The pain of long-held secrets and the lies necessary to preserve them are the subject of Bill Clegg’s intricately plotted second novel, The End of the Day. Narrated from six points of view, the novel spans the late 1960s to the present day for a group of characters disparate in social class but united by their connections to the circumstances by which one of them entered the world.
After newspaper journalist Hap Foster becomes a new father, his joy quickly turns to grief when the man he believes is his own father dies in an accidental fall. Christopher Foster’s sudden demise precipitates the unlocking of a vault concealing the trove of secrets that is the story of Hap’s birth and upbringing.
That story links three women: Dana Goss, an upper-class New Yorker whose family once inhabited an estate in rural Connecticut; Jackie, a working-class girl who was Dana’s close childhood friend before settling down to raise her family in the same small town; and Lupita Lopez, now living in Hawaii, who emigrated from Mexico as a 4-year-old and whose family has served Dana’s for many years.
The events that shadow the rest of their lives occur at a picnic on the night of July 4, 1969, a date Dana comes to think of as “the last day of what she would imprecisely call her youth, a period where her actions didn’t yet have consequences, or if they had, they hadn’t mattered very much.” Clegg discloses those consequences, and Dana’s flawed perception, at a measured pace, slipping smoothly from the life of one character to another and from present to past, revealing how entire lives have been marked indelibly by teenage impulses and mistakes. Though Lupita believes at one point that she is “safe from the truth,” The End of the Day explains with painful clarity why, in some lives, that can never be.