End of Always by Randi Davenport
End of Always is historical fiction set in 1907 Waukesha and concerns domestic abuse and family violence. It is based on the author’s family history. The tone can be quite grim, but the story is not without hope. This is a good choice for people who like to read historical fiction with Wisconsin settings, but be prepared for some scenes of violence which may be upsetting. Seventeen-year-old Marie and her younger sister Hattie were born in the United States, but her parents Herman and Elise and older sister Martha were from the island of Ruegen in the German area of Pomerania. The family is poor, and the father is authoritarian and violent. He works in a tavern, but some of his pay goes to his drinking. Then the mother dies from a “terrible accident.” Marie is convinced that her father killed her mother, but does not have proof. Martha believes that Marie should stop pressing to find out what happened to their mother and just try to appease their father. Marie’s father arranges to have her work in William Oliver’s commercial laundry to help support the family. The work is physically demanding and tedious, and Oliver makes sexual overtures to Marie. Marie’s co-workers are not helpful and question her morality. Later Marie meets August, a young man who helped carry her dying mother home. Marie believes she is in love with August and decides to run off with him to get married after suffering a beating from her father. However, her life still is not happy. August drinks, does not give her money for food, and becomes violent. It is only after neighbors intervene and Marie decides to get a divorce that there is hope for her future. The violence in Marie’s life makes the story bleak, but Marie is a strong character whose determination will finally bring her some freedom and happiness.