Marty, Liz and Jules were happy. With quite distinct personalities, they were cherished and supported by their loving parents… until the fateful day of the accident.
Miles away from the warmth of their home, the siblings find themselves segregated at a state boarding school. The loss creates a void that each tries to fill in a different way, bringing them further apart. While Marty focuses on his studies and Liz plays with the concept of escapism, Jules meets a girl.
Alva is like a tide, she comes and goes and seems to drag with her little grains of past, present and future. Through the eyes of Jules, the reader will be introduced to the transformations instigated by these waves, transformations that have a far wider reach than the pair.
“It’s wonderful, it’s wonderful, it’s wonderful –
good luck my baby.
It’s wonderful, it’s wonderful, it’s wonderful –
I dream of you.”
“The End of Loneliness” by Benedict Wells is a train with now as the last stop. There are no assigned seats, the ambiguous beginning offering the reader the freedom to choose from which angle they would rather observe the development of the journey.
The pace is quite swift at first, a collection of glimpses becoming the foundation of the main character’s persona. The landscape is ever-changing, memory after memory after memory. Instead of coming to a complete halt though, part one feels like a puzzle of skipped heartbeats, moments when time itself seems to go through an existential crisis and cease to be.
“Moon River, wider than a mile,
I’m crossing you in style someday.
Oh, dream maker, you heartbreaker,
wherever you’re going I’m going your way.”
The second half of the novel slows down; the ephemeral soft focus of part one gives place to abundant layers and texture. While there seem to be fewer flashes in number, each appears to be drawn-out, trapped in some sort of forever. It’s no coincidence that this change takes place when Jules reconnects with Alva, a testament to Benedict Well’s sensitive writing.
Speaking of the author’s voice, calling it crystal clear would perhaps suggest rough edges that don’t exist in this book. Not to say that there isn’t turbulence in it, but the tone is that of someone who has found comfort at the end of the ride, someone who has made peace with the ups and downs.
“I’ve known Death a long time, but now Death knows me, too.”
A meditation on life, “The End of Loneliness” by Benedict Wells is, at the end of the day, a book about family, loss and fate, a book about a man who’s trying to find his way around the three. A gracefully written emotional roller coaster, it will offer to hold your hand and take you down your own memory lane. It comes full circle, a novel that you experience, that you live through.
Recommend to readers who enjoyed “In Every Moment We Are Still Alive” by Tom Malmquist, “The End of Your Life Book Club” by Will Schwalbe and “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin.