I wrote a book with a hard ending.
Mooncalf is a work of historical fiction for middle grades. It is set in the mid-60’s, halfway between the assassination of President Kennedy and the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King. America was racing the Russians to the moon. Skirts were short; hair was long. Schools in Seminole county, Florida, were still segregated.
After reading Mooncalf, one reader told me, “I liked Olympia and Leah so much. I just wanted them to go off in the orange grove and start a babysitter’s club.”
Spoiler alert: That’s not how it ends.
Comments from readers have included:
“I was so angry.”
“I was crushed. You warned me, and I was still crushed.”
“It didn’t have to end that way.”
One young woman refused to read the book, having heard that it had a sad ending. She doesn’t do sad endings.
As an author, I sometimes wonder if I should have softened the blow, written a happier ending, given the readers a way to dream away the reality, but then I listened again to my readers. Tears. Anger. Shock.
I knew then that it was exactly as it should be.
In the world of my childhood, little girls of different colors did not go off and organize inter-racial glee clubs. We learned the hateful lessons our adults taught us and we cried.