I know how in hindsight it’s easy to say I saw the end coming, that I was anticipating it the whole time, that I wasn’t surprised at all, but when I say that I knew how Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl would end, I really mean it.
More surprising to me was despite my intuitive knowing, I was still deeply satisfied (though disturbed) when it was finished, like the final click confirming that indeed the door was locked. It’s over.
But I was bewildered by how uneasy I felt at the end of Udall’s The Lonely Polygamist, a book that sets readers up for all kinds of wild imaginings, but ends quite practically, and it got me thinking about how books end. So I composed a short list of my favorite endings, the ones that make me shake my head and say, “Oh you.”
1. The Agatha Christie — The go-to ending of most mysteries. Each word is a clue, every scene is a hint, and so by the end of the book readers are expected to have some kind of theory of who the killer is, or who stole the painting, but it doesn’t matter, we’re wrong.
2. The Arrival — Arrival endings are always a feather dropped from some high place, drifting back and forth, until landing, maybe not where you thought or wanted, but just there.
3. The Clean Sweep — When that last chapter appears too short and the author pulls a A Visit From the Goon Squad on you.
4. The What-Just-Happened-Who-Can-I-Call? — R.L Stine’s Goosebumps books used to do this to me every time, when I was 12, but now, it’s more prone to happen when I think I’m smarter than the writer (and I’m not).
These are just my top four ways for books to end. I’m sure there are more, what’s yours?