Looking for a good ending
May 11, 2011 3:40 AM   Subscribe

Looking for books with good ENDINGS. In finishing a book there are a lot of times where you are left thinking "wow, that was great... except that last 20 pages. Arrrgh." What books would you recommend with GOOD endings? I emphatically do not mean happy endings; some of the most pleasurable endings in my memory are ambiguous, or even clearly unhappy ("the bad guy wins").

I read broadly across genres, though more heavily in crime, mystery, science fiction (but not much straight-up fantasy), and interesting-life-situation-or-place books, and almost nothing in love stories or war novels. Some favored authors include Neil Gaiman, Kazuo Ishiguro, Jasper Fforde, Ian Rankin, Margaret Atwood, Natsuo Kirino, Andrea Camilleri, Xiu Qiaolong. It's not high-brow, critic-approved literature; I read for fun.

Last, though other readers will appreciate your esoteric suggestions, alas I have to get mine from the public library. In a non-English-speaking country. So anything too extra-ordinary I probably don't have access to.
posted by whatzit to Media & Arts (80 answers total) 126 users marked this as a favorite
The ending (particularly the last 5–10 pages) of One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, has always stuck me as particularly haunting and beautiful. And I've always liked the resolution of The Blind Assassin (though you already mentioned Margaret Atwood in your question.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:09 AM on May 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

The first author that sprang to mind was Sarah Waters - particularly The Night Watch and The Little Stranger. The latter particularly has a spooky ending that gets spookier the more you think about it...

She's fairly well-known outside the UK but how likely it is that you'll find her books in a public library elsewhere, I don't know.
posted by altolinguistic at 4:14 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

The ending of Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith is both mindbending and uplifting. Fantastic book, funny, weird and touching. If you like Douglas Adams / Neil Gaiman it'd be up your alley.
posted by chmmr at 4:17 AM on May 11, 2011

The Killer Inside Me, Jim Thompson
The Glass Key, Dashiell Hammett

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck has one of the most shocking endings I've ever read.
posted by meadowlark lime at 4:25 AM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Wesley Stace's Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer. I actually found the beginning a bit slow but the end more than makes up for it.
posted by mlle valentine at 4:33 AM on May 11, 2011

Everything by David Mitchell, particularly Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. (I rather think he comes up with amazing endings and then reverse engineers the rest.)

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov. In a weirdly related vein, Ian McEwan's Atonement.

Happy reading!
posted by davidjmcgee at 4:37 AM on May 11, 2011 [6 favorites]

Atonement by Ian McEwan has a unique ending.

Cloud Atlas is awesome because with its nested structure the entire second half is the "ending". I can't say that I remember the last page, but I think you'll be very intrigued/satisfied by how the book resolves itself.

The endings of each of the three books in the Hunger Games trilogy, a YA dystopian series with a LOT of adult fans, are pretty great, although it's more famous for its absolutely heart-stopping WTF chapter endings.
posted by acidic at 4:41 AM on May 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

Crime and Punishment (it's a crime novel! and it's short for a Russian classic!). I'm still all aggravated at Dostoyevsky about it because the ending is such that you can read the main character as having reformed, or as having learned NOTHING AT ALL. And he makes it gloriously ambiguous. And I'm still kinda grousing about wanting a solid answer some 16 years after I first read it. :)

I often super-enjoy Diana Wynn Jones's endings, especially of her stand-alone novels. Some of it is more straightforward and you know where it's going, more or less, though it's still a satisfying ending. But The Homeward Bounders and Hexwood in particular amazed me at how they managed to wrap up complicated plot threads into a satisfying ending.

