The Journey or the Ending: Which is More Important to You?

The Journey or the Ending
A few recent reads have gotten me thinking about the importance of a book’s ending compared to how you get there. Obviously, we’d all like the journey AND the ending to rock our worlds. But, what happens when we can’t have it all?

Fantastic Journeys with Bad Endings

What happens when you love a book until you get to an ending that makes you want to throw that thing across the room? Does the bad ending tend to kill the entire book for you? Or, do you tend to gloss over the bad ending since you enjoyed every moment of getting there? My gut tells me I’m in the “gloss that sucker over” camp.

Summerlong, Dean BakopoulosI recently adored Summerlong by Dean Bakopoulos, but wasn’t a fan of the ending. However, my overall warm, fuzzy feelings remained after I finished the book. The ending didn’t take up too much real estate and I loved everything else, so it didn’t hurt my overall impression a great deal.

Blah Journeys with Glorious Endings

What happens when it takes forever for a book to get moving? Or, if you consider putting a book down multiple times before it ends up turning an amazing corner? If you end up loving where that drag of a journey took you, does that save the overall book for you? 

The Secret Place, Tana French, Dublin Murder Squad series, mystery, thrillerThese types of books are tougher for me to distill into ratings. On the one hand, I loved how things panned out and where the story went. On the other, I’m annoyed that I dedicated so much time to a dragging journey and wonder why the editor didn’t do something about the pacing. For some reason, that slog of a journey sticks with me. Tana French’s The Secret Place was this kind of book for me, as it took me well over 300 pages to really get into the story. And, I can now add two more upcoming releases to this category, but will go into those in more detail in their respective reviews.

What about you? Are you more likely to forgive a blah journey or a bad ending? How does either one impact your overall impression of the book?

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23 Comments

  1. Iris wrote:

    I really dislike it when the journey sucks but the ending rocks. Mostly because I won’t hold out till the ending. If the journey to the ending really isn’t up my alley… I’ll often find myself putting the book aside (only to never read it again).

    Whenever an ending isn’t great, that’s okay for me. It sucks, but if the rest of the book was fantastic I can come to terms with that. So I guess the journey is more important to me than the ending.

    Let’s just end this comment by stating that I’d rather both the journey and the ending be great (even though this makes me sound like a brat lol).
    Great post!

    Posted 8.20.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      Ha – I think all of us would prefer to have it all! But, tell me this, if you do push through to the end of a book with a blah journey and a great ending, how does that factor into your overall rating for the book? How much would you “dock” it for the bad journey?

      Posted 8.20.15 Reply
  2. Kay wrote:

    I think that I’m in Iris’ camp. If the journey is too, too tiresome, I will set the book aside and likely not pick it up again for a long time, if ever. And so, I would miss the great ending. But…that being said, I hate to feel let down with a blah ending. I want my cake and I want to eat it too. Is that too much to ask? LOL

    I have noticed that sometimes I’ll read of others disappointment with an ending and then find that I don’t mind it at all. All this goes to show that our reading journey is uniquely our own.

    Posted 8.20.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      I’m with you on generally putting a book that has a blah journey down. But, if you do end up finishing it for whatever reason, how does the blah journey affect your overall rating of the book? In other words, how much do you “dock” it?

      Posted 8.20.15 Reply
      • Kay wrote:

        Since I don’t do a ‘real’ rating scale, maybe 20%? Honestly, I don’t really like ratings all that much. Part of the reason is that I can’t really figure out one that I like very much. I’ve done a bit of the ‘2 thumbs up’ thing on my reviews, but I don’t do them for every book. There is really no quantitative value for my experience, most of the time. Sigh. I go around and around about it.

        Posted 8.20.15 Reply
  3. I’m all about the journey. Especially now that I am more inclined to abandon a book I don’t enjoy reading.

    Posted 8.20.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      I usually abandon, but pushed through in 2 recent cases. If you were to push through, how would the blah journey affect your overall rating for the book?

      Posted 8.20.15 Reply
      • A blah journey would pull down my rating. I can’t think of a book off the top of my head where a great ending salvaged my rating of it. I could see it work for a crime novel, but I have not read one of those in a long time.

        Posted 8.20.15 Reply
  4. I think I *try* to gloss over a bad ending, but it’s hard since that’s the last thing you remember about the book. I know I definitely knock down stars for a bad ending, though I don’t think I up-rate for a phenomenal one—if I had to slog through 400 pages to get to your excellent finale, there’s probably something wrong.

    Posted 8.20.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      I’m with you…I generally have a worse taste in my mouth at the end of the a book if I’ve slogged for a long time than if the journey was great, but the ending stunk.

      Posted 8.20.15 Reply
  5. Becca wrote:

    Good question, Sarah.

    I have to say that I hate when I love a book and the ending feels completely out of place with the rest of the story. It doesn’t have to end the way I wish it would, I just need it to feel like it belongs. I’ve read books before that had one pace throughout the whole book and then the ending was rushed into half a chapter and it felt disjointed. That irritated me. However, if the journey sucks I won’t be able to get to the ending. I will DNF it because trying to read it feels like a chore instead of fun. So I am definitely a journey kind of girl.

    Posted 8.20.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      I’m with you on the ending needing to fit…I felt that way about Gone Girl. I thought it fit, so wasn’t bothered by it as much as some other people were.

      Posted 8.20.15 Reply
  6. Trish wrote:

    Such a great question Sarah!! I think I’m more of a journey gal–it’s the end of the day and my brain has already gone home for the day so I’m having a tough time coming up with examples but there have been several times when I’ve HATED an ending but still loved the book for the rest of it.

    Though… I really struggled with The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. It might have been because I was recently post-partum and my brain wasn’t all there (nice to see so much has changed in 4 years…snort), but when I got to the ending and the whole book came together, I was in utter love. I still count it as a favorite.

    Hmmm..I guess I think to think about this more! 😉

    Posted 8.20.15 Reply
  7. Darlene @ Lost in Literature wrote:

    I can forgive a lame or average ending if I really liked the journey. In fact, I don’t think I ever really hang my hat on, “How is the thing going to end?”
    Except with The Lord of the Rings. I would have been some kind of upset if things didn’t end well considering how much time it took me to get through them.

    Posted 8.20.15 Reply
  8. You’re a reading genius, Sarah; this is such a great question! Personally, I can forgive a bad ending if the journey was great (I’m with you on Summerlong); it’s really tough for me to forgive a loooooong, slow journey, in which case the ending had better be knock-me-out-of-my-chair amazing in order for me to come around. I don’t necessarily need both, but I’d say that I’m more in favor of the journey being a good one. Thanks for this; now, I’m going to be thinking about it all the time!!

    Posted 8.20.15 Reply
  9. I have thrown a book across the room * cough cough Gone Girl cough* – but then later come to appreciate the story for what it is. I am voting for the journey… it does not always end the way we want… but for sure I would not pass up on the journey. I am living proof of that.

    Posted 8.21.15