The End of Always

‘The End of Always’ story of teen in 1907 finding her own way

Aug. 16, 2014 @ 01:25 PM


“I really wasn’t thinking about violence when I began work on ‘The End of Always,’” the author said in a recent interview, “I had my great-grandmother’s court papers and I’d learned some of the details of her life. I’d really just thought about the young girl my great-grandmother must have been, the circumstances she encountered, the world around her. What was it like to work in a laundry? How did she stay warm on winter mornings? What kind of clothes did she wear? What were her dreams? What did she feel when she fell in love?”

The details are genuine and Marie’s confused perspectives and missteps are convincing. The author’s gift for sensory details balances the uncomfortable reality, many of the most poetic and evocative found in the many woods walks Marie takes to heal her injured heart, head and body. “Some days,” Marie recounts, “I escaped my father’s house and walked in that early darkness, black branches rustling above and the air coming cold and moss already rich and damp on the north sides of the evergreens. I stepped over chuckling streams and … when the moon rose, it hung dull and yellow in the dark blue sky and I whispered little poems and songs to myself…”
“I knew I wanted to give Marie a place that was hers alone, “the author says, “a place where she could experience freedom and refuel her determination. I thought that many readers would be able to respond to the natural world — to think of it as a place of liberty, as a place at a remove from the restrictions and rules we face in our daily lives.”

Marie is raised by a violent father, and she tries to construct reasons for this, imagining her father’s 1888 birthplace of Ruegen, Germany, was “a fierce land with fierce people.”  Marie finds love and comfort with the charismatic August, who promises he will protect and care for her. She marries him thinking that she doesn’t want him “to see me as my father who saw me, a girl that could be easily crushed. I wanted August to be in love with the girl I wanted to be, a strong girl who had been made out of the love we shared.”

This loving environment changes all too quickly and Marie realizes her home with the moody, changeable August is more dangerous than the one she left.  It isn’t Marie’s victimization that comes across as much as her hard-won escape, her resilience and decision to divorce because of her determination to improve her life. This characterization came from the author’s viewing the court records of the trial in which Marie fights for her freedom. “She had to be made of some tough stuff. How else could she — as an uneducated 19-year-old — do what she did? For her to work the way she worked, to live in her father’s household, to feel pressures to be like her older sister, and to know that she would fail if she tried. She could not avoid what she knew to be true. And then to feel that the only way out was to escape in a time when girls weren’t supposed to step out of line.”

Marie (and readers) finally find solace near the ending of the story when her Uncle Carl steps forward to provide her with temporary shelter. Her unhappy perspective is clear when Marie asks the reason for this action. “Not everyone in this world is bad,” Carl tells her, “though I don’t know how you could know that.” Marie responds realistically, sees that he has a “river of kindness”, but she views him from a distant shore.”
Like Marie, the author has great affection for Carl. “I was surprised and delighted when he stepped up and said what he had to say. Once I let him speak, I realized that he provided another balancing point in the narrative, another way to understand what Marie was up against. And he’s a decent man. I wanted to be sure that there were sympathetic male characters.”

Noelle Kayser’s narrates the audio with versatility. Marie, the first-person narrator, has speech that is generally clipped providing a needed sense of remove. And yet, Kayser reflects every one of Marie’s moods — the dreamy tones when she feels love, the defiance as she tries on to stand firm, the shame she feels after advances by her employer and when her father calls her a whore. She transitions as easily into Germanic accents as she does to the story’s many changing tones.

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