Dave Weich of Powells.com interviewed Joshua Ferris about his debut novel, Then We Came to the End. Much of the interview seems to depend on some familiarity with the novel (which is geting rave reviews), but this interesting bit doesn't:
Endings can be tough, but you pull it off. There's a sweetness to the way Then We Came to the End closes, without it becoming maudlin or even what you could call happy. Characters drift out of the scene one by one. That felt realistic.Read the entire interview.
In your own reading experience, what endings come to mind as the most successful?
Ferris: The best ending to any book, in my opinion, is Lolita. After having killed Quilty, Humbert is driving on the other side of the road, having completely eschewed all law, moral, traffic, whatever it may be. And I think he's standing on a hill when he overhears the choir of children's voices.
He says that the real tragedy of the story was not his loss of Lolita but the loss of Lolita's voice from that choir. It's a completely stunning, flattening moment in which the morality of the book, a book that for a long time was accused of great immorality, shines through in absolute terms.
I'm also a big fan of the recent book by John Haskell, American Purgatorio. I think it ends wonderfully, in a mystical and touching way. I was particularly impressed by that too.
(Note: the passage to which Ferris refers is: "...and then I knew that the hopelessly poignant thing was not Lolita's absence from my side, but the absence of her voice from that concord."