Straight up children's picture book, but Black and White.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:43 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

The endings of Iain Bank's The Wasp Factory and Use Of Weapons made me want to re-read the novels immediately
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:51 AM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

The Ghost by Robert Harris.
posted by rhymer at 4:57 AM on May 11, 2011

The end of The Crimson Petal and the White caught me totally off guard, in a way that's stuck with me since (in a good way).
posted by oinopaponton at 5:00 AM on May 11, 2011

And the ending of Iain Banks' Espedair Street has my favourite 'single image' ending. The ending of his The Bridge is good too.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:04 AM on May 11, 2011

I liked the strange but compelling ending of Thomas Harris's Red Dragon.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 5:09 AM on May 11, 2011

Thirding the Iain (M) Banks recs. I think if you like Neil Gaiman then you're likely to like him. In addition to the others mentioned, Excession keeps going strongly right up to the end and Consider Phlebas is another one where the makes you want to reread the whole book.
posted by *becca* at 5:12 AM on May 11, 2011

Agreed on the ending of Cloud Atlas. I also wanted to toss out Vacation by Deb Olin Unferth.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:21 AM on May 11, 2011

McTeague, by Frank Norris
posted by dirtdirt at 5:26 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

The ending of The Road by Cormac McCarthy was one of my favourites. It was somewhat ambiguous. Heart-wrenching and sad on one level, but hopeful on another.
posted by fso at 5:26 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Since you mention reading science fiction, I have to say that the ending of Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos (Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, Rise of Endymion) was the most poignant endings I've read. Great books. Highly recommended.
posted by Osrinith at 5:34 AM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Straight up fantasy, but the ending of A Wizard of Earthsea elevates the entire book from just a good fantasy read into something much more.
posted by zachawry at 5:44 AM on May 11, 2011

I also came on to recommend Sarah Waters, particularly Affinity. And I will nth Atonement by Ian McEwan unless you already know how it ends. Also:

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie (crime & mystyery!)
The James Boys by Richard Liebmann-Smith (the ending is very ... Jamesian)
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco

And now with all the recs for Jacob de Zoet, I'm so excited to be almost finished....
posted by motsque at 5:46 AM on May 11, 2011

John Fowles' The Collector
posted by Meatbomb at 6:01 AM on May 11, 2011

Some people hated it, but I liked the ending to Greg Egan's Incandescence. The whole book is a puzzle that requires a non-trivial level of physics knowledge to really understand, but even without that I loved the way the ending forces you to really think about what was happening in the rest of the book to try to work out what was going on.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:06 AM on May 11, 2011

My Antonia by Willa Cather is one of those books that is satisfying and truthful the whole time. The end is perfect - not because it's what you want to happen, but because in real life, that *is* what would happen.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:11 AM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler has a really compelling ending I don't know how to describe it really without giving stuff away but for me it really made the book.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 6:16 AM on May 11, 2011

J.L. Carr's A Month in the Country - the ending is poignant, true-to-life, and beautifully written.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:37 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Engineer Trilogy (Devices and Desires, Evil for Evil, The Escapement) by KJ Parker got bogged down in the middle a bit, I thought, but the ending was very satisfying.
posted by gaspode at 6:38 AM on May 11, 2011

Have you read Ed McBain? He's a crime writer and I find the endings to be generally very satisfying. The mystery is rarely too easy or too difficult to solve; it's just about right.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:40 AM on May 11, 2011

I read Gateway by Frederick Pohl years ago, and still think specifically about the ending.
posted by media_itoku at 6:53 AM on May 11, 2011

Ben Okri--The Famished Road

J.K. Rowling--Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Orson Scott Card--Ender's Game

Arthur C. Clarke--Childhood's End

Dorothy L. Sayers--Gaudy Night
posted by Amy NM at 6:55 AM on May 11, 2011

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ends beautifully.
posted by embrangled at 6:57 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

