Ending a story is always a challenge. When I’m starting a book, I often figure out the ending first. It gives me a target–something to aim for as I write. The target often moves as my characters develop and the storyline changes, but that’s okay.
If you’re a regular reader of my books, you know that I like satisfying endings. They are usually “happy endings” for the most part, although my stories contain enough strife that complete, unadulterated happiness is unrealistic. I want my characters to triumph, but they will have to overcome a bunch of hard stuff to make that triumph worthwhile. To me, that’s real life. . . or at least, it’s real life as I want it to be. I want a reward for all the challenges life throws at us.
The minor uproar over the ending of The Lies We Told has come as something of a surprise to me. (I’m not going to give anything away here, but if you comment and you’re going to be specific, please write the word SPOILER at the start of your comment.) What do I mean by minor uproar? I don’t recall ever writing a book in which the reviewers disagreed with each other so much about the way the book ends. At first I found this disconcerting (Oh no, I haven’t pleased everyone!!), but now I find it fascinating and I realize how much richer it makes the book for book club discussions. It’s always fun to read a book when everyone in the group universally loves it, but it makes for more revealing–and occasionally prickly value-laden discussions when different viewpoints abound.
Reviewer’s reactions have fallen into a few categories: Some see the ending the way I do, with character growth leading to acceptance and a desire to embrace the future. Others can’t buy that acceptance, nor can they view it as “happiness” on the part of the central characters. Still others just plain didn’t want things to turn out that way!
The Lies We Told has been reviewed by many bloggers, and I thought I’d share some of their comments about the ending with you so you can see what I mean. (Again, I won’t give away specifics).
Here we go:
“The happily ever after is a little shocking but satisfying nonetheless.” —Manicreaders.com
“The Lies We Told is an amazing story about two sisters, who as different as they are, are bound by the witnessing the murder of their parents. . . you will never be able to guess what (their) secrets are. Moreover, the ending is a shocker but you have to read the book to find out. Diane Chamberlain has become a must-read author for me and I am sure you will be hooked by just picking up one of her books. The Lies We Told does not disappoint.” —Ohboy-boys.blogspot.com
“I have to say, the ending for me was a very hard pill to swallow, I understood why it had to end the way it did…but that does not at all mean I wanted it to end this way. . . (Yet) he Lies We Told ultimately left me with a promise that even though things happen within the confines of your life, that define who you are – you do not always have to be defined only by them. . . it’s up to us to push past those confines and break free!” —Book-crazy.com
“THE LIES WE TOLD is a tender story of two sisters’ path toward rediscovering their friendship for each other. Their lack of honest communication into adulthood created a chasm in their relationship that neither woman acknowledged until a tragedy came directly in their path. Diane Chamberlain beautifully bares their dreams and their souls in THE LIES WE TOLD, and I am thoroughly pleased that I had the opportunity to read this novel.” —Freshfiction.com
“I really can’t say enough about this book. It kept me up all night reading, though I have to say the ending was unbelievable, but darn can Diane Chamberlain weave a story so mesmerizing that a bad ending takes nothing away from the story.” —melissa-coffeebooksandlaundry.blogspot.com
“This story continued to move me. I couldn’t stand putting it book down for a second. I didn’t want to miss anything. It was such an intense story that it literally kept me at the edge of my seat. . . I recommend this book the next time you’re looking for something new to read. Just hang on to your seat and hold on to the tissue box- you’re gonna need it!” —blogfully.net
“The Lies We Told is an amazing story that’s beautifully crafted by Diane Chamberlain’s beautiful writing. I absolutely loved the story as it was told by both Maya and Rebecca. Both the characters were so well developed even from the very first few pages. And their sometimes drastic personality differences made the story an incredibly interesting read. It’s also the underlying theme of the lies we tell that transforms the story and explores the impact of our honesty (or dishonesty) on those around us. . . If I had any qualms about the book, it would be the ending and how the main characters lives ended on a happy, but not quite right place.” —Chicklitreviews.com
“This book would have earned a 5-star rating from me (instead of 4) had it not ended the way it did.” —thebooknurse.blogspot.com
“This is a great book, alternately told from the point of view of each of the sisters. Maya’s story is thrilling and unexpected; I couldn’t wait to find out how she would be able to rise above the obstacles put in front of her without anyone’s help. And Rebecca’s and Adam’s love story was both touching and heartbreaking. This distorted triangle was thoroughly engrossing and I couldn’t put it down! With the poignant and sympathetic style I have come to expect from Diane Chamberlain, the Ward sisters’ stories come to life beautifully.” —romancejunkiesreviews.com
“The frantic pace of the novel was matched by never-ending problems that must be dealt with – people that must be assisted, medicine to be distributed — and Chamberlain handled it all with a deft touch. The book’s epilogue stopped me dead in my tracks and, despite everything, made me feel sad. And hopeful. But sad — all at once. That’s the mark of good storytelling.” —Writemeg.com
“Loved it, loved it, loved it! Seriously, I loved everything about this book: writing style, plot, characters, everything. If you like to read, read this book.” —bridget3420.blogspot.com
“Wow, what a great book! The plot has a twist you just don’t see coming! I loved the ending and I think you will too! Diane Chamberlain grabs ya from page one and you don’t want to put this book down until the last page has been turned!” —Leslielovesveggies.net
“Like Picoult, Diane Chamberlain cuts to the heart of these characters’ secrets. Her plotting is amazing and the villains sneak up in such a way as to tantalize us to read just one more chapter, even when time is pressing us to do something else.” —Eileengranfors.blogspot.com
“The Lies We Told is a contemplative, well-executed novel that was enjoyable to read and utterly engrossing. . . The Lies We Told would make an excellent book club pick, as there is a lot to discuss, with both the characters and the plot, within its pages. . . I have to say I abhorred the end of the novel. While well-written, I just didn’t like the way things turned out!” —Skrishnasbooks.com
“The conclusion of the book was not what I was expecting initially, but it was exactly how I hoped it would end. Chamberlain has written a book filled with surprises that you’ll want to read in one sitting.” —Book-chic.blogspot.com
“It is a complex and fascinating tale, well paced, with good dialogue as secrets are revealed with some surprises, twists, and turns. Readers of women’s fiction will enjoy this familial tale.” —romrevtoday.com
“I absolutely loved this book and think it is one of the best ever written by this prolific author. I simply could not put it down and read it far into the night. If you read one contemporary novel this summer, make it this one and I promise you will not be disappointed.” —Theromancereadersconnection.com
“This was a great read that I thoroughly enjoyed. . . It made me smile and cry (a lot) . . . It’s funny how you can think you want your life to be a certain way only to find that it’s really another life that you want so desperately that you are just afraid to admit it even to yourself. Our lives can also be a series of unconscious decisions to run away from pain that we can’t face or admit still eats us up. Also highlighted is the . . . complex nature of the need to do the right thing by someone and yet resent having to do it at the same time. This is also a story of love and ultimately forgiveness. I have to mention that I had one small complaint. The ending of the book just didn’t ‘feel’ right to me.” —Alainereading.blogspot.com
I could go on! You can see the variety of responses. They’ve made me think about the way I ended the book. I hate disappointing a reader, and yet so many readers have been not only comfortable with the ending, but pleased with it. Others were pleased despite their discomfort. And still others saw the ending as I did–a natural and optimistic progression of the story.
I’d love to hear your perspectives, not necessarily about the ending of The Lies We Told but about the endings of novels in general. What works for you and what doesn’t? Please remember to write SPOILER at the beginning of your comment if you’re going to give anything away. And thank you to the Bloggers for their thoughtful and honest reviews of my book.