The Sense of An Ending

Read this book.  It’s the best novel I’ve come across this year.  And it’s short, almost novella-short, only 161 pages.  I don’t want to say more than that —  trust me, you don’t want me to ruin it for you.

Instead, I leave you with this single passage, one of four I marked.

How often do we tell our own life story?  How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts?  And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life.  Told to others, but — mainly — to ourselves.

Read this book.  Finish this book.  And give it your full attention —-  every word, every musing, every scene, counts.  I skimmed the tiniest bit and I’m now going back to dig up what I missed.

30 thoughts on “The Sense of An Ending

  1. jpon

    That excerpt is so true. We are all creating a fictional life as we go, but unlike literary fiction, we’re trying to cover some truth instead of expose it.

    1. Teri

      Yes. I can’t even count the number of alarm bells that rang while I was reading. I finished last night and, before going to bed, had to start another book right away as a distraction. I was so heartbroken (for the story? for myself?) I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep.

  2. Lyra

    There is nothing like the feeling of devastation when a great book ends.
    I was worried for a moment that the title of your post was another swan song…I’m relieved it’s a book recommendation.

    1. Teri

      This was such a different kind of story. A parable. You’re reading along wondering ‘why is he telling me this?’ and then you finally know why, and you see how all the pieces fit.

      Now that I’ve gone back to the beginning and can see so clearly what it all means, I’m just, well, speechless.

  3. Averil Dean

    I’m so glad you loved this book as I did. I’ve read it again and again, each time marveling at how true and real and profound it was for me. The characters are beautifully drawn, but aren’t they sketches by a character unable to fully comprehend what he’s looking at? That’s what’s so heartbreaking about the story. Even at the end, he’s lost.

    That idea is actually what my book is about: how little we understand of each other, and ultimately of ourselves.

    1. Teri

      The last few pages had me holding my fist to my chest, trying not to gasp.

      And I can’t help but apply the lessons here to memoir writing, and how we recreate the past that suits us.

    2. Downith

      Oh God – I left a link and it turned into the image that ate your blog! Sorry.

      But while, I’m here, think I prefer the US cover…

  4. macdougalstreetbaby

    I can’t exactly put my finger on why I’m not in love with this book. For some reason it just hasn’t pulled me in. Yes, you’re right, there are these passages that ring completely true for me but I’m simply not vested. That being said, I know the ending is going to wrench my insides or at least I’m hoping it will.

      1. macdougalstreetbaby

        Okay. Finished it yesterday and am doing what you did. I’m going back to figure it all out. I’m surprised at how much I missed the first time around. I think I may have to simply reread it.

      2. Teri Post author

        Can’t wait to hear how your book club discussion goes. What a great story to discuss at a book club!

  5. Bobbi

    This book is something isn’t it? I was particularly drawn in as a psychiatrist, memory, self-perception, reflection etc. It’s an incredible work of art and an invaluable teaching tool for anyone who picks up a pen.

    1. Teri

      All of those things, Bobbi. It’s so distorted, our perceptions of ourselves, our pasts. Our questionable memories.

      In all this memoir writing, I spend much time staring at old photographs — at this point, I have no idea if the stories I’ve attached to them are true or if they’ve just been “the story” for so long, ingrained in that picture, that I have no idea what really happened.

    1. Teri

      You blame me. I blame Averil. I was about to put it down, or save it for later, then I read her review and decided to finish it.

      And the title … so many meanings in that title.

  6. erikamarks

    It’s so true–I may mentally TBR a book in passing but when it arrives on one of our blogs, it suddenly holds weight. We are all to blame and I’m okay with that!

    I love the idea of its length, Teri–that there’s so much packed into so (comparatively) little.

    1. Teri

      Welcome to the chatter, MSMB … I actually bought this book twice. First on the iPad, which I still (not matter how I try) can’t get used to reading on, and then in real, live, paper form.

      What a book. Like Annie Proulx’s novella, Brokeback Mountain, it reminds me that a story doesn’t have to be 800 pages long to be profound.

  7. CJ

    I admire the old fashioned telling of this novel as opposed to showing, the accretion of meaning built as much by what was never said and in fact might never be said, or even recognized as by the concrete objective facts revealed. The ironic truth seeking of an great unreliable narrator dancing around his life lies.

    1. Teri

      And here’s the deal. I’ve always been a fan of the unreliable narrator. People often talk about it like it’s the biggest of sins. I’m drawn to these narrators in both reading and writing.

      And this is the best description of the book without giving anything away. By far.

  8. CJ

    Sorry again for grammar and typos I just had eye surgery this morning, Next week I won’t have any excuse.

  9. Catherine

    Ah, the unreliable narrator, that’s also something I adore. This sounds like a beautiful work. Wish I weren’t so slow with my reading this year. Sometimes I feel like ditching writing and crossing over to the other side, completely.

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