When a book lingers with me long after I turn the final page, it’s usually because it surprised me, because the author used a unique story structure, or because the ending came full-circle and left me feeling completely content as a reader.
Especially right now—when so much still feels uncertain—I find myself extra appreciative when an author sticks the landing. I love when a book ends with a narrative reveal that ties everything together or a satisfying scene that wraps up the story and leaves me with a deeper theme to think about.
Of course, “satisfying” means something different to every reader. Some readers love open-ended questions that hover, others enjoy a cliffhanger that moves them into the next book in a series.
In today’s book list, we’re focusing on endings that offer closure, conflict resolution, and a connection to an early theme, scene, or moment in the beginning of the book.
You can find full-circle endings in almost any genre. In today’s list you’ll find a mix of literary and contemporary fiction, plus a surprising classic that recently made its way onto my TBR list.
900 pages is worth it for the incredible ending, readers. This is the story of two brothers born into a big, messy, complicated family. One is trying to keep his own life together as he attempts to watch over his schizophrenic twin. It's an emotional and challenging read, on many levels, but I thought it was so well done. The title is drawn from this passage: "I am not a smart man, particularly, but one day, at long last, I stumbled from the dark woods of my own, and my family's, and my country's past, holding in my hands these truths: that love grows from the rich loam of forgiveness; that mongrels make good dogs; that the evidence of God exists in the roundness of things. This much, at least, I've figured out. I know this much is true." More info →
Our February book selection for the Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club! Last year, I loved listening to Stradal's second novel, The Lager Queen of Minnesota, so I thought I'd enjoy his debut in this audio format, too, as narrated by Amy Ryan and Michael Stuhlbarg. Please, I beg you, don’t read the jacket copy! I enjoyed it more by not knowing very much going into it. Stradal’s novel-in-stories spans more than thirty years and takes us to half as many kitchens, introducing us to fancy chefs and Lutheran church ladies, portraying the food of a region and the unlikely threads that bind us, with a satisfying, full-circle ending. More info →
Arthur Less is facing his 50th birthday, his ex-boyfriend of nine year's wedding to another, and his publisher's rejection of his latest manuscript, all at the same time. He decides to hit the road—and on this trip, everything that can go wrong, does. Nonstop puns on the author's name, an arch sense of humor, and an interesting narrative structure keep this book filled with sad things from feeling downcast. When I got to the end I was strongly tempted to immediately begin again. Funny thing: I've noticed that readers tend to enjoy this more on audio than paper; I wonder if it's because Robert Petkoff's narration ensures readers get the tone right? More info →
I was a little skeptical when I first picked this up: I mean, a tell-all “documentary” about a fictional 1970s band? It took Taylor Jenkins Reid about three pages to win me over, with her fast-moving storyline and characters so convincing I had to google again to make sure the band wasn’t really real. The plot revolves around Billy Dunne, the tortured, talented lead singer for the Six, and Daisy Jones, the beautiful, soulful girl with a troubled past who catapults the Six to fame when she begins singing—and writing—their songs. Daisy and Billy’s chemistry is electric, and fans can’t get enough of it. We know from the beginning that the story is about why the band broke up, and the reasons are both expected and surprising, unfurled in an enthralling story of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll. More info →
My friend Laura Tremaine cited this as a recent favorite in WSIRN Episode 265: 10 questions to ask yourself about your reading life, and in doing so reminded me that I still need to read it! Makkai's prize-winning novel asks what it means to be family to one another, as the characters navigate heavy grief and loss within their tight knit communities. In 1985, Yale Tishman loves his job working in the fundraising department of a Chicago art gallery. But as his career takes off, the 1980s AIDS crisis wreaks havoc on his world, devastating his chosen family. Between chapters about Yale's life, we learn his friend Fiona's story, as she travels to Paris 30 years later in search of her estranged daughter. Readers say both timelines keep you glued to the page, and they come together in a brilliant way at the end of the book. More info →
This much-anticipated follow-up to King’s award-winning 2014 novel Euphoria follows Casey Peabody, who is mourning the sudden death of her mother plus a messy break-up in 1997 Massachusetts. Lost without direction, 31-year-old Casey waits tables to make ends meet while she works on her novel in a tiny, dingy rented room. While her friends have given up on their artistic ambitions in favor of stability and the next phase of life, Casey still harbors creative dreams and firmly grasps her youth. When she finds herself in the middle of a love triangle, it becomes all the more difficult to balance her art with "real life," and she just might reach her breaking point. This book was slow to hook me, but once I was in, I was IN. It has one of the most satisfying endings I've read in ages. I re-read this (on audio this time, narrated by Stacey Glemboski), and loved it so much, again. More info →
Acevedo dedicates this novel in verse to the memory of the lives lost on American Airlines flight 587, the passenger flight that crashed en route to Santo Domingo from JFK on November 12, 2001. Taking this historical event as her leaping off point, she tells the story of two teenage girls—one in New York, one in Santo Domingo—who are shocked to discover they are sisters in the aftermath of the crash, when the truth of their father’s double life was unceremoniously revealed. The girls tentatively bond as they explore the pain—and love—they share, leading up to a triumphant ending. More info →
The story begins with a shooting: it's 1969, in the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn; a beloved drunk deacon named Sportcoat wanders into the courtyard and shoots the drug dealer he'd once treated like a son point-blank, in front of everyone. After this jolting beginning, McBride zooms out to show the reader how this violent act came to take place, exploring the lives of the shooter and the victim, the victim's bumbling friends, the residents who witnessed it, the neighbors who heard about it, the cops assigned to investigate, the members of the church where Sportcoat was a deacon, the neighborhood's mobsters (and their families). All these people's lives overlap in ways that few understand in the beginning, and McBride's gentle teasing out of these unlikely but deeply meaningful connections—and the humor and warmth with which he does it—is what captured me. More info →
The Modern Library Torchbearers series celebrates "women who wrote on their own terms, with boldness, creativity, and a spirit of resistance." I never would have heard about Harlem Renaissance author Jessie Redmon Fauset if they hadn't brought her sweeping family saga back into print. The story follows three Black childhood friends into adulthood as they navigate love, marriage, careers, and the pressures and pitfalls of early 1900's society. Fauset has an Austen-like gift for social critique, and she writes a surprising full-circle ending that leaves readers with much to think about. More info →
Readers, this book is weird. But if you love novels told in interconnected short stories, unique prose, and 80's nostalgia, it might work for you. Because it's written in first person plural, the narration takes some getting used to. (Barry explains her narration choice in this interview). The novel follows the 1989 Danvers field hockey team as the girls perform a witchy ritual in order to guarantee a winning season for their senior year. While they win on the field, the players experience the trials of nearing adulthood, like exploring their identities, dealing with family drama, and combatting rumors at school. Though the characters are teenagers, this not a YA novel. The ending comes as a delightful surprise and strikes an empowering tone. If you read The Crucible in high school, you'll notice tons of fun references to the play as you read. More info →
Have you read any books with supremely satisfying endings lately? Tell us in the comments!