Ever since I was old enough to read my first chapter book (undoubtedly Junie B. Jones) I just couldn’t wait to get to the ending.
Endings are very important to me. I have a list of the last lines spoken or written in all my favorite books and TV shows. I’m not sure what that says about me, but here I am. The last line of a book has the power to transform the reader’s opinion of the entire work. I have loved books the whole way through, only to be betrayed in the final moment, being left with a bitter taste in my mouth. I have also read books that were just “okay” until a fantastic closing line changed my mind. Endings are very important to me.
It should come as no surprise to you by now that when browsing through a bookstore I begin reading the book’s final paragraph instead of the back cover or inside flap. I know what you’re thinking: “But doesn’t that spoil the book for you?”
I have never once been able to understand important details from a closing paragraph. I don’t yet know the characters, setting, or plot. What the closing paragraph reveals to me is much more important; it gives me a sense of what type of journey I’m about to experience along side the characters. If the last moments of the journey intrigue me, I’m more excited to go back and find out how the journey began.
Going into a book completely blind to all details except the ending makes the book all the more powerful. When I read about the characters going through the events of the story, even while knowing what’s to come, I hope that somehow the last page was wrong. That somehow these characters will find a way to rewrite that final page, only to arrive at the same ending i began with, but now I fully understand it and feel a sense of loss, or triumph, or even peace.
Arriving at a sad ending, despite knowing it the whole time fills me with a sense of hope and new understanding and appreciation for the journey. In a way it transforms even the saddest ending into a bittersweet closing.
A great example of the power of reading an ending first comes from John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony. When I began the book with the closing moments of the boy making himself lemonade, it had virtually no impact on me. I then went on to go through the story seeing the boy grow and develop, and with each tragedy that happened to him I knew he was one step closer to the earthly confidence and strength to produce a glass of lemonade. When I arrived at the ending again, I had a more heightened sense of pride for this boy and what he had been through.
Like I said, endings are very important to me. The unyielding hope I experience from knowing the ending of a book reminds me of why I love books so much– even though books transport you to other people’s minds, other countries, or other worlds entirely–what truly marks a good book is the experience, heart, soul…the human aspect of it all.