Farewell, 2020: favourite endings in literature

By Isabella Kontogiannis, Anna Short, and

Warning: contains spoilers for ‘Invisible Monsters’, ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’, ‘Bridge to Terabithia’ and ‘American Psycho’

‘Invisible Monsters’ –

Chuck Palahniuk’s great feat in Invisible Monsters is a scattered timeline which keeps the story interesting and ever-surprising while simultaneously being conducive to a profound character study, drawing you in and keeping your attention to the very end. The story unfolds through the eyes of an unnamed narrator, an ex-model who has become disfigured due to being shot in the face, and the question of who shot her as well as what has become of her estranged brother. 

To Palahniuk, it seems that reinvention can be a form of self-harm

The novel’s ending is shocking and disturbing: the narrator reveals she shot herself, because she felt her identity and the perception of her as a beautiful person had become a burden. It is also revealed that her sibling has transitioned, but she states clearly that she has done so in order to shed her previous identity and trauma, not to affirm herself. This ending has left me thinking ever since I read this novel a few months ago. University is often seen as a time to reinvent yourself – but to Palahniuk, it seems that reinvention can be a form of self-harm. The idea that one’s identity is often crafted by things out of their control and can be taxing on their soul is not new, but Palahniuk’s approach is a unique one. For me (and many of my friends), 2020 has been filled with questions of identity, making this novel a very topical read. 

‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ and ‘Bridge to Terabithia’ –

With the end of 2020 finally here, there are many disappointing and difficult moments we may wish to forget as we bid this year a fond farewell. However, I find that my favourite book endings are ones in which painful experiences are embraced, not forgotten. Through the narrative act of remembrance in these particular novels, the conclusion is pervaded with a lingering sense of the loss, injustice or heartache felt in the story, leaving the reader with a deeply moving and lasting impression. A Thousand Splendid Suns, one of the finest books I have ever read, highlights this, as although the story culminates with Laila and Tariq in a happier life after the Taliban rule of Kabul, in the final chapter Hosseini chooses to focus the subject of narrative thought on Mariam, whose sacrifice and enduring suffering is then remembered not only “in Laila’s own heart”, but heart-wrenchingly in the reader’s too. 

My favourite book endings are ones in which painful experiences are embraced, not forgotten

Another favourite ending of mine is Bridge to Terabithia where the remembrance of Jesse’s friend Leslie is shown when he builds a bridge across the riverbank to safely take his sister to the magical land of Terabithia that Leslie had imagined for them. As the final page is turned, the endings in which feelings of mourning and experiences of loss are remembered and embraced, are the ones that leave their mark. 

‘American Psycho’ –

Few literary endings are as infuriating as that of Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho. In essence, after exploring Patrick Bates, the protagonist, and his life as a Wall Street banker-turned-serial killer, the novel leaves us hanging. Whilst we have been given insight into his arguably psychopathic thoughts, even reading Bates’ confession for a murder, the denouement suggests that perhaps he did not actually commit these murders, since some of his victims are remarkably alive and well. The beauty and wit of this ending lies in its ambiguity. We are left wondering, is Bates as psychologically twisted as we initially thought, or is he merely delusional? In the protagonist’s own words,

But even after admitting this—and I have countless times, in just about every act I’ve committed—and coming face-to-face with these truths, there is no catharsis. I gain no deeper knowledge about myself, no new understanding can be extracted from my telling. There has been no reason for me to tell you any of this. This confession has meant nothing.

The beauty and wit of this ending lies in its ambiguity

We see the meaninglessness reflected throughout the novel and observe what the author means by “catharsis”. In such violence and delusion, there can be no release, no escape, and no sanity.

Image: Juli Kosolapova via Unsplash

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