mind. I do have remaining questions. I would love to hear more about the family history that might help clarify the dynamic. I also want to know what happens to our main character next. Highly recommend! Thank you to NetGalley for providing the arc for my honest review.

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Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC!

This was a seriously difficult read, emotionally, as someone who has a baby girl of my own. This short novel deals with themes of post partum depression, post partum psychosis, sickness and loss of children, and the realities of dealing with mental illness, guilt, and family that requires around the clock care.

The horror is very much more psychological than physical (though there are some stomach churning physical acts of horror as well). Definitely a well written and haunting piece that I would suggest against reading of you're pregnant or are the parent of a newborn. Deeply unsettling regardless, which is suppose is what good horror aims to provoke!

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This book was twisted dark and gross and scary and weird and unsettling and I simply could not get enough of it! This book is horrific... but so is motherhood. Safe to say it is a metaphor in a way. The writing was beautiful and the characters were raw. Wonderful work Sophie White.

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This was such a scary concept and worked with the description and what I was looking for, it had everything that I wanted from the overall story. The characters were everything that I was looking for and thought everything worked well overall. It was realistic and thought it worked with what I wanted, it uses the Gothic elements perfectly overall. Sophie White has a great writing style and left me wanting to read more.

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All I have to say is that this book never went where I was expecting it to, and I loved it! A must read!

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