Sometimes, a book will have an ending so perfect, or astonishing, or memorable that it lingers in mind long after the last page is turned. Sometimes it’s tragic, other times it’s just so perfect it redeems an otherwise far from perfect book. Endings are hard; wrapping up plot lines, bringing it all together, and maintaining the quality of the previous chapters is hard to say the least. When an author gets it right it leaves an impression. Here are ten titles that have left such an impression on us.
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines: A teacher returns to the Louisiana plantation where he was raised. Frustrated by the bleak existence given to his black community, he reluctantly visits a young black man sentenced to die for a crime he did not commit.
All the Little Live Things by Wallace Stegner: Wallace Stegner has an incredible ability to present the complexities present in even the seemingly most prosaic life. This novel follows the development of a retired couple living in California as they interact with each other, their neighbors, and the memory of their estranged son.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel: Pi finds himself on a lifeboat with a number of zoo animals, including a 400lb tiger, after the ship carrying him, his parents, and their animals sinks. Make sure you have someone who has read it on speed dial. You’re going to want to talk.
Psycho by Robert Bloch: This one’s pretty famous for some twistiness at the end. A beautiful women gets caught up in Norman Bates’ craziness when she checks into the Bates Motel.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: A stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris. When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast. In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure
The Giver by Lois Lowry: This ending had me bawling like a baby the first time I read it. Given his lifetime assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas becomes the receiver of memories shared by only one other in his community and discovers the terrible truth about the society in which he lives.
On the Beach by Nevil Shute: in the worst imaginable circumstances, an American submarine captain tries to escape the nuclear fallout headed his way in Australia by making his way back to the States, where there is faint hope that his family may have survived.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: Three friends at an idyllic English boarding school discover a chilling secret that inspires them to live fully while they can.
The Friendship by Mildred Taylor: this sequel to Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry explores the relationships between black and white individuals in the rural South in the 1930s. Cassie Logan and her brothers witness Tom Bee address the white clerk, John Wallace, by his first name–a practice nearly unheard of between the races, even between friends. Wallace has given Bee permission due to their long-standing friendship, but what will Wallace do when confronted with the taunts of his white peers?
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card: An outstanding tale of the child-hero Ender Wiggin, who must fight a desperate battle against a deadly alien race if mankind is to survive.