What is A Beginner's Guide to Endings about?
In Niagara Falls, Ontario, proverbial loser Edward "Duke" White, father to now four adult and one adolescent sons with three different women, and not much of a father by anyone's estimation, has just killed himself, and although his body is not found, the evidence indicates that he killed himself by going over the falls. Only Duke's only wife, now ex-wife Goldie White, has and had been any sort of mother to all five, despite only being the biological mother to the first three: not too bright Eddie Jr., who had always wanted to be a boxer - he having turned pro for a while, which is where he got his nickname "Nuts" - despite never having shown a real aptitude for the sport; Cal, the slick Lothario who likes the finer things in life, except his women, his type being those that would proudly display their tramp stamp; and Jacob, the smart, responsible straight arrow. From the will read by the executor, the boys' paternal uncle, Father Pal, the boys learn that besides the specifically chosen memento each of the three oldest receives appropriate to his life, Duke killed himself for the sake of those three partly in an act of atonement. In addition to committing fraud against the three, the large sum of money they didn't even know they had, he did something ten years ago that will result now in their imminent deaths. After Cob confirms the accuracy of what Duke wrote, each of the three goes on an end of life journey, Nuts and Cal's specific to their respective lives in boxing and with women. While Cob does go the route of carrying out his bucket list, some of the more dangerous items on which may indeed kill him, Nuts and Cal may also find their remaining path will take them possibly closer to death, an unintended consequence.