January 30, 2021
What is a Good Ending?
When my daughter took piano lessons and I nagged her about practicing, she told me, “If you practice the beginning of the song and the end of the song and know the beginning and the end really well, she (the teacher) will still give you a sticker!” Silly me to think that she would need to master the entire song!
I feel this way about beginnings and endings to books! The author has about 50 pages to engage me, and she or he better nail the ending! I often change my star rating in the event of an extremely satisfactory ending or a beginning that immerses me immediately into the story.
I love discussion posts, and many of my favorite bloggers participate in Let’s Talk Bookish and the Discussion Challenge. One of my blogging goals in 2021 is to participate in discussion link-ups. Do you enjoy discussion posts?
This post is inspired by the Let’s Talk Bookish topic hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This post is also my 1st entry for the 2021 Discussion Challenge, hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight.
***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
If endings are important, what is a good ending?
Some endings are revealed in the first chapter of the book and the story unravels the events that precede it. For example, Little Fires Everywhere starts with the fire, and Everything I Never Told You starts with a death. Do you enjoy endings that are revealed at the beginning of the story?
Reading is a personal experience, and I think the type of ending you prefer is also personal. There are no right or wrong answers here…..just exploration!
Do you have a preference for a certain type of ending? Some different types of endings include:
HEA (happily ever after)
We can expect HEA endings in the Romance or RomCom genres. No matter how much tension or conflict the middle of the story contains, we can be assured of the HEA. Although predictable, this leads to an enjoyable reading experience for many readers. In 2020, my pandemic reading brain seemed to crave these endings!
Middle-Grade stories are known for their themes of hope, and a hopeful ending is an upspoken rule in middle-grade fiction. This is why I turn to MG when I feel myself going into a reading slump or need a break from more intense reads. Of course, adult fiction can also have hopeful endings. I enjoy a hopeful ending immensely! In adult literature, I think a hopeful ending pairs nicely with a second chances trope. Also, endings that involve reconciliation or redemption fall into the hopeful endings category for me. These are some of my favorite endings and Ask Again, Yes and All the Devils Are Here are two examples of endings I love because of reconciliation themes.
Cliffhanger or Open-Ended
A book in a series will sometimes end with a cliffhanger. Even though I might enjoy the series, I don’t enjoy a cliffhanger ending. First, I don’t want to wait a year or more for the next installment. In addition, I think that even books in a series should be able to be read as stand alones. If you’ve just read a fabulous review for All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny and are excited to read it, do you really want to read the prior 15 installments first? Probably not. Fortunately, all of Louise Penny’s books can be read as stand alones because each case is self-contained in one book….although I don’t recommend it because of the character development and overarching themes that develop from book to book. In this series, reading the books in order create a richer reading experience for the reader. In each book. Louise creates a satisfactory ending. We may be curious about what happens next in the family, or to the friends, or in the village, but all conflict and problems are resolved. This is a very long response to say that while I don’t mind a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter, I don’t enjoy cliffhangers as story endings! In addition, I don’t honestly enjoy open-ended endings. After I’ve invested hours reading the book, I need some sort of conclusion!
I don’t necessarily need HEA endings, but I do enjoy a satisfactory ending. A Place For Us doesn’t exactly have a happy ending and it left me wondering what would happen next for the family relationships, but the ending was satisfactory in many ways (mainly because it was realistic). Several readers have complained about the ending in Little Fires Everywhere, but it was satisfactory for me because enough subtle hints were given for me to imagine what their future might be. In fact, I reread the last few pages several times to glean all the clues! I rate it satisfactory where many readers didn’t feel this way. News of the World by Paulette Jiles has an ending (epilogue) that I felt was extremely satisfying and I truly loved it because it addressed a thought-provoking theme of “doing things right or doing the right thing.”
Confession: I didn’t read #3 in the Divergent Trilogy because I read in reviews that favorite characters die. If a character you love dies in the end, that’s a sad ending. I feel that some authors manipulate you to “ugly cry” and I don’t like those stories or endings. Sometimes, though, an ending is sad because the story follows the character to the end of his or her life. Stories that have these types of endings include The Book Thief, A Man Called Ove, Castle of Water, The Story of Arthur Truluv, and The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett. I think of these endings as bittersweet rather than sad.
I can think of one book I vehemently disliked because of the plot twist at the end: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon I didn’t see it coming and I felt “punked” by the author. It ruined the entire story for me and I wanted to throw the book across the room! Others loved the story but the ending ruined it for me. Other stories like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman have a plot twist that really works! In reading Eleanor, I was surprised but not in a negative way….more in an ahhh haaaa way that caused me to want to reread the book from a new perspective
Some stories include an epilogue. I usually enjoy epilogues because they help us understand what the future holds for our beloved characters. There are a few books that I feel needed an epilogue including Eleanor & Park (what were those three words?!), The Girl With the Louding Voice and Little Fires Everywhere. Epilogues are like a serving of dessert after a great meal!
Ambiguous, Unresolved, Confusing, Falls Flat, Rushed, Abrupt
Ugh! These are my least favorite endings. After all the time I’ve invested, I don’t appreciate an ending that falls short: flat, ambiguous, unresolved, rushed, abrupt, or confusing. Authors, please give me a satisfactory ending! A few endings I have felt conflicted about include The Scent Keeper by Erica Braumiester (great story, beautifully written, but the ending fell flat for me) and The Mothers by Brit Bennett (engaging story and interesting characters, but I felt the ending fizzled). For the most part, The Great Alone is a story with a tense, slow build up….then BAM….the ending is rushed and frantically paced. I realize these opinions fall under personal preference!
In the historical fiction genre, I encounter this type of ending quite often. These realistic endings usually leave me with a book hangover!
In this type of ending, there are no lingering doubts or questions. Every character is revisited and has a thoroughly described ending. I recall that William Kent Kruegar in This Tender Land carefully follows through with what happens to the four children. Some readers prefer that an ending is left more to the imagination or inference, but I don’t mind well-explained endings! I prefer explicit to open-ended every time.
QOTD: Which ending do you prefer?
Happy Reading Book Buddies!
“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes
“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text
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