Reliving Great Endings

Visit Two Writing Teachers for other slices of life!

Visit Two Writing Teachers for other slices of life!

I always tell my students not to conclude their stories with “The End.”  If they have written their story well, we should be able to figure out that it is the end without them telling us.  I also then admit to them that I think crafting a good ending is probably the hardest thing about writing.  I agonize over it forever, rewriting, revising, and sometimes settling for a mediocre ending just because my non-writing life has to go on after that conclusion.

That said, I really appreciate a great ending–both in books and in movies.  The creativity and effort that has gone into their conclusions makes certain works stick out in my mind. The other night, for example, I caught the last twenty minutes or so of the movie, Bridget Jones’s Diary.  It’s an okay movie–not a favorite–but I really love the ending: the fight scene, her parents reuniting, her crazy, supportive friends, her realization of the lie that made her wrongly judge Mark Darcy, and the usual Bridget bumbling and fumbling that led to great embarrassment but eventually to her getting her guy.  A good ending. Worth revisiting.

This got me thinking.  What other books and movies have those endings that I would love to go back to–even for just a few minutes or chapters?  (Spoiler alert–I’ll try not to be too specific about these endings, but I can’t make any promises.)

  • J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Yes, of course, I expected great things from Harry, Ron, and Hermoine in this final book of the amazing series. Surprisingly, however, it was Neville Longbottom’s triumphant actions and Mrs. Weasley’s kicking butt after such great loss that really made my heart race during the final battle at Hogwarts.
  • Some Kind of Wonderful — My best friend in high school, Jill, and I would actually watch this 80’s teen masterpiece and rewind the ending just to see Eric Stoltz bite his lip before running to the girl he was meant to be with all along.  Good writing or just good acting?  Not sure, but I can still picture it.

  • Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac Magee — When Amanda Beale comes with Mars Bar to the buffalo pen to give Maniac a piece of her mind and to finally call him home–this makes me laugh and cry every time I read it to my students.
  • Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner — I still can remember the hope and possibility surrounding that final scene of flying kites in the book.  To go from such amazing tragedy throughout the story to finally a glimmer of something good again. It was too beautiful.

Those are just a few of the great endings that stick out to me right now–worthy of a reread or a re-view.  If you only had 15-20 minutes, what ending would you revisit?

Oh, and on that note (and this is for all of my past and future students)…

THE END

The Joy of Rereading

E Reading

“I’m reading!” my toddler insists.  E will not even look up to listen to my question or comment about the book he’s reading. When he’s into a book, he’s fully engaged.  Though I feel a little sad by this early independence, I also am very happy.

I have been reading to E since he was in the womb.  At 2 1/2, he makes his teacher-mama proud.  He loves books and often wants us to read to him.  He always asks for one more book and then another “one more book” before naps and bedtime.  When things get too quiet in the house and we can’t see E, we often find him in front of the bookshelf or in a corner of the room, surrounded by books, reading them to himself one by one.

E’s bookshelves have gotten a bit overcrowded lately.  I recently tried to hide away some seasonal and simpler books until E’s sister arrives in the fall and we get a new set of shelves for her room.  Tonight, after not seeing them for two weeks, E was asking specifically for some of these hidden books.  Even with newer books and library checkouts at his fingertips, E does not tire of reading the old books.  He simply loves to reread.

This makes me think about the rereading my students do and that I do as an adult. Many students seem to have their “go to” books–trusted books they know will satisfy again and again.  Sure, I want them to stretch their wings and find new titles, new genres.  I can’t deny them, however, that pure joy of a story well told.

I know that satisfaction too.  Like listening to a good song again and again, when I reread I rediscover old friends, uncover new beauty, and gain new understandings and appreciation.  Most times, I do choose to read new books.  So many books, so little time, right?   But what if I do take that break from the new and go back to the old?  What might I gain?  Looking at the joy on my son’s face as he pours over each page of that worn, drool-encrusted book I tried to hide, I think I might gain quite a bit!

My unfinished list of books to reread:

  • Walden, by Henry David Thoreau–Fell in love with it at 16, though I couldn’t fully understand it.  Reread it at 25.  What a different perspective as I reread!  How would it appeal to me at 40?
  • Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott–A childhood favorite–I may make myself wait a bit longer and read this with my children.
  • Any Harry Potter book, by J.K. Rowling–I know what will happen, but I never tire of the characters and the pure imagination behind the series.
  • The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver–This was the first of her novels that I read, and I felt like I had found my author-soul sister.
  • The Shipping News, by E. Annie Proulx–She’s my other favorite author, and this is the first of hers that I read.  I still can picture and feel the stark, chilly setting.
  • Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini–Such a tragic and beautiful story!

What books would be on your list?