Missing Links in “Where You End” – Chicago Review of Books


Abbott Kahler’s debut thriller, Where You End, follows the twenty-two-year-old Bird sisters after a car accident leaves Kat with no memories save the name and face of her twin, Jude; remnants of the unique language they have shared since childhood; and an unexplained ability to defend herself. The story is comprised of Kat’s perspective in the present—as she figures out who she wants to become while relearning who she once was—and Jude’s perspective during their joint childhood and adolescence as burgeoning members of The Plan, an organization that professes to unlock the true power of the mind.

The first third of the story sets an intriguing tone, leaving a trail of enticing breadcrumbs: Kat meets a man who stirs up unfamiliar emotions in her; a woman with a limp seems interested in the twins; another woman named Wen promises to send Kat photos of herself and her sister on the trip they took before the accident; Jude promises to replenish Kat’s store of childhood memories as and when Kat is ready, but what Jude remembers is worlds away from what she tells her sister. Regretfully, a number of what are potentially the most compelling aspects of the story aren’t given much attention before we are on to the next turn of events.

Though the twins are close enough to develop their own language, Jude’s flashbacks do surprisingly little to establish Kat’s former personality (which would be interesting to consider alongside who Kat is in the story’s present day) in favor of introducing readers to The Plan, which is also not explored as deeply as expected. Instead, we are given many of the beats that should hit hard, but without enough emotional groundwork laid beforehand to achieve the desired result. For instance, a betrayal is revealed to have taken place in the past, but the event itself, why it counts as a betrayal, the line of thinking that leads directly to said betrayal, and why the character who did it believed this was the only option (no spoilers!) are not given the space they deserve.

Throughout the book, readers might find themselves wanting to know more—about the twins’ father, their relationship with their mother, and why both parents were so much at odds; about Jude’s experience of her sexuality; about the girls’ individual changes in perspective regarding The Plan, as well as the exact culpability of the adults involved; about what happens in the “big house”; about Wen’s role in the twins’ lives and how they decided upon their ultimate plan; about the twins’ friendship with Violet . . . in other words: all of the information that would make each new revelation in the novel a punch to the gut. Situations that likely would have been gripping if fleshed out are either quickly summarized or omitted entirely when they are absolutely worth sitting with.

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As a storyteller, Kahler knows how to draw readers in. However, this novel limits our exploration of the many alluring dark corners it presents. Of course thrillers are meant to be pacy and to get us galloping toward a highly charged conclusion, which this novel is and does. Perhaps Where You End juggles more enigmatic nuggets of interest than can reasonably be developed while also maintaining the swift clip its genre is known for.

Where You End
By Abbott Kahler
Henry Holt & Company
Published January 16, 2024

Gianni Washington

Gianni Washington has a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from The University of Surrey. Her writing can be found in L’Esprit Literary Review, West Trade Review, on Litromagazine.com, and in the horror anthology Brief Grislys, among other places. Her debut collection of short fiction, Flowers from the Void, is forthcoming from Clash Books (US) and Serpent’s Tail (UK) Spring 2024.


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