As a treat, I recently purchased a copy of Sarah Dessen’s latest novel Saint Anything.
As usual,Dessen’s writing was an enjoyable experience. She starts in medias rei, introduces the reader to Sydney, builds up a sense of camaraderie juxtaposed against a sense of menace created by both one of the characters, in particular, and the well-meaning but oblivious actions of Sydney’s parents. What stuck out to me the most, however, was the ending. Saint Anything has the perfect ending for this novel.
As a writer, one of the most difficult things for me is writing the end. The beginning is easy, the middle is harder, but doable – knowing when and how to end the story is my Achilles’ heel.
Yet the ending is, I would argue, the most important. It is harder to grasp the attention of the reader with an uninteresting beginning, or if the middle begins to lose steam, but if the attention can be grasped, and the middle waded through, all can be forgiven if the ending is right. A story that goes the other way – with an interesting beginning, but a terrible ending, is less likely to be remembered in a positive light, at least for me.
Upon reading the last word of Saint Anything, I felt a sense of peace. That might sound like an exaggeration, but I truly felt that the story had appropriately ended. It came full circle, and managed to provide closure to the reader without spelling everything out for us. It was slightly sad and slightly happy. It was uncertain, it was realistic, but still provided closure. It was perfect.
And then, almost immediately after this realization that the ending was perfect for this story, I had the second realization, that a lot of readers probably hated it, because it was left open-ended. It’s an ending that is clearly the beginning of a new story – but one that the reader will likely be left out of, that will not actually be written. Personally, I loved this aspect – to end a story with a sense of hope and possibility and uncertainty feels so realistic and wonderful to me, as a reader.
But not every reader is me. So I ask you – what is your opinion? As a reader, do you prefer a beginning that hooks & reels you in? Or a great ending? And what makes a great ending?