|Here's to you Kat! And Thank you.|
First of all, no, I’m not Sia. Sia has kindly allowed me to
hijack borrow her blog while she takes a well-deserved rest and
enjoys the long weekend. With any luck, she’s sitting by a pool with an iced
coffee (or other adult beverage!).
Today’s blog topic was prompted by reviews I read on a book I loved, by people
kvetching remarking they were unhappy with what
they viewed as an unresolved, ambiguous ending. To them, I want to say pffft
have you never watched Gone With the Wind? Shane? Read pretty much any literary
I remember seeing Gone With the Wind for the first time when I was 15, as part of a class assignment. Rhett delivers his lovely line and slams the door. Scarlett cries and says she’ll think about things tomorrow. Fade to black. Lights up. I remember standing and yelling “I sat through four hours of boring war scenes and two intermissions for this??? This non-ending?? This…this…” At that point I became pretty much incoherent.
Many years later I watched it again. And discovered that I loved the ending. I loved discussing and debating it with friends. Did Scarlett chase after Rhett? Chase after someone else? Learn her lesson and become a nicer person (pffft!) Margaret Mitchell didn’t spell it out for us because she trusted us, as readers, to be discerning enough to figure it out ourselves. She didn’t need to wrap a pretty bow around it and deliver it on a silver platter. When asked, Mitchell herself said she did not know and said, "For all I know, Rhett may have found someone else who was less difficult."
The movie Shane ends much the same. The hero kills the villain and saves the town, but is wounded in the process. He gets on his horse and rides away into the sunset. Does he die? Find a doctor? Go on to save some other town? Marry Miss Kitty (oops, wrong Western). The thing is, we don’t need to know. The ending is satisfying just as it is, and the discussion/debate around it is even more entertaining.
So long as an author ties up all the major plot points, vanquishes evil (at least temporarily), and has cemented a memorable protagonist in my mind, I’m satisfied. Does the hero live to fight another day? Does the heroine look toward the future—no matter what it may hold—as a changed (or not!) person? I’m good with that.
I look at ambiguous/open/temporarily resolved endings this way: Let’s say on Christmas morning, you are given two presents. The first is all tied up with silvery wrapping paper and tied up with a pretty bow. Inside you find a doll house—the walls are decorated, it’s filled with tiny furniture, and comes with a little doll family all ready to move in.
The other package isn’t nearly as pretty—it’s kind of lumpy and unwieldy and has sharp corners poking out. When you unwrap it, you discover a pile of Legos. OK, so you can make your own doll house with them. Or you could build a skyscraper. Or a rocket. Or a pirate ship. They can be just as entertaining as that pretty ready-to-go gift, but some assembly is required. You’ll need to think. You’ll need to use your imagination.
But Legos—that daunting pile-o-stuff—comes with the best thing of all: possibilities. They can become whatever you want.
And so it is with books that have those open, ambiguous endings. When I read books like that I thank the author for respecting my intelligence, for trusting that I will discern their meaning, and for gifting me with whatever possible ending I can imagine for the characters.
If you’re up for a “flying off into the sunset” kind of ending, one that manages to combine BOTH a wounded hero AND a woman trying to figure out the next step in her life, I highly recommend the newest thriller from Lisa Brackmann, Getaway. Lisa herself will be here to talk with you on Wednesday, but I love her work so much, I wanted to recommend it ahead of time!
- So tell me: do you like your endings wrapped up with a pretty bow, or do you walk on the wild side and play with Legos?
Kat Sheridan is a recovering project manager and business analyst whose hard-bitten persona has always hidden a secret romantic. She likes her stories with a dark and dangerous flavor, so long as—in the end—the villains are vanquished and true love triumphs. She is inordinately fond of glitter nail polish, shiny things, bourbon, and any comestibles on which frosting can be placed.Kat splits her time these days between the Midwest in the summer and the South in the winter because she dislikes snow, driving on ice, and wearing shoes (except for flip-flops, preferably with rhinestones). Her peripatetic life is shared with her own real life hero who shows her every day what happily ever after means.