Lamb Chops for Dinner: What happens when the Fairy Tale ends badly?

lambchopI write books with happy endings because I like fairy tales.  I don’t want to go all ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ on you, but in a nutshell, I hate sad endings, which leave me feeling deprived.  It also keeps me out of a lot of book clubs where people sit around and talk about the meaning underneath the meaning.

I read or listen to, over seventy books/audiobooks a year.  In the last week, I’ve read the biography of the Hilton Family (trash), the latest Stewart Woods title, Carnal Curiosity, a tale of sleazy Stone Barrington (typical, but satisfying), and a highly critically acclaimed book by an author I’ll never read again, which I’ll call:  Book Sad.

Here is why I’ll never read anything by the Book Sad’s author EVER again:  It had a tragically sad ending that made no sense.

I have a stressful job; elements of my personal life can be challenging, but rewarding.  I read or listen to books to escape.  I invested twelve hours into Book Sad.  It shattered a hero and heroine’s love for each other with a selfish conquest on the part of the hero, who was married to ‘the most beautiful woman in the world’.  Then the author killed the hero and their child off hours before a much anticipated reconciliation with the heroine.  Suicide was hinted at, but never explained.  The author got really detailed in two areas:  1. The cheating hero, who acts like pig-dog in sex scenes.  2.  The child’s death after the plane crash.  ‘Little Johnny had been decapitated, his body found floating in the water’.

As for the ending of Book Sad, the author didn’t tell it to you straight like I just did.  He had a happy ending with a reunited family, taking you through the remaining years of their lives, including the hero and heroine’s growing love for each other and forgiveness.  Johnny’s adulthood, marriage and children, etc. were described in detail, only to then have the narrator declare:  ‘But that ISN’T what really happened.  Here is what really happened…’

I am disappointed and angry.  My fairy tale ending was thwarted.  It evoked the wrong emotion in me.  My time felt wasted.  As a ‘wanna be’ author, I never want a reader to feel this way.  I don’t want to hurt their feelings after they’ve gifted my book with their attention.

In addition to sad endings, which make no sense, I really loathe ‘message’ books.  (Ie:  the reason I’m not a popular member of any book club.)

For example:  Usually, but not always, anything endorsed by Oprah.  I’ve read three of Oprah’s picks.   In one of her picks, a woman is tortured in every way possible, rape, ridicule, abuse…She loses everyone she’s ever loved in tragic ways and ends up killing herself on the last page.  When I finished that book, I threw it across the room.  Then I picked it up and tossed it in the trash.

Example number two:  Anything by Nicolas Sparks.  However, I read a bunch of them after my divorce because they made me cry when the ending crashed into me, reinforcing that happiness and love are fleeting.  (Specifically memorable:  Nights in Rodanthe and The Guardian.)

Example number three:  Stories like The Bridges of Madison County.  The chick chose a farmer over a younger Clint Eastwood.  And after the farmer dies, she never looks Clint up.  I didn’t take her for completely stupid.

Example number four:   Danielle Steel’s Lone Eagle.  The hero has been dead since page one.  The whole damn book was a flashback as the heroine is waiting for news of the hero’s missing plane.  Yep, he’s dead.

And so, my friends, despite the taboo against reading the last page first of any novel, I do it all the time.  I avoid a lot of lamb chops this way.


Posted on May 12, 2014, in General and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Ain’t it the truth? Good post


  2. I read romance to feel hopeful and to enjoy good people being rewarded for the hardship they had to go through to be together. I expect a HEA in my romance. I’m okay with other fiction not having a HEA, but the ending has to make sense and I have to get closure somehow. There has to be some satisfaction at the end.

    If the ending gives me a “well I just wasted 12 hours and life sucks” kind of feeling, I do what you do, Mary. Throw the book across the room and then into the trash. (Unless it’s on my tablet. Or it’s a library book. Then I do the angry dance instead.)


  3. I’m with you, Mary — I avoid lamb chops at all costs. This extends to what I watch on TV too (not that I do much of that). CH got obsessed by Breaking Bad, but I refused to watch because I could tell it would not end well. That’s my yardstick for reading and/or watching: Can this possibly end well? That’s one of the reasons I’m a romance fan!


  4. I read for fun, uplifting, to learn, to feel a sense of justice in the world, etc. I rarely read literary fiction for that reason – too often it is said, tragic, or carries a negative theme, etc. I have loved a couple of literary books that my mother or sister recommended: The Secret Life of Bees (happy ending), The Lovely Bones (satisfying, hopeful ending), and Winter Ghosts (masterfully and lyrically written story of a dark time with a satisfying and hopeful ending. These books have reinforced my belief that literary fiction doesn’t have to be a downer.

    When in doubt, I read last pages before buying, too.


    • I read The Lovely Bones and had the same feeling. I went into it knowing what to expect. Still a hard read! Try Cold Comfort Farm. It was a great read!


  5. Okay, normally I would not approve of reading the last page first, but when you list the reasons why, I can understand. I’m afraid I too have been burned too many times by lit-fic to ever read another one that hasn’t been vetted by my romance-reading friends. I don’t need a true HEA every single time but I want at the very minimum HOPE — which stands for Has (at least) One Positive Experience.


    • Yeah, I know it is wimpy to read the last page, but now when in doubt ensure HEA!!! I can live with HOPE over HEA, but it won’t be easy!!!


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