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How It Ends

On Monday, Lesley over at LesleyW's Book Nook wrote an excellent post entitled "The End?" in which she ruminates on a few of her favorite book endings as well as some of her "least favorite endings EVER." This is a follow-up post to the one she did on first lines. I love both these topics and it often seems like they are so hard to nail. Lesley poses the question of whether or not a book's ending can change your opinion of the novel--for good or bad--and I've been thinking about it ever since. I've decided the most obvious example of that for me is the ending of The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. Up until the end I was reading along, enjoying my time pleasantly enough, but not overwhelmed with the awesomeness that was the story. Until the end that is. Within the span of literally just a few pages, the tension and excitement levels shoot off the charts and so many heretofore unexpected things become clear that your mind is suddenly spinning and your mouth is smiling at the sheer audacity and perfection of it all.

As far as an ending changing my mind negatively, overall I don't think that happens quite as much. It really has to go downhill fast for me to not see it coming a mile away and start feeling queasy earlier on. Though recently I did read one that I was just thoroughly enjoying until the last third spiraled downward to the point that it ruined the experience for me. I'll be reviewing that one soon, though, so I'm not going to go into it just yet. Along related lines, there are a couple of endings that are just a bit off for me in what is an otherwise perfect book. These are the ones I still love despite the ending, the ones I read and re-read and always love, but always wince just a bit at the gap between the end that might have been and the end that was.

As for the books that have what I would term "perfect endings," there are those that have literally perfect last lines and then there are those that have perfect final scenes and/or resolutions (atmosphere + language + emotional punch). There are even those special few with both perfect first and last lines. The mind boggles at this particular level of awesome and they become immediate keepers. I won't quote any of the last lines here, of course, so as not to ruin anything for those of you who haven't read them yet.

But the books I can think of off the top of my head with perfect last lines include:

Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess (seriously--left the widest kind of grin on my face)
The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (suh-woon--that is all)
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (sort of like every other sentence in this gem--perfection)
The Blue Sword and Deerskin by Robin McKinley (the way only she can end them--bittersweet and strong)
Looking for Alaska by John Green (I think about this one all the time--love it)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (see Meg Rosoff above--every freaking line)
How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn (also one of my all-time favorite first lines!)
Sword-Born by Jennifer Roberson (came out of nowhere and hit me in the gut--a very happy final line)

And the books that possess what I consider to be perfect final scenes and/or resolutions as far as how they make me feel and how well they cap off the tale:

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (what a book--I couldn't see this ending coming but I loved it so much when it did)
Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs (rather rare in urban fantasy--a quiet, resonant, and thoughtful ending)
Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn (also owner of a pair of perfect first lines--absolute comfort read)
Mystic and Rider by Sharon Shinn (an example of holding out till the very last page to reveal whether it will be perfect or not--it is)
Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier (possibly my favorite Sevenwaters book--Liadan & Marillier both rock)
Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver (I always tear up at this one--every single time)
Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti (because it's just so sweet--and I wanted it so much)

Which books do you think have perfect endings? Are there things you look for or tropes that drive you nuts? And do the final pages make or break it for you one way or another?

Comments

  1. I just read Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols, and that was one that I was so terrified it wouldn't end well between Meg and her parents, but Echols did a fantastic, minimalist, wonderful job.

    I've been thinking about that ending all week.

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  2. This post makes me think of my husband. Because if he's reading something he absolutely refuses to tell me if it's good so far or not. He says he can't say until he's finished, because the ending is VERY IMPORTANT. I assume this means the book is good but if the ending goes south he is going to change his mind.

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  3. So funny, I totally agree with your last lines post. ESPECIALLY about the Thief which I didn't really enjoy at first. And now read over and over. And then of course the Queen of Attolia. I do also like the end of the King of Attolia for the same reason.
    One other ending that I've always loved in a book that I think you would really love too (given what you write about) is Sharon Shinn's Summers at Castle Auburn. It's a fabulous fabulous story speckled with bit of romance, adventure and self-discovery. A book I read over and over again.

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  4. Yes to the ending of Queen of Attolia! I love love love that ending. Also The Blue Sword. Endings are important! I wouldn't go so far as to say that endings make or break the book but they do affect how I feel about the story.

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  5. The first ending I remember thinking about for a long time was Gone With the Wind. I think I hadn't read a lot of books then that hadn't been wrapped up neatly and basically been happy. I tend to love the cryptic and vague endings now - they make me think the most. But, I still love a good happy ending too.

    Oh, The Thief! Still have to reread that one!

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  6. I can't remember an ending of a book ever completely ruining it for me, but if the ending is horrible, it'll definitely make me like the book less.

