End it well

When I am reading a book I really love, I watch the pages left recede with a sense of sadness. Which is replaced by panic when I realise that the ratio of ‘pages remaining’ to ‘proximity to conclusive ending’ is uneven. Panic is then replaced by abject fear that the ending will be rushed, unsatisfactory or, worst of all, inconclusive – please don’t make me decide what really happened, I need you to tell me, in no uncertain terms, how the story ends.

I like a gradual speeding up of the pace towards a conclusion as much as the next person, but I don’t want the ending to feel rushed. It should lead me swiftly to a conclusion, but not so swiftly that I don’t have enough time to properly process what’s happening.

I experienced this panic recently when I was reading The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. I was so engrossed in the book, really surprisingly engrossed given the subtitle to the novel could have been Jesuits in out of space, when I found myself alarmingly close to the end with all of the characters still alive. Given that we find out on page one that all but one of the Jesuit space invaders dies, it was obvious there was some serious shit still to happen. How could she possibly wrap this up neatly and sufficiently in the remaining pages, and give me the satisfying ending that I need and deserve?

Which leads to the next emotion on this reading roller-coaster of feels: a sense of dread that this book, unbeknownst to me, is part of a series and what I’m speeding towards isn’t a conclusion at all, but a bloody cliffhanger. Which, it turned out, was sort of the case for The Sparrow – but thankfully Russell concluded it like a pro and it is a singular book in its own right.

Basically, what all this means is that I really appreciate a well-rounded conclusion and I really like it when… ;o)

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