the end sunset

“Everything has to come to an end, sometime.”

― L. Frank Baum


Last week I finished two books with sad endings.


Life, death and love at 16


A teen and her bucket list


And both left me with not only a pile of tissues, but wondering about the impact of endings.





Is one better than the other?

They all can work, but what really impresses me in a story is resilience.  Just like in real life, the measure of our end is defined by the life that leads to it, and a good ending resonates that strength in some way.

 Thin ice cracking _opt

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.

~Ernest Hemingway


A good book is strong at the broken parts.


“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.”

~ Gilda Radner


But still I have to admit, after reading two strong but sad stories, I was desperately in need of a cupcake plot with a mile high meringue ending.

Because that can be good too.

What are your thoughts on endings?



46 thoughts on “The Perfect Ending

  1. Emma Burcart

    I like happy endings, but where it’s not all spelled out for us. We can tell that it’s good, though. We know it will all work out. That’s when I’m happy with a book the whole way through.

  2. Christine

    Can’t cope with sad endings,real life it tough enough. I agree with Emma and don’t like it all spelled out for me. A good twist that grabs me by the throat followed by a satisfying ending works every time.

    Wish I could do it myself!

    Great post, Colleen.

  3. Stacy Jensen

    I heard an NPR interview with the John Green and put that on my must read list. I like to read fiction with these themes, as my memoir has a sad ending — real life has a way of doing this. When I saw the movie My Sister’s Keeper, it was a few weeks after agents told me sad stories don’t sell. Boy was I shocked to learn the ending had been changed in the movie. That was my punctuation mark that some sad endings don’t make it. Maybe it’s because I’ve been touched so closely by a sad ending in life that I don’t mind them in a book. I like to see how people live — real or fictional.

  4. Susanna Leonard Hill

    I’m a sucker for a happy ending – there’s enough sadness in the world already, I don’t need to read to find more. That said, it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a sad ending, just that I don’t usually choose books like that. I really love books with endings that stay with you, though, the ones that you keep thinking about for ages after the book is over. That’s great writing, if someone can leave you thinking like that!

    1. Coleen Patrick Post author

      Yes! I read a book that felt like the last chapter had been tacked on purely for shock–it made me want to toss the book across the room when I finished!

  5. April Plummer

    What a great, beautiful post! I don’t mind sad endings as long as they fit. And they don’t have to wrap everything up either, but they can’t be like the Soprano’s Series Finale. That was ridiculous!

  6. Natalie Hartford

    Ohhhh…tough question!! To be honest, I like em’ all. Sad ending, tough endings, surprise ending, happy endings. I don’t discriminate. I like endings that tie into the story and are believable etc. I am with you though, after reading a couple sappy ones, I’d need a break with a happy-go-lucky story. Variety is the spice of life!

  7. TL Conway

    I agree with many of the comments already. I can read a book w/a sad ending and accept the fact that it will leave me in an emotional haze for a few days. But sad endings done poorly (shock value) really bug me.

    And kudos to whomever said hope. I agree–there’s something about a book that leaves you hopeful or empowered.

    Now I’m a bit scared to read TFioS, but I suppose knowing the book deals w/cancer, I can’t be too surprised…

  8. August McLaughlin

    As long as an ending’s fulfilling in some way, I dig it. Like Susie said, those that leave a message can be powerful and gratifying, even if the conclusion is dark, unresolved or sad. I really loathe endings that seem as though the writer just wanted to shock us or do something bizarre. 😉 (Like I know their motives, yeah.)

  9. Debra Kristi

    The ending has to fit with the story and be satisfying to the reader. I enjoy happy endings, but not false ones. Does that make sense? Bitter sweet with a chance of hope works for me. Sad I can accept if something is gained for the story telling process.

  10. Diane Capri

    I have to say that these days, I rarely choose a book (or a movie) if I know in advance it’ll be a tear jerker. A tear jerker with a sad ending? Um, not so much. Life is sad enough. I’d rather not immerse myself in dreary fiction as well — even exceptionally well written dreary fiction. In fact, the better the writing is, the more it moves me, the less I’m inclined to watch/read/listen to a story with a sad ending. Maybe that makes me shallow, but there you have it!

