Throughout my life, when I’ve gotten to the final page of a great novel, I have been distraught. “No!” I scream silently. I need more! What happens next? That is what I thought I wanted--to know what happens next. These days, it appears that all my years of wishing have made my dreams come true . . . and I was wrong!
I just finished reading “All the Light We Cannot See,” by Anthony Doerr, and it was brilliant up until about the last 15%. It should have ended when the main stories converged and wrapped up, but Doerr jumped us to the future to tell us what happened next, just like I always thought I wanted to know, but found out I didn’t. The story was over, and the extra pages were just more to read with no additional point and no value added. Who wants another radish after dessert?
It occurred to me that it was not only Doerr’s novel because I had just made a similar complaint about “The Valley of Amazement,” by Amy Tan. I then realized there has been a pattern. “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake,” by Aimee Bender, is one of my favorite novels despite being another that trails on when it should have ended after the climax. Don’t even get me started on Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch” whose first chapters were tremendously compelling, but the story just wouldn’t end through years (hundreds of pages) of (spoiler alert) drugs and depression.
Have you noticed this tendency for author’s to meander on after the principal story ends in any of the novels that you have read recently? Is it something you enjoy, or is it too much for you too?