The British get Tom Jones and Dickens and Shakespeare's comedies, but what do we Americans get? Death and sadness, that's what -- at least in literature. 

Are there American novels with happy endings? This is what my daughter needed to know, since her high school English teacher is letting her choose her own author to research. Like many sensible people, my daughter understands that life is hard, that ambiguity abounds in our time, and that believable, compelling stories aren't going to end up with a rainbow and a unicorn and a tidy bow; however, like many sensible people, she was pretty tired of reading dystopian holocaust suicide apocalypse eating disorder stories, too.

So I asked the internet for help, and I thought you might like to hear what the internet suggested. The stipulation was that it had to be an American author whose work has some real literary merit (i.e., you can imagine someone writing literary criticism about it), and it shouldn't make you want to jump out a window when you get to the last page.

Here's our list (most with specific titles, a few with just author suggestions) in no particular order. Many of these books have endings which are at least hopeful, if not downright happy. I haven't read all of them by a long shot, so if my internet friends steer you wrong, you'll have to take it up with them! 

  1. Owen Wister: The Virginian 
  2. Gene Wolfe:  Book of the New Sun
  3. Irene Hunt:  Up A Road Slowly  
  4. Rex Stout:  Nero Wolfe mysteries
  5. Jan Karon: Come Rain Or Come Shine
  6. Elizabeth Peters
  7. Lois McMaster Bujold: the Vorkosigan Saga
  8. Orson Scott Card: Enchantment
  9. Michael Malone: Handling Sin 
  10. Charles Frazier: Cold Mountain
  11. Dean Koontz
  12. Mary Higgins Clark
  13. Wendell Berry: Hannah Coulter
  14. Leif Enger: Peace Like a River 
  15. Zora Neale Hurston: Their Eyes Were Watching God  
  16. Barbara Kingsolver: The Bean Trees; Pigs in Heaven
  17. Gwen Bristow: Jubilee Trail
  18. Mark Dunn: Ella Minnow Pea
  19. Ray Bradbury: The Martian Chronicles; Dandelion Wine; Something Wicked This Way Comes
  20. Robert Heinlein : The Door Into Summer 
  21. Fannie Flagg:  The All-Girl's Filling Station Last Reunion; Welcome to the World Baby Girl
  22. Dorothy Parker
  23. Hannah Coulter 
  24. Mark Helprin: Soldier of the Great War
  25. Earnest Gaines: A Gathering of Old Men
  26. Olive Ann Burns: Cold Sassy Tree
  27. Sue Monk Kidd: The Secret Life of Bees
  28. Tim Powers: The Stress of Her Regard; Declare
  29. Ann Patchett:  Bel Canto 
  30. James A. Michener: Centennial
  31. Gene Stratton-Porter: A Girl Of The Limberlost 
  32. William Barrett:  Lillies of the Field
  33. Jack London: White Fang; Call of the Wild
  34. Chaim Potok: The Chosen
  35. Willa Cather: Death Comes for the Archbishop; Shadows on the Rock; My Antonia; O Pioneers!
  36. O. Henry: short stories
  37. Eudora Welty: Delta Wedding and short stories
  38. Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird
  39. Mark Twain
  40. Elizabeth Moon: The Deed of Paksennarion
  41. D.F. Powers: Morte D'Urban
  42. Shirley Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle
  43. Betty Smith: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  44. John Irving: A Prayer for Owen Meany
  45. Suzie Andres:  The Paradise Project
  46. Sharan Newman: Death Comes as Epiphany
  47. John Grisham: A Painted House
  48. Ann Tyler: Searching for Caleb
  49. Charles Portis: True Grit
  50. Erin Morgenstern: The Night Circus

What would you add?