2nding The Atonement. I thought the tone in a lot of the book was pretty annoying, actually, but the superb ending both explained the earlier tone and made the whole experience totally worthwhile.
posted by Aizkolari at 7:03 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Engine Summer by John Crowley. Lovely short SF novel and very poignant ending.
posted by crocomancer at 7:04 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I forgot to add Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, again only if you don't already know the plot from the movie or trailers.
posted by motsque at 7:09 AM on May 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Steinbeck is GREAT at this. The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden both make you feel like the hourglass is running out of sand faster than you can count the seconds, right at a time when you expected to be gently lulled. Phenomenal.
posted by hermitosis at 7:10 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

David Lodge's academic farce Changing Places has one of the cleverest and most memorable endings I've run across. Whether it's good or bad depends on your taste.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:12 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also if you haven't read Ender's Game, the last chapter really changes your interpretation of all the events that preceded it. A much more emotional read than anything you'd expect from Sci-Fi.
posted by hermitosis at 7:12 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I know everyone's going to hate me for it, but I thought the ending to Stephen King's Dark Tower series was perfect. It made me very happy.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:20 AM on May 11, 2011

John Grisham's The Testament has both one of the best beginnings and most satisfying endings of any book I've read. (And it's not a "courtroom" book.)

I agree with the above recommendation of The Road. Especially if you are a parent. It's a dark tale, but a wonderful representation of the emotions you deal with as a parent, and has wonderful, poetic imagery about a parent's love and protection of his son ("Soon all the trees in the world will fall. But not on us.")

David Baldacci's novels are fun, fast-paced (usually) and tend to have satisfying conclusions. The Winner, Total Control, and Saving Faith are good to start with. His more recent books are good as well, but are part of an ongoing series with the same central character, so the endings often leave something for the next book.

In non-fiction, I really liked Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. (The latest editions have updated information.) Although the story leaves you with a lot of reasons to ask "why," it's well-written and the ending ties things up as well as they can be. More than any other non-fiction book, it left me with the feeling that I had made, and lost, a new friend. By the same author, Into Thin Air is a harrowing tale of survival (and death) on Everest, as experienced by the author. Again, get the latest printing.
posted by The Deej at 7:25 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is an interesting questions; I'm adding several of the above to my TBR list. I can think of two off the top of my head; these are very different books, but they each had endings that were kind of sad (this is not a spoiler!) but very satisfying.

The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.
posted by maryrussell at 7:33 AM on May 11, 2011

Ron Currie's Everything Matters! is a curious novel with a powerful ending. I dare not say more as I don't want to spoil it for anyone.
posted by peacecorn at 7:40 AM on May 11, 2011

Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris
posted by togdon at 7:42 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

The ending of Catch-22 is frickin amazing.
posted by bookgirl18 at 7:51 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sophie's Choice.

Do not read any reviews, or watch the film first. There is a reason this novel won the National Book Award, and is considered by many to be one of the great novels of the century. This is also one of the very few novels that was done justice by the film treatment. Meryl Streep was never better, and that is saying a lot.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:58 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

More: The ending to John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany makes the whole book make sense and ties all of the narrative threads up in a completely heartwrenching way (without spoiling too much). It is one of my favorite endings to anything, ever.
posted by bookgirl18 at 7:59 AM on May 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

Agree whole-heartedly about Owen Meany. Unforgettable.
posted by gnutron at 8:02 AM on May 11, 2011

Best answer: The wonderful alternate-history / fantasy novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell has perhaps the most fantastic ending in the entire fantasy oeuvre.
posted by Rinku at 8:13 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just finished Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides, and couldn't put it down simply because I wanted to see how it would all end. Which is a rarity for me - I'm more of a beginning-lover and often have trouble finishing novels simply because I've had my fill and don't typically care about the ending.
posted by Sara C. at 8:18 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you’re looking for amazingly well written and memorable endings that wrap up a story perfectly, it just doesn’t get better than David Mitchell. I agree with davidjmcgee that it seems as though Mitchell comes up with this one perfect closing line and then says to himself “damn that’s good, I should write a book around this”. I have used the closing lines from Cloud Atlas in a number of presentations/talks around human services and it gets the audience every time. The ending to Jacob de Zoet could not be more perfectly constructed. Just the right amount of sentimentality which is, I think, a very hard thing for an author to do.

