I’m going to make a confession. I like to smile at the end of a novel. I like to think that problems have been resolved, that the characters I grew to care about will start the next phase of their lives with fewer burdens and a healthy dose of optimism. I like, dare I admit it, a happy ending. You may feel the same way.
But your happy ending and my happy ending? Are they necessarily the same?
I once heard the happy ending defined as “the satisfying conclusion to the central conflict.” I liked that and made it my own, because frankly, I think happy endings are much broader than we sometimes assume. After all, if there was only one way to end every story, what exactly would be the point of reading?
The subject of happy endings came up recently when a reviewer contacted my publisher and admitted she faced a dilemma with my upcoming novel, One Mountain Away. Not that she didn’t like it. She did. A lot. In fact she made One Mountain Away one of her rare recommended reads. But the reviewer, Dorine Linnen, knew that some of the readers who read her reviews at Romance Junkies, might find this novel so different from the happily-ever-afters of the romance novels she normally reviews, that she wanted to find a way to warn them without giving away the story. And so, thoughtful woman that she is, she contacted my publisher for a discussion.
In the end Dorine solved the problem this way:
“I need to mention that ONE MOUNTAIN AWAY may not meet the expectations of those who read mostly romance, even though it has a beautiful love story within it. It’s women’s fiction and definitely follows a different drummer, which is why I love it. I highly recommend this novel as an inspirational journey well worth the box of tissue you’ll go through while reading, and even though there’s a great deal of love within this novel, it’s more about women’s relationships and their personal growth. ONE MOUNTAIN AWAY is filled with sorrow, optimism, forgiveness, faith and a deep love that transcends a lifetime.”
You can read the rest of her wonderful review here.
Can a novel that requires “a box of tissue” be a novel with a happy ending?
Every novel sets up a different set of problems, but if a character sets out on a difficult journey, we want him or her to reach the destination with new wisdom and insight, even while encountering obstacles that may still be roadblocks in the future. In “women’s fiction” we expect the novel’s characters to grow and change for the better, but most of all, we want them to find what they’ve spent the novel searching for.
You will have to decide what a happy ending means for you, but I can tell you that by my definition, One Mountain Away has a happy ending and I look forward to discussing it with you after you’ve read it. While a box of tissue may be called for, I also promise that when I finished my final edits, I was smiling.
I think you will be smiling, too.