Today we welcome Phillipa Bornikova whose first novel This Case is Gonna Kill Me has recently been published by Tor. Phillipa has been the story editor of a major network television series, a horse trainer, and an oil-company executive. She lives in the Southwest. And she likes happy endings. Comment below for a chance to win a copy of This Case is Gonna Kill Me which Kelly has reviewed here.
Why do happy endings get such a bad rap? I’m not talking about sappy, unrealistic endings, but honest endings in which people get what they need even if they may not get what they want. I know it’s fashionable for critics to sneer at the happy ending as if only grief and suffering have value. As if only a hopeless conclusion filled with pain can be serious or have any meaning. I think that devalues the things we celebrate as humans — friendship, love, laughter and triumph.
Endings are the emotional catharsis for readers, and a book will succeed or fail on the strength of that ending. Some people argue that a good journey will compensate for a crappy ending. I don’t agree with that. If the ending fails then the journey seems pointless. So, what books and movies have handled endings well?
Let’s start with THE LORD OF THE RINGS, one of my favorites. The ending is certainly bittersweet. Middle Earth has been forever changed. The elves are passing away, and the age of men is beginning, but the entire world has not been completely destroyed and warped into a new shape. Beauty still endures, and Mordor will ultimately be cleansed. For the characters, Frodo finds peace, and Sam returns home to love and marriage and children and honor and respect. Tolkien didn’t massacre Frodo and Sam because both of them had earned their happy ending through great sacrifice.
King Lear. A tragedy yes, but for Lear and Cordelia ultimately a happy ending because they found each other once more and were able to be reconciled.
Casablanca. A brilliant ending once your realize it’s not a love story. It’s a story of redemption and a return to life for a man who had lost all hope and faith. There is loss, Rick can never be with Ilsa, but he gives that up to reclaim his soul.
Happy endings are satisfying. Life is hard and we don’t necessarily want our entertainment to be as hard as life. We want something that gives us hope. Tells us that if you try hard and give your all, things just may turn out all right. Suggest that love will triumph. Friends will be true, heroic deeds will make a difference. They are especially satisfying when the main character(s) have earned their happy ending. They have struggled through sadness and loss, but ultimately they have emerged into sunlight.
I think urban fantasy does this rather well. It lives in the dark forests and dark alleys where strange creatures can threaten the light, but in the end the heroines and heroes celebrate the best of humanity rather than focusing on the worst. And I like that.
How do you feel about happy endings?
One commenter will receive a copy of Phillipa Bornikova’s debut novel This Case is Gonna Kill Me.