If you want “oh my God I have to read the next book RIGHT NOW” type endings the George R.R. Martin books are good for that. The ending of The Game of Thrones in particular is very striking. I find Gordon Dalhquist’s books to have that impact as well. The only trouble with those two is that series are yet to be finished so the endings are very gripping, but then leave one feeling “I want to know what happens!”. I suppose that feeling is better than not being able to remember the ending to a finished story.
posted by Palmcorder Yajna at 8:28 AM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh, god, the ending to Atonement. Ow.

Seconding A Prayer for Owen Meany.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest is pretty much one long ending to the trilogy (really, to the second book -- Dragon Tattoo stands more on its own). Definitely satisfying; I don't think it's a spoiler to say that everyone REALLY gets what he/she deserves.
posted by Madamina at 8:31 AM on May 11, 2011

"Spartina" by John Casey. And I agree about "Pale Fire" and "Atonement."
posted by fivesavagepalms at 8:57 AM on May 11, 2011

The Wreck of The River of Stars by Michael Flynn is the tale of a once-glamorous magsail luxury liner reduced to tramp freighter out in the backwaters of Jupiter, and her disastrously misfit crew. The title is the big spoiler, but the way the crew (mis)handles the crisis is the heart of the story. The ending is inevitable, plausible given the setup, yet still offers a few moments of honor and redemption.

A couple of historical fiction novels that I plug repeatedly:

The Far Pavilions by M M Kaye is an epic set in India under the British Raj. Exotic, colorful, romantic, violent, the ending is neither a bang nor a whimper, but an oddly satisfying wistful sigh.

The Sword and the Scimitar by David Ball is another epic, this one set in the Mediterranean before and during the Siege of Malta. (Note: also pulbished under the title Ironfire.) The ending is a quick wrap-up that neatly ties up the threads of the story. Any more would be a spoiler!
posted by Quietgal at 9:08 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

You've probably already read A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge, which has the perfect sci-fi ending, but I'm obligated to mention it.

I loved the ending of The Star Fraction by Ken MacLeod. I don't know that it resolves the plot, exactly, but I don't know that any ending could. (And I want to put in a good word for The Stone Canal and The Sky Road -- they don't necessarily have great endings, but they have great last sentences.)

Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany.

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño.

For fantasy, Guy Gavriel Kay does endings well -- usually a highly satisfying climax, followed by a denouement set months or years later which is satisfying in a more mellow way.
posted by twirlip at 9:38 AM on May 11, 2011

I really enjoyed the ending of "An Instance of the Fingerpost".
posted by procrastination at 9:41 AM on May 11, 2011

Oh, and I also liked the ending of Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut.
posted by motsque at 9:43 AM on May 11, 2011

The Third Policeman and At Swim-Two-Birds, both by Flann O'Brien.
posted by scruss at 10:10 AM on May 11, 2011

Although some people disagree, I found the ending of Tana French's first book, In the Woods, excellent; her second book is a bit weaker because it hinges on a weird premise, her third is also excellent.

I second the recommendation for Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I will note that it took me a third of the way through the book to get really into it -- I enjoyed the first third, but wasn't completely compelled, though by the last third I had trouble putting it down. I whateverth the recommendation for Cloud Atlas.
posted by jeather at 10:18 AM on May 11, 2011

Another vote for Atonement!
posted by scody at 10:45 AM on May 11, 2011

Guy Burt's The Hole. That book just did me in emotionally.

You MUST read the epilogue, though. And that's all I'll say.
posted by misha at 11:12 AM on May 11, 2011

Agree with Sara C. on Middlesex.

