Can American Writers Write Happy Endings?
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!
- Owen Wister: The Virginian
- Gene Wolfe: Book of the New Sun
- Irene Hunt: Up A Road Slowly
- Rex Stout: Nero Wolfe mysteries
- Jan Karon: Come Rain Or Come Shine
- Elizabeth Peters
- Lois McMaster Bujold: the Vorkosigan Saga
- Orson Scott Card: Enchantment
- Michael Malone: Handling Sin
- Charles Frazier: Cold Mountain
- Dean Koontz
- Mary Higgins Clark
- Wendell Berry: Hannah Coulter
- Leif Enger: Peace Like a River
- Zora Neale Hurston: Their Eyes Were Watching God
- Barbara Kingsolver: The Bean Trees; Pigs in Heaven
- Gwen Bristow: Jubilee Trail
- Mark Dunn: Ella Minnow Pea
- Ray Bradbury: The Martian Chronicles; Dandelion Wine; Something Wicked This Way Comes
- Robert Heinlein : The Door Into Summer
- Fannie Flagg: The All-Girl's Filling Station Last Reunion; Welcome to the World Baby Girl
- Dorothy Parker
- Hannah Coulter
- Mark Helprin: Soldier of the Great War
- Earnest Gaines: A Gathering of Old Men
- Olive Ann Burns: Cold Sassy Tree
- Sue Monk Kidd: The Secret Life of Bees
- Tim Powers: The Stress of Her Regard; Declare
- Ann Patchett: Bel Canto
- James A. Michener: Centennial
- Gene Stratton-Porter: A Girl Of The Limberlost
- William Barrett: Lillies of the Field
- Jack London: White Fang; Call of the Wild
- Chaim Potok: The Chosen
- Willa Cather: Death Comes for the Archbishop; Shadows on the Rock; My Antonia; O Pioneers!
- O. Henry: short stories
- Eudora Welty: Delta Wedding and short stories
- Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird
- Mark Twain
- Elizabeth Moon: The Deed of Paksennarion
- D.F. Powers: Morte D'Urban
- Shirley Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle
- Betty Smith: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
- John Irving: A Prayer for Owen Meany
- Suzie Andres: The Paradise Project
- Sharan Newman: Death Comes as Epiphany
- John Grisham: A Painted House
- Ann Tyler: Searching for Caleb
- Charles Portis: True Grit
- Erin Morgenstern: The Night Circus
What would you add?