“Hang it All!”

14 Jan

I recently finished reading a book. It was a good book, well-written, kept me interested all the way through. But then I got to the last page. Only I didn’t realize it was the last page. I was reading on my Kindle and so there was no thickness of the remaining pages to clue me in. I knew from the “% read” at the bottom of the screen that I was nearly done. Knew too, that there was no Glossary or Tolkien-esque appendix that took up half of the book, but I assumed, as I pressed the “Next Page” button, that there would be an epilogue if not a short final chapter.

I read to the end of the page. I turned to the next. And the book was done. And I did what I have never done before. I shouted,

“You jerk!”

as if the author could hear me.

I am a person who likes her loose ends tied up. As a writer I keep a list of loose ends that I must not forget about. As a reader I do this too, only they’re mental lists and not separate files on my computer.

Loose ends Drive Me Bananas. And the loose ends in this book I read were HUGE.

I suppose you’re all dying to know what the book was. I debated telling you or not, but I guess I will because I’m not saying she is a bad writer, or that I disliked the book…I just HATED being left hanging!

I know, I know: it’s a writer’s prerogative. She or he can do whatever they like and if they like leaving their readers unfulfilled, well, fine. They have a right. For whatever reason, she wanted to leave the reader wondering, pondering, considering her book as we drive down the road to pick our children up from school. She wanted us to think. She wanted us to have lively discussions at book club – which I know we will! She wanted us to blog about it.

And so I say to Ann Patchett, author of State of Wonder, yes, you’ve made me think. You’ve made me consider Easter’s fate and the narrator’s future and the crotchety doctor’s wishes as I wash the dishes and fold the clothes and do other things that I’m too proper to write about.

And you’re driving me nuts.

So my question for you all is this: do you like loose ends that make you think? Or do you wish that all authors would tie their loose ends up in pretty bows that don’t stress you out and cause you to call them names when you reach the last page and discover THE END written in nasty, bold letters?

As my children like to ask, “Which would you rather?”


28 Responses to ““Hang it All!””

  1. Beth Ann January 14, 2014 at 9:35 am #

    Glad you shared which book it was!!! I read “Run” which was also written by her and I don’t recall loose ends but then–the memory is not what it used to be! It depends on what mood I am in. Sometimes I like to “wonder” but most of the time I like the package all tidied up with tape and pretty bows. Great post, Gretchen!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 14, 2014 at 11:23 am #

      Thank you, Beth Ann – I have read Bel Canto by her but it was so many years ago that I don’t remember, either, if I was frustrated or not. BUT…I do have a vague idea that possibly I was! Everyone has their style and that’s good…but it’s not my style!

  2. Jenny January 14, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    I have been known to say “What a dumb ending!” out loud a few times at the end of movies also. (Only at home of course!) I like a nice tidy, satisfying ending too. It gives a bad feeling for me about a book, or a movie, when that last thought the author, or director leaves with me is negative. It then becomes something I would be less likely to recommend to anyone.

    I’m looking forward to reading the ending of your first book!!!! I’m sure it will leave me happy, and not saying “What a dumb ending.”!!!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 14, 2014 at 11:24 am #

      Well, I should say! Yes, being left with a bad taste in one’s mouth is not fun. But I do admit that it will make for great book club discussion!

  3. Nancy Hyink January 14, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    Been there, done that! Those books that leave you hanging, I think, are to make us think. I am usually very frustrated by them, feel empty, and yell “what a dumb ending” or “that can’t be the ending” OR “when does the sequel come out?”. I like to be “entertained” when I read for pleasure and not “think”. “Thinking” was for all those college classes that I took! However, the author that does create a “thinking” environment for the brain is probably good for the brain, even though I prefer to be lazy and have a nice ending….bows and all! If my husband and I both read the same book, it does produce some “wondering” dialogue between us if those bows are missing. And, it is interesting how differently we would make the “with bows” ending! Thinking is good, but I prefer “bows”!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 14, 2014 at 11:28 am #

      I am exactly on the same page as you! College (and grad school) took all of my thinking power! Now I just want to relax when I read. 🙂 As a writer I will never leave loose ends…but I suppose she has a right. Darn it!

  4. cravesadventure January 14, 2014 at 11:52 am #

    I have a few issues with loose ends too. A) Is the loose end leading to another book? B) If so, will I have to wait a year or two for the resolution to the loose end in the new book, which probably will result in reading the book with the said loose end again. C) Will said loose end never have an end because that will drive me crackers for a few weeks to a few months time? I will have to check out this book. Thanks for sharing – Happy Tuesday:)

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 14, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

      🙂 Told you that loose ends drive a person crazy!

      • cravesadventure January 14, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

        CRAZY – bad enough when books do it and then movies do that too!!!

