Say what you want, but unresolved endings are awesome. They stir up feelings of regret and yearning that are so painful yet immensely satisfying–because that ache is just a confirmation of your emotional attachment to the story, and you simply don’t want it to end. Therefore, leaving some loose ends here and there sometimes serves as a lifeline to those die-hard nerds who want some ambiguity to chew over after the book ends.
That’s why I–as a die-hard Harry Potter fan–had such an issue with the “19 Years Later” epilogue. The conclusion to this series was perfect–or rather, too perfect, and the predictable nature of the King’s Cross scene became cliche to me. If I had it my way, I think would’ve preferred ending the series on an unresolved note, with Harry in Dumbledore’s office, sharing a knowing smile with Dumbledore’s portrait, and (with Ron and Hermione by his side) imagining the beautiful future opening up to him. How incredibly inspiring and poignant would that have been?
Alas, it wasn’t mean to be. However, there are some great books (like the following) that I thought had some very interesting endings, and I’d like to share them with you on this post today. So cheers, and on with the reviews!
The Gift of Asher Lev (1990)
I recently did a review based around Chaim Potok’s works, and I was very complimentary of the prequel to this book because it was such a inspiring read. But now here comes the criticism; whereas the prequel had good plot developments that gave it a very solid structure, here you merely get a passive meandering of a narrative that fails to establish any solid landmarks.
As a result, the story becomes loosely plotted and rather reminiscent of that one stream-of-consciousness chapter in The Sound and the Fury that had me hopping up and down in frustration. But that said, I did like this book. Despite the loose story-telling here and there, I think that it offered very perceptive insights into the struggles of individuals living in religious communities, and I appreciate that.
Another thing I commend this book on is how gutsy the finale is. I mean, it had the guts to make me SO HOPPING MAD. The books ends with Asher’s son (likely) being taken away by his religious community, and Asher just submits. But come on! How does a community have the right to take away and determine a child’s future for him, especially in the face of a father’s unwillingness? Uugh. Asher’s struggle was conveyed so beautifully, so I recommend this book if you read the prequel.
By the way, I got massive deja vu from when I read George Orwell’s 1984 way back in the day, because the conclusions of both 1984 and The Gift of Asher Lev makes one incredibly angry and has me throwing my books in righteous fury.
A Monster Calls (2011)
Considering how common place the basis for this story was (cancer), I am surprised how creative and original this book was. I mean, we know how those cancer stories usually end, right? But the unraveling of the monster’s origins in this story was paradoxically comforting and terrifying at the same time, and it had me SO HOOKED right from the start.
Especially this one scene had me blubbering (literally) in tears, and that’s the scene where Conor’s mother was telling him to break things–and break them hard–if it helped him deal with his grief. What an incredible message this is. Usually, you’d think cancer patients would tell their loved ones not cry or mourn after they die, but here you have the raw truth and love of a mother understanding her loved one’s pain. SO. INCREDIBLY. GENUINE.
Needless to say, I would recommend this book to anyone I met on the street. But if I had one critique, I was rather torn about the ending. It was achingly beautiful and so absolutely heartfelt; yet I feel it could have used an epilogue, some brief follow-up to show that Conor had managed to get back on his feet. For example, what happened to his friendship with Lily? What happened when Harry got out of the hospital? Who did Conor end up living with? Did he have to move schools?
I can surmise all these things, and those details aren’t as important, but considering how deeply Patrick Ness explored Conor’s school life, I did think an epilogue wouldn’t have been out of a place. But then on the other hand, I guess you could say that Ness avoided ending on that cliche note of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and rather opted to end on an unresolved note to convey that anger and grief in the face of death is okay.
So if I meet you on the street today, I would grab your hand, ask you if you’d read The Monster Calls, and demand that you read it immediately if you haven’t. This book is a landmark in children’s and YA literature, and I would equate it to The Giver by Lois Lowry. One of my absolute top reads this year, The Monster Calls is highly HIGHLY HIGHLY (!!!) recommended.
So how do like unresolved endings? Do they make you sad? Angry? Frustrated? I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on this matter.
For me, such conclusions are unsatisfactory on so many levels. The curiosity of knowing what happened next can drive you mad, and I can see why people shy away from those in that respect. However, there are some books whose conclusions are more impactful left unexplored, and it encourages me to not shy away from the sweet of pain of reading them. I hope you won’t either.