On Literature: How To Handle A Disappointing Ending

There may be nothing so unsatisfying in this world than a novel with a poor ending. In fact, I write this blog post now with that sour taste of a disappointing novel in my mouth, and I wanted to share that with you all. (You’re welcome)

In the whole of literature, it seems that there are a countless number of ways to begin a novel in a captivating, well-written fashion, yet there is only one proper way to end a particular novel. A novel can have a first half that is witty, funny, and insightful yet emotional and potentially tear-jerking, keeping the reader up far past their bedtime. (Do people still have bedtimes?) But the second half of the novel, due to one wrong turn from the author, can leave the reader bored, unamused, and worst of all: disappointed.

Unfortunately, this is seen pretty often in books, even in some of the so-called “greats.” Take Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for example. Throughout the story, there is so much moral growth and development in the characters, only to be washed away in the final chapters through a reversion to their former selves. In Hemingway’s Green Hills of Africa, the narrator even tells his companion, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. If you read it you must stop where the N***** Jim is stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is just cheating. But it’s the best book we’ve had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”

It is an upsetting ending to say the least. But, how do we handle this ending and other failed endings like it? To start, it’s just a book. I know that’s a tough pill to swallow for a lot of people, especially the die-hard fans of the Harry Potter series who disliked J.K. Rowling’s ending, but it’s just a book. I say this with a lot of bias because I myself have never been an avid reader. So, I can brush off bad endings, which is what I will have to do for Americanah by Adichie.

I’ve written a lot about Americanah and have used ideas from the novel to inspire my blog posts, but for those unaware, it is the story of two Nigerian lovers who go their separate ways in hopes of better lives as immigrants in Western nations, only to come back home to one another. Of course, for those that have read it, this a grossly oversimplified summary that does not take into account the complexities of race, class, being an immigrant, etc. In the end, I was not pleased with either of the two’s actions and my perceived message of the novel, but it is just one more book to add to the hundreds that I have read in my life and that sour taste will surely pass.