  5. Minnesota Prairie Roots January 14, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

    I am with you, Gretchen. Loose ends be gone. I recently watched a Hallmark Hall of Fame movies (can’t recall which) and it had what I term a “dumb ending.” I felt like I’d wasted two hours of my time.

    Ditto that with a book that has a “dumb” or loose ending.

    I can barely imagine you spouting, “You jerk!”

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 14, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

      I truly did. Out loud. YOU JERK! I was alone with no chance of her hearing me! 🙂 Yes. No one wants to feel like their time was wasted. So irritating! I didn’t feel like that with this book, but boy…how hard would it have been to just write a two page epilogue?!!

      • Ashley January 15, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

        I can imagine you saying that!

  6. treadlemusic January 14, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

    I very much dislike loose ends, hanging threads, dangling participles/prepositions and the like!!!!!! I have been known to scare/startle DH into a serious state by doing such myself!!!!!! I totally understand!!! Hugs…………………………..

  7. Jackie January 14, 2014 at 6:18 pm #

    Loose ends are not for me… I also get very frustrated, and mad and say out loud, “stupid ending”!!! Just ask my husband. Thanks for the warning, I will be sure not to read State of Wonder.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 15, 2014 at 8:56 am #

      Well, if you want a good book club discussion, this is the book to read! But yes…it’s frustrating otherwise!

  8. Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen January 14, 2014 at 11:39 pm #

    That would drive me crazy as well! I think sometimes it’s their way of ensuring a second book sometimes. I hope she does that so you can sleep at night, lol! I love to read and can get quite attached to the characters, I need to know how their lives turn out!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 15, 2014 at 8:57 am #

      That’s exactly it! I want to know their ending – I can never begin and book and not finish it because I have to know – even if I don’t like the book otherwise! At least this book is well written and interesting…it has that going for it!

  9. Top Of The Slush Pile January 15, 2014 at 5:30 am #

    I don’t like loose ends. When I invest my time in a book, I trust the author is going to deliver. It’s a kind of silent agreement between the reader and the author. They’ve hooked us, they’re taking us on their journey. They have to deliver us to the final destination. The other option is pure robbery! Great post Gretchen x

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 15, 2014 at 8:58 am #

      YES! Robbery! I agree – it’s a contract. I guess some authors like to be known for their provoking endings. Note I didn’t say “thought provoking”…just plain “provoking”!

  10. Gwen Stephens January 15, 2014 at 6:57 am #

    I suppose I’m with you, Gretchen. In school we teach students stories have a beginning, middle, and end, so I guess that is firmly ingrained in my mind. I don’t think all novels have to end happily, I just like knowing what happens to the characters I’ve invested in, whether it’s good or bad.

    My book club’s selection for February is Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. This was one of my favorite books of 2012. The premise was nothing that hadn’t been done before, but it was so uniquely written. A lot of readers were outraged by the ending, so I’ll be interested to see what the book clubbers thought.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 15, 2014 at 9:00 am #

      I’ve heard of that book – may have to look into it. I know that there are times for ambiguity and that’s ok…it’s just that this one left these HUGE issues – yes, the goal of the main character was met…but there were so many other things that arose as a result of her meeting that goal! And yes, sad endings are totally fine – but don’t leave me hanging!

  11. francisguenette January 15, 2014 at 11:20 am #

    I’m with you completely on the unprepared for (or so it seems to me, other readers might be more astute than I am – I’m open to the possibility) ending. I got to the end of Barbara Kingsolver’s most recent book – Flight Behavior – and screamed. I am some times bemoaning my reactions to some of the self-published books I read but it is refreshing to realize that even the big time successful authors can send us for a loop.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 15, 2014 at 7:31 pm #

      I’ve read two of Kingsolvers older books – one I liked enough to read twice and the other I truly disliked. I think I’ll avoid the one you mentioned! I suppose that it’s a “modern” way of writing…but yeah, not really a fan. 🙂

  12. Hotly Spiced January 20, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

    I read a few e-books on the cruise and I have to say I do prefer a hard copy so you know where you’re up to with the book and prepare yourself for the ending. We saw two movies on the cruise that both had endings where everyone in the room groaned in the final scene as we couldn’t believe the useless endings. One is ‘Prisoner’ starring Hugh Jackman and the other is ‘Lost at Sea’ (so appropriate for a cruise) starring Robert Redford. Hands down, worst movie I have ever had the misfortune to sit through and as for the ending, I could have thrown something at the screen xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 21, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

      Oh, no! I wonder who was in charge of choosing those particular films! Maybe they got them inexpensively because no one likes them! Ha. At least you got to look at Hugh Jackman for the one!

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