    And an awesome ending has the power to really make me love a book. Like Ender's Game--without giving away any spoilers, the ending of that book made it about 100 times better, and it was already a great book.

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  7. Oh, I forgot. There is a book that the ending totally made me dislike the whole book. My Sister's Keeper. I hated the ending to that, and not for the reasons most people might have disliked it. It was a total copout on the part of the author, I thought.

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  8. Oh, I love topics like this too. I just finished The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, which was such a slow burn for me but ended up having a perfect ending.

    Other endings I love are Saving Francesca, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, Twenty Boy Summer and The Truth about Forever - which has the perfect last paragraph.

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  9. Bridget12:53 PM

    I love the picture on this post. I know. You weren't expecting me to go there. I read your blog because I love hearing (reading) people talk about books and am always up for a passionate recommendation about what to read. However, at the moment...I just want to borrow the picture and use it as my desktop wallpaper. I'm sorry it's slightly off topic, my brain is just stuck on the purples and pinks in the sky and lake. So... thanks for stimulating a few extra senses today!

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  10. CT, yes! As Meg would say, I was "full of fear" over the ending of that one. Happy with the way it closed things out.

    Janice, lol. I like that. He reserves judgement until all the ducks are in a row. :)

    yen, a kindred spirit! I love SUMMERS AT CASTLE AUBURN. :) I am so due for a re-read. That's a great example of an ending that really made the book. It wouldn't have been as wonderful as it was without it.

    And, yes, the end of KING is perfectly wonderful as well. He freaking earned that ending, IMO.

    Chachic, I literally hugged the book after reading the final lines of QUEEN. Hugged it. *love*

    Melissa, good call. I vividly remember closing that one feeling proud of him for walking out. But still a part of me wanting her to get him back. *sigh*

    Brenda, I completely agree on the end of ENDER'S GAME. Sooo good. Made me cry, in fact. And then there's SPEAKER which is such a beautiful book in so many ways.

    I haven't read any Picoult actually. And I've heard several people mention being wholly dissatisfied with the end of that one so I think I'll steer clear.

    Alexa, I agree. I'm glad it worked out for you in the end. And you know my favorite thing about FRANKIE was the end. That's when I started wanting more.

    Bridget, lol. Admire away. My husband took it at our local lake and I love it, too. :)

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  11. Loved your description of The Thief - you nailed it perfectly!

    I adore the way Sharon Shinn ends her books. She does the best last paragraphs ever IMO. When I open a Shinn, I know the last line is going to be perfect.

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  12. You are terrible for my wishlist which I am trying to keep to a minimum - or on the other hand great for it, lol.

    I have The Book Thief on my TBR pile, so will definitely be bringing that closer to the top and also be checking out some of the others. Already bought Silent in the Grave - I think - which you recommended on my First Lines post.

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  13. I'm not sure I can remember specifically any perfect last lines in books. I can remember perfect ending scenes; among my favorites are:
    The Last Unicorn, Sabriel, Daughter of the Forest (which is my favorite or the two I've finished in the series), Prisoner of Azkaban and Matilda.

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  14. Definitely the ending can make/break it for me. I wanted Harry to die in the end of Deathly Hallows...I know, I know I'm a bit of a fatalist, but really it just kind of seemed like it should happen.
    Dickens books are this way a lot. You slog through (enjoyably, yes, but still slog) and finally reach the last couple pages that resolve things to the way they should be.
    I agree on The Thief. I was very underwhelmed until the ending where I laughed and laughed.

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  15. Li, lol, thanks. And I'm with you on Shinn. She seems to understand her characters and the logistics of a story arc better than most. Though, interestingly, my favorite last lines of hers are not in my favorite book of hers. ARCHANGEL is my favorite Samaria series book, but my favorite final lines from that series are in THE ALLELUIA FILES. So perfect. It was almost like Rachel and Gabriel's relationship was just too stormy for perfection. :)

    Lesley, hehe. Oh, I do hope you enjoy SILENT IN THE GRAVE. I adore it.

    Lan, ooh, definitely yes to SABRIEL and DotF and PRISONER OF AZKABAN. So good. I was actually also a fan of the epilogue in HP8, which I know so many detested. Not me.

    Raspberry, LOL. You campaigned for Harry's death?! Awesome. I, personally, am glad he didn't. Though I wanted Jacob to die pretty badly in BREAKING DAWN and was pretty upset NO ONE DID AT ALL. *sigh*

    You're right on with Dickens as well. He has some pretty classic endings. I love A TALE OF TWO CITIES.

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  16. I'd have to give this a lot of thought to come up with other examples, but I agree with you on The Thief and Bel Canto.

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  17. Lenore, awesome. I wondered if anyone else had read (and loved) BEL CANTO. Let me know if you do come up with any other ideas.

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