  11. Lynn Kelley

    I always feel better with a happy ending. Those sad endings are hard. “I was desperately in need of a cupcake plot with a mile high meringue ending,” LOL, I love that! And that’s a great quote by Gilda Radner.

  12. em

    I don’t mind a sad ending as long as there is some emotional journey that has resolution. And I agree– an ending that shows resilience of human spirit is great!

  13. Ginger Calem

    Great post. I like all kinds of endings as long as they are authentic. It can be sad, as long as there is still hope. I don’t want the author to ‘make it happy’ just because that’s what readers want. Just like in real life, stories end differently. If the writer put his or her heart and soul into the story, I think the reader will feel satisfied.

  14. Beth K. Vogt

    My favorite type of ending: one with a happily ever after.
    However, I’ve read and loved books with all types of endings, just as I’ve experienced relationships with all types of endings too.
    That’s life, isn’t it?
    And I think books reflect life — and so you can’t demand that books have only one type of ending.
    You can, however, choose which book you take off the bookshelf.

  15. Mel Fowler

    When I watched Harry Potter 7 part 2,….just the end made me cry, because it was over… just ….over….

    But it’s ok. because like Frank L. Baum said, everything has to come to an end….

  16. Tameri Etherton

    Wow, good question. I like the ending that fits the book. Now, having said that, I want the ending to tie everything up (unless I know in advance it’s going to be a trilogy or a short series). I don’t like ambiguous endings that leave it up to the reader to fill in the blank, nor do I want it all spelled out for me. I want to know what the writer thought about the end. Did they die? Did they end up happy? I’m a sucker for happily ever afters, but not if someone needs to die so that others can go on. This makes absolutely no sense, does it?

    I do know that if I read two sad books in a row, I’d have to watch a lot of puppy and kitten videos to cheer me up.

  17. Jennette Marie Powell

    The older I get, the less tolerance I have for downer endings – I can get my fill of those by reading the news! Bittersweet is fine, as long as it’s satisfying. But the worst is when it seems like it’s there just to make a literary statement about the futility of the human condition. If The Time Traveler’s Wife hadn’t been a library book, I’d have chucked that sucker out the window. If she’d left the last chapter off, maybe not. My favorite are the mostly-happy, but slightly open-ended ones, especially if there are more in the series.

  18. Kristy K. James

    It depends. As a teen I read a couple of old books. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank and On the Beach (can’t remember who the author is). Both are about nuclear war. The first, while not ideal, leaves you with the hope that part of mankind will survive and thrive. The second just left me feeling depressed and sorry I’d read it.

    I think the ending has to be an appropriate ending for the story though. While Cinderella is a great example of a fairytale, most of life doesn’t fall into that category. Most endings will usually fall somewhere between that and the dismal finale found in On the Beach. Sure I prefer the whole happily ever after thing, but as long as there is hope for the MC’s, that’s good enough for me.

  19. Joanna

    If it is a beautifully crafted book and the sad ending fits the whole mood, I can appreciate it. But, I need at least 80% of my books to end with more hope!

  20. Leigh Covington

    This is a tough one. I like complicated plots and writers who are willing to take a risk. And while I can handle a book that isn’t completely resolved, I hate books that leave me depressed for 2 weeks after reading them. *sigh* I like to read to escape crappiness – not jump into it! lol. Of course, there has to be conflict and tension, but I just like to see some meaning, a growing in the characters. I love the quotes you’ve used in this. They are perfect!

  21. Naomi Baltuck

    I like happy endings, or hopeful open endings. Sometimes, for the integrity of the story, that isn’t possible. But I wouldn’t drag a reader through a downer book and a sad ending for no good reason, or because ‘that’s life.” There has to have been a purpose for it, and you have to leave readers feeling hopeful and/or satisfied, even if the ending isn’t happily ever after. Great post!

    1. Coleen Patrick

      Yes, I completely agree that there should be some reason. I have read a book where it seemed like the sad ending was tacked on for effect. Did not work for me!
      Thanks Naomi!

  22. tomwsk

    I sometimes tire of happy endings. I don’t exactly know why, but it happens. On the other hand I catch myself tearing up a manipulative things like commercials or the endings of romantic comedies. I’m getting old.

  23. kath unsworth

    I love the right ending for that particular book, sometimes its sad and sometimes it needs to be hopeful. If the ending is wrong I get frustrated and imagine my own lol

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