Sunday, July 17, 2011

"The End of Everything"

Megan Abbott is the Edgar®-winning author of six books, including Die a Little, The Song Is You, Queenpin, and Bury Me Deep. She has been nominated for many awards, including three Edgar® Award nominations, Hammett Prize, the Macavity, Anthony and Barry Awards and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Abbott won the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award in 2008 for Queenpin. She was also nominated in 2010 for Bury Me Deep for Best Paperback Original and in 2006 for Best First Novel for Die A Little. In 2008, she won the Barry Award (Deadly Pleasures and Mystery News award) and has been nominated three times for the Anthony Award (Bouchercon World Mystery Convention award).

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The End of Everything, and reported the following:
I admit, I always suspect this won’t work. One random page, at such an odd spot in the book, what could it signify? Could it really hold any flicker of the secrets all books hold?

But every time I read one of these, it somehow does. It’s as though the “Page 69 Test” knows something none of the rest of us does.

Flipping to page 69 of my new novel, The End of Everything, sure enough there is something there that does say a great deal about the book, even though the moment feels small, quiet.

Set in the suburbs in the 1980s, The End of Everything is the story of Lizzie, a 13-year-old girl whose best friend, Evie Verver, has vanished.

Lizzie has lived next door to the Ververs her whole life. They are one of those perfect families we all want to be a part of, and Lizzie is entranced by them—by Evie’s intimidating older sister, Dusty, a star field hockey player and golden girl, and especially by Mr. Verver, Evie’s charming father.

In the days following Evie’s disappearance, Lizzie begins spending more and more time at the Verver house, inserting herself into the investigation, determined to help find her friend, to save the family.

In the scene that begins halfway down page 69, Lizzie is still a tentative “detective.” Entering the once glowing Verver home, she faces a household rattled with fear. But the scene that follows is not about Evie at all but about Evie’s dashing father, Mr. Verver.
The sobbing upstairs is loud, helpless, as to rattle the windows and shake the pillars.

“Dusty wasn’t feeling up to school today,” Mr. Verver says, and I can tell from his t-shirt and jeans at three thirty in the afternoon that he never made it to work either.

I’m there to deliver the trophy Dusty won at the end-of-year ceremony at the high school. MVP, which is a very big deal, especially for a junior. Ted brought it home, was asked to deliver it to Dusty. (“I can’t go over there,” he whispered. But I could.)

Mr. Verver smiles at the golden figurine of the pony-tailed field hockey player, turning the walnut base over in his hand. He brings the face close to his eyes, his brows knitted. “She doesn’t look nearly fierce enough,” he says, staring hard into the gold-plated eyes.

I can’t fight the grin and he sees it and grins too.
I’m glad that page 69 features Lizzie and Mr. Verver. For me, the heart of the novel lies in their unexpected friendship.

Most girls have at least one youthful crush on the father of one of our friend’s, the one who somehow seems to represent all the possibilities of men, and against whom we may measure all men to come.

Mr. Verver is that kind of father. Her whole life, Lizzie has savored the moments he shone his attentions on her. As she tells us, he could “throw a football 50 yards and build princess vanity tables for his daughters and take us rollerskating or bowling” and that he always smelled of “fresh air and limes and Christmas nutmeg all at once—a smell that meant ‘man’ to his girls ever after.”

Now, with Evie gone and his devoted oldest daughter, Dusty, in perpetual grieved retreat to her bedroom, Lizzie suddenly finds herself center stage with Mr. Verver, and she seizes it. In this brief exchange, the pair shares a confidence, a wink over Dusty’s fearsome field hockey presence. And the moment lifts both of them.

In the scene that follows, neither Lizzie nor Mr. Verver mentions Evie. Instead, spurred by Lizzie, Mr. Verver embarks on a nostalgic reverie about his past as a musician in a band. As they talk in the basement rec room, the site of many childhood parties and table tennis bouts, all the terror and pain of Evie’s absence fades, for a moment. And Mr. Verver’s charm and attentions, the pleasure he takes in the distraction the conversation provides—they spark something very strong in Lizzie. Soon enough, a terrible act over which she would seem to have no control—Evie’s mysterious disappearance—starts to feel like something she must solve. Soon enough, she can’t stop herself.
Learn more about the book and author at Megan Abbott's website.

The Page 69 Test: Bury Me Deep.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue