It’s rare that I find a novel’s ending even remotely satisfying.
However, because there exists just so many reasons why this happens to be the case, I’m not about to explore all those reasons why right here and now.
Suffice to say, there are only two novel endings, from within the great many I have read, that impressed themselves enough upon me so as to warrant my remembering them as suitably memorable.
The first is the ending to John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. (NB I would feel bad spoiling the end of the novel by describing it to you now, if you haven’t already read it. So if you don’t know how the book ends, please don’t read beyond this point.)
Anyway, for those of you still with me, what I’m trying to say is that the scene in which Rose of Sharon breastfeeds a starving man had a profound impact on me, one which I continue to feel to this very day. The profoundly redemptive nature of the term “the milk of human kindness” was brought home to me in a such a literal and powerful way by this passage that I will never forget it.
In a completely different way, the ending to Tom Robbins Still Life with Woodpecker has also stayed with me for decades after my reading it. While obviously a much lighter work than the Grapes of Wrath overall, I still found the ending to this novel to be equally memorable. And it is the one simple sentence with which the novel ends that I have always remembered, namely: “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”
But why does this line mean so much to me?
Well, firstly, I suppose, because it highlights the fact it’s never too late to fix something from our pasts. But, also secondly, because it suggests how we view life is merely a matter of choice.
Really, who’s to say as adults we can’t choose to experience the happy childhood we might feel we missed out on the first time around?
So what that your parents didn’t let you buy that pet goldfish you always wanted as a kid? Big deal! Go out and buy yourself one now you’re all “growed up”. It’s still just as cool an idea. And hating your parents all these years later isn’t achieving anything, is it?
So go out and buy that fish! Or pair of roller-skates, or black nail polish. Learn to play congas or take up the bagpipes. Die your hair freakin’ purple or run around under the sprinkler naked in the backyard. Have a tantrum about not wanting to go to bed and stay up all night eating chocolate and watching TV until you get square eyes!
Ultimately, I don’t know what it is you think you might have personally missed out on. But whatever it is, it’s not too late to experience it now. It’s really just a matter of choice.
Put another way, you could say the concept of a happy childhood is merely a state of mind. Whatever, life’s too short not to give yourself second chances at things. So why not the chance of a second childhood just the way you always wished it had been?