Friday, October 9, 2009

Knowing Where to End It

If you don't count the two books I tried to read and gave up on, the last book I've finished was Gary Kinder's thrilling SHIP OF GOLD IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA, which combines a disaster (shipwreck! Yay!) with a decades-later salvage operation that reads like a suspense novel because of the other evil treasure hunters trolling around out there.

Since it was published in 1998, the second I closed the book I leapt up to Google the whole matter and see what had become of everyone. And--sadly--discovered that Tommy Thompson, the valiant, imaginative, persistent, deep-sea-exploring leader of the salvage operation, is now AWOL, and some of his former investors have filed suit. All of which is to say, Kinder ended the book at a good point.

Where to end a book is an under-discussed topic. In a book where all the ends tie up neatly, it's obviously after all the ends have been tied up, but sometimes writers don't choose that. (I myself took some flack from readers who favor tidy endings, although I thought the ending of MBC had plenty of implied tidiness. Which may have to suffice, since I haven't had time to get the behind in gear and do much writing on a sequel lately. Think I've figured out what's ailing the Twins book, though, thanks be to God.) I was talking to another pastor's wife recently, and we were comparing notes on wonderful life stories where beautiful things had been salvaged from wreckage, only to have people then go and flush it all down the toilet again. They didn't know where to end the story. Maybe get everything all straightened out and then get hit by a bus, so at your memorial they could say, "Such a shame about the bus hitting her, but isn't it beautiful how she'd gotten her life in order again?"

Anyone have book endings they loved or hated? My book club is doing Elizabeth Kostova's vampire book THE HISTORIAN in honor of Halloween, and I must say I wasn't thrilled with the ending. Also disappointed with Donna Tartt's THE SECRET HISTORY--for this (lack of) denouement I read hundreds of pages? These kinds of endings can make you long for the good old Shakespearean days, where everyone you care about lies dead on the stage, with only some red-shirt left to eulogize them.

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