Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Happy Endings and Personal Taste

Interestingly, they were talking about happy endings over at Wyrdsmiths yesterday. I was thinking of this on Sunday, because I had a chance to finish a book I checked out from the library called THE MAP OF MOMENTS by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon (Bantam, February 2009), which I rather enjoyed.

The story follows a history professor, Max, who returns to New Orleans for the funeral of an old lover, Gabrielle, who died in Hurricane Katrina. Gabrielle betrayed him with another man and Max left her and the city behind after that fateful day that he stumbled in on her and her new beau. Very quickly we learn that all in not what it seemed with Gabrielle. She was part of something dark and strange that’s tied to the very history of the city. In a drunken romantic impulse, Max allows himself to believe in a magic potion that a conjure-man, Ray, gives him along with a mystical “map of moments.” (Which is one of the coolest bits in the book).

As I mention, the setting for the novel is New Orleans six months after hurricane Katrina. I have no idea how accurate the descriptions are, but they’re certainly fascinating and heart-wrenching. Some parts of the world-building/magic system were also compellingly interesting – the map, a swamp demon, etc. Although I’d be curious what my friend Harry, a native of New Orleans, would say about it all, honestly. But, not knowing any better, I found both the setting and the world-building carried the story when the narrative stumbled.

Which it didn’t do often, although I’m not sure how I felt about the ending. I always tell my students at the Loft that for a story to feel complete, the hero/ine has to change. Max certainly does that over the course of the book. But, quite intentionally, the book ends in the same place as it began... and, well, it’s sort of depressing. My friend Eleanor says she won’t write a novel or a story that doesn’t end happily, because too much of life ends in complicated unhappiness. It’s this later place that MAP OF MOMENTS leaves the reader in the final chapter. I suppose it’s a rather grown-up place that should be satisfying in a complex and dark world, but, well, I was left wishing things had gone differently. I can’t say that’s a flaw, however. It’s a matter of taste.

In the end, I decided I was satisfied, even if I didn’t like the conclusion. So I give it a thumbs up.

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