Also We Need To Talk About Kevin is great start-to-finish.
posted by radioamy at 11:38 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Read 'Das Boot' -- Great book, with sympathetic and heroic comrades on a German U-Boat. The whole book had me conflicted, since -- heck, they were U-Boat sailors -- but the ending does have a satisfying (if not pleasant) ending. It draws wonderful portraits of German sailors who were at war for their country, not an ideology, and how rotten it must have been to live at sea and at war back then. I'm glad that the Allies won the war, but it certainly shows the hardships that any people at war face. Peter Weir made a famously great film of the book.
posted by GriffX at 11:40 AM on May 11, 2011

Tom Robbins, especially Jitterbug Perfume and Skinny Legs and All. Both have very satisfying endings. He tends to throw a lot of ridiculous stuff at you, and then wrap it up in a beautiful, if not wholly unexpected, way.

Nthing A Prayer for Owen Meany and Ender's Game, both books I wish I could read again for the first time.
posted by kostia at 12:06 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I know everyone's going to hate me for it, but I thought the ending to Stephen King's Dark Tower series was perfect. It made me very happy.

Dude, I hate you for saying that. But there was no other way to end the book. We should have known all along it would happen and still we finish the book with a lingering sense of pure rage and impotence.

These are wondeful suggestions that have brought back some great memories (East of Eden, Middlesex, The Girl Who... and more), and I love seeing seconds and thirds on some of these books, and recommended titles of authors I am familiar with and ones that are completely new. This will keep me busy for a long time. For now I am best-answering ones I personally think of as great endings - for future readers of the thread - and hope to tick off a few more as I get to the library.
posted by whatzit at 12:23 PM on May 11, 2011

Something Happened by Joseph Heller. Spoiler: the thing that happened is at the end of the book.
posted by Quonab at 12:36 PM on May 11, 2011

Best answer: Came in to suggest David Mitchell (especially Thousand Autumns), but more or less everyone on the planet beat me to it. I'd like to add, though, that Haruki Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World ends fantastically, and if you try Thousand Autumns or Cloud Atlas and like them, you'll probably like that, too.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:41 PM on May 11, 2011

McTeague, by Frank Norris, as somebody mentioned above, belongs on the list. Maybe at the top. It is an extremely METAL ending.

'Stoner' by John Williams also had a crushing metal ending. Astoundingly beautiful and sad book.

The last paragraph or so of 'Independent People' by Halldor Laxness is a stunner, not wholly unrelated in effect to the Steinbeck endings mentioned above. (A much funnier book, as well.)

One of my personal favorites is the attempted tranvestite assassination of a Catholic dignitary from a rowboat off shore that is the climax of Denis Johnson's 'The Resuscitation of a Hanged Man,' which is summed up in fine sarcastic fashion by a lovely and childish tongue twister that also happens to be a simple and functional description of the last event in the sequence.

And one for non-fiction: John McPhee's 'Encounters With the Archdruid,' about conservationist David Brower. Its ending is so poetically lock-tight that it rivals all of the above fictional ones, and maybe wins in the end for having actually happened.
posted by TheRedArmy at 1:00 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

In my opinion, Jim Butcher is the king of writing good endings. Both "The Codex Alera" and "The Dresden Files" series have great chapter endings and book endings.
posted by tacodave at 1:12 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is pretty amazing as a whole, ending included. I'm talking about about the original book with the last chapter that Burgess included but got cut out of the movie version.

This one:

posted by AngryLlama at 1:54 PM on May 11, 2011

Thread made me remember that a young adult novel, The Cheese Stands Alone by Robert Cormier, may have actually had the least-expected conclusion to any novel I've read. Haunting, even a little sick.
posted by meadowlark lime at 2:19 PM on May 11, 2011

Also, I was going to recommend staying away from Jodi Picoult books, but maybe they're the kind of thing you'd like after all. They just always seem to have some sort of twist at the end that upsets the "okay, everything's probably going to work itself out" resolution.
posted by Madamina at 3:30 PM on May 11, 2011

Watership Down. The epilogue gets me every time.
posted by houndsoflove at 3:57 PM on May 11, 2011

Sophie's Choice. Great question, thanks for posting.
posted by theora55 at 4:53 PM on May 11, 2011

I'll reiterate: first poster Johnny Assay wins a prize for suggesting One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, for the ultimate smack-in-the-forehead conclusion.

