Evie and Lizzie are two 13 year-old girls and best friends, coming of age in a nameless suburb in seventies Middle America. It’s an idyllic setting until the night Evie goes missing and nothing is ever the same.
Has she run away or was she taken? If she was taken was it a child killer or white slavers? The police have nothing to go on as rumours spread like wildfire.
What does Lizzie know? A hell of a lot more than she realises. If only she can piece it all together. All girls have secrets, but this one’s a real doozy that threatens to bring about, literally, the end of everything.
The End of Everything is new territory for Abbott. Her four previous novels, Die A Little, The Song Is You, Bury Me Deep and Queenpin, all of which I’ve read, are set earlier in the last century and give a hard-boiled but uniquely feminine take on the locations and character stereo types of classic noir.
They are all fantastic reads. Abbott’s bigger than Ben Hur in the US and she deserves to be here.
Her jump into the territory of suburban teen angst could have delivered a simple Virgin Suicides-type tale. Instead, it is something much darker and confronting.
One of the things I like most about Abbott’s work is her less is more style. This allows her to hint at horrendous events, take us to the very worst places, without collapsing into cliché. Take for example, the following passage in which Lizzie ponders the impact of her friend’s disappearance.
“We’re no longer two summer brown kids with tangles of hair and jutting kid teeth. I don’t know when it happened, but it did. Lately, things have been hovering in her face, and I couldn’t fathom it. I had things too, new things twisting under her skin, but I didn’t know what they were. It felt like she knew her own zigzagging heart, and I was just killing time.”
Abbott’s also a master of allowing class, sex and social observation to collide in a way that does take away from the precision of her plot and characters.
As the father of a five year-old girl, I found her portrait of teenage adolescence thought provoking, to say the least. I entered adolescence in the tail end of the seventies and her evocation of the decade, peach terry cloth shorts, a copy of Little Drummer Girl on the bookshelf and the advent of stranger danger, is spot on.
My only criticism of The End of Everything is that it’s a little long and little pruning would have helped at points. Other than that, it’s a pitch perfect effort.
The End of Everything is put out in Australia by Picador and is available here.