Monday, July 25, 2016
Was that really the end?
by Meredith Cole
Endings are tough, but important. They need to feel satisfying and right to the reader so they don't go searching for the next few pages, wondering if the printer screwed up somewhere. And sometimes their ambiguity can inspire lots of discussion about what people think happened after the end. So I can't say that I mind an ambiguous ending.
Most crime novels have endings that neatly tie up all the bows in the story and take you to a place where there is truth and justice and crime always pays. Some of them don't end quite so cleanly, and are statements about how life is not always neat or just, and there isn't a moment in time where we can declare that this is the end. But I occasionally find that problematic as a reader.
Donna Leon is one of those interesting crime writers who often has ambiguous endings. Her sleuth figures out who did the crime (the mafia, etc.) but in the end there is nothing the police can do to bring the perpetrator to justice. The books end in frustration and despair about the corruption of Italy. Although I love her books (who wouldn't want to spend the afternoon in Venice?), I made the mistake of reading too many all in a row. I started to feel as despairing as the Italians and had to take a break.
As a writer, heading to the end can be both scary and exhilarating. I have yet to serve up an open ended ambiguous ending in one of my book, but perhaps I will be inspired to do so one day. And hope that the reader goes along for the ride and finds it as satisfying as a neat bow.