Wednesday, April 15, 2015

In Defense of Sad Endings

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 cried.”

“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. 
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