I have never been fond of tidy endings. Probably because like a clean house or a full roll of toilet paper, tidiness never lasts. And endings are more like death. Final. Closure, however, means we have moved on to another chapter of our lives, learning from the experiences of our past. So when I read books that place too much attention on wrapping up an ending with explanations and resolution, I suddenly get yanked out of the story and become aware of the author’s pen.
Now my 13-year-old and I differ over this. She likes finality, which reminds me of Hazel Grace in The Fault of Our Stars seeking out the author of her favorite book because she needs to know what happens to the main characters after the story ends.
Recently she read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and the ending had her asking a million questions.
“What happens after Francie goes off to college? Does Katie finally have a happy life with Sergeant McShane?”
“What do you think happens?” I asked.
“I don’t know!”
“It isn’t important, is it? Francie lives her life with the experiences of her youth, knowing the tree in her yard keeps growing. Her childhood is the story. And don’t you worry about Katie. She’s a tough old broad that dealt with a worthless drunk. She’ll handle herself fine with McShane.” I said. “Wasn’t it in The Fault of Our Stars where Hazel even admits her favorite book ends in the middle, just like in real life?”
She still wasn’t satisfied. Then again, I feel like I’m the only one who didn’t obsess over the endings of The Sopranos and Seinfeld. It’s not easy saying goodbye, especially when we get dumped at a bell-ringing diner or end up in a jail cell, but sometimes we have to let go, knowing there is no good way to be dumped.
It’s a typical childish desire to see The End on the last page. We begin our reading life with those words scrolled at the finish of every fairy tale. We close the book with a sense of relief, knowing no more evil will descend upon the princess. We are assured she will live happily ever after so we can all get our sleep and be well rested.
My recent favorite ending was The Light Between Two Oceans. It ends with a sense of closure, but there is no definite resolution. In fact, the characters must live the remainder of their lives with little to no sense of resolution, which is part of the punishment. And yet, somehow, the story remains fulfilling and pure. I don’t want to give anymore away for those who have this on their TBR list, but in my opinion it is an exceptionally executed story from beginning to end.
However, I just finished two books, both highly acclaimed, in which there was too much summary, too much prophesying, with preposterous attempts to fix all the broken limbs of the beautifully fractured story. I hate those endings. They’re like empty calories. Great. I got to eat the ice cream, but now I’m feeling like someone just tried to buy me off while they ran out the back door with my purse. On the plus side, however, I’ll never lose sleep over them. And no one likes me when I’m grumpy. Just ask Snow White.