Saturday, April 30, 2016

Book talk: Do you deserve that happily ever after ending?

[Disclaimer: This originally appeared as a Women24 book club newsletter. If you'd like to read more of these columns, and stand a chance of winning our book club's top 10 books, you can sign up here.]

A few years ago, Charlaine Harris, author of the Southern Vampire Mysteries fame (True Blood for those who’ve been following the television of adaptation of the Sookie Stackhouse books) received death threats following the ending of the popular book series.

Readers were unhappy with the way the book ended. Many felt the plot was lacking, the characters’ actions nonsensical and that the ending came out of left-field.

I won’t go into detail about why the ending in particular was so upsetting (if you’re really curious and don’t mind spoilers, you can mail me
and I’ll tell you), but what I can tell you is that I do, to a certain extent, understand why people got so upset.

Not enough to warrant all that hatred, but I get it.

When you spend time invested in a book, particularly a book series, you develop a relationship with it.

You formulate speculations about where the character and story arc is going and you develop strong ideas about which character should end up with who (depending on whether or not the story has a romantic element attached to it) and you feel like the author sets the plot in a way that will at least give you an idea of how the book will end.

When you end up with something that contradicts almost everything in the previous instalments in the book, well, obviously readers are going to have a lot to say.

I have been on the receiving end of book endings not concluding the way I was hoping they would. In the beginning, this would bother me immensely. I wasn’t used to my thoughts not lining up with that of the authors and freely admit to that having a huge impact on my overall enjoyment of the novel.

I mean what’s the point if there’s no happy ending for at least one of the characters, right?

These days, as my reading evolves, in terms of genre, narrative preference and format, I find that I’m a lot more open-minded when authors subvert tropes and sacrifice popular opinion for the sake of an ending that’s thought-provoking and one that fits with the story that they wanted told, not the one that we always expect.

I’ve become a huge fan of open-ended conclusions. The endings that aren’t endings at all, but rather give you a hint of more beginnings. For me, those kind of finales allow the readers to think beyond the now and to make up our own new possibilities for the characters in the stories.


Unresolved endings have also become quite popular with me.

In fact, my latest read, After the Woods, left me with no clear resolution and mixed feelings about the protagonists. Yet, I found myself strangely okay with this.

And the reason is simply this: sometimes it’s those books with their unclear endings that have you thinking about them the most. 

After the Woods?

It’s a perfect example of a book that still has me wondering what I’d do differently if I were in the shoes of the characters featured in the book.

What’s your take on this?

Do you prefer happily-ever-after endings or are you more open to conclusions that don’t quite fit the mould and what are some of your best and worst novel endings?

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