Also: take care to avoid spoilers for The Cloud Atlas, and if you meet anyone who violates this rule, kill them.

My brother once said: "If an author just throws a bunch of characters together in a room to see what happens, then you often get a lame ending."

(epilogue: the epilogue of Watership Down is swell. & Sophie's Choice, too).

posted by ovvl at 7:19 PM on May 11, 2011

Ethan Frome comes to mind.

And re: Guy Gavriel Kay. The ending of The Lions of Al-Rassan was sublime.
posted by 6550 at 9:17 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Damn, you can't tip a buick beat me to it: Hard Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World has a fantastic ending. There's not really much to do besides put the book down, stare at the wall for a little while, try to reconcile the small hole that's appeared in the center of your heart, and then accept that it's just a new feature of your life, and try to move on. Amazing book.

Also by Murakami, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. Fantastic book. Others by him worth checking out: Norwegian Wood (try feeling happy about anything after you finish); South of the Border, West of the Sun; and (although it's not my favorite) Kafka on the Shore. Good stuff, strong, difficult endings.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:40 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Rushdie's The Satanic Verses has a brilliant ending. I wish I could describe it to you.
posted by speicus at 9:56 PM on May 11, 2011

Ack, don't read that wikipedia plot summary, it spoils everything in the most boring way possible.
posted by speicus at 9:58 PM on May 11, 2011

These don't fit your preferred genres, but Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes" and Betty Smith's "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" are the two books that have the most satisfying endings for me. They're in my rotating list of books I regularly reread, and the endings don't lose anything even in their familiarity.

Also, the books are well-known enough and popular enough that they'll likely be in your non-english-speaking public library.

I hope their respective movies haven't ruined them for you, because the books are far superior.
posted by amyms at 11:38 PM on May 11, 2011

'The Cage' by SM Stirling and Shirley Meier. A well-written awesome ending, and it's 'good'. It made me giggle, anyway.
posted by Heretical at 11:53 PM on May 11, 2011

Ken Kesey, famous for writing One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, wrote a novel called Sometimes a Great Notion. I think it is far superior to Cuckoo's Nest, and in my mind, it is in the running for the ever-sought-after Great American Novel.

John Barth's The End of the Road.

Martin Amis's Time's Arrow.

Seconding Then We Came to the End, The Grapes of Wrath, Ender's Game, Atonement, Never Let Me Go.

(Unless you've seen the movies made of some of these films, in which case, forget it.)

I also strongly recommend Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day (again, unless you've seen the movie). I started sobbing about fifteen pages from the end, due to a single line, and couldn't stop. It's one of only three books that has ever caused me to cry aloud, not just feel sad.

I always recommend Maribou Stork Nightmares in book threads, and the end is a punch in the gut. Warning: it is a hard book to read. Not hard like you can't understand it, but hard on you mentally and emotionally.

And, of course, Anna Karenina--one of the all-time famous endings, because of the author's statement about it.

(Okay, here comes the contentious one. Readers are split right down the middle on whether it's a great ending or an atrocious ending. Me, I fall on the "great ending" side. Thomas Harris' Hannibal. But only if you've read Silence of the Lambs first; and only if you haven't seen the movie Hannibal.)
posted by tzikeh at 1:14 AM on May 12, 2011

True story: I had been dating my ex for a week when he told his mother that I had just finished the last time they met by Anita Shreve. She had just finished it and she insisted on talking to me on the phone (over his objections) just so we could discuss the ending because it blew her mind that much. Also the pilot's wife. Almost as good an ending.
posted by bananafish at 12:03 AM on May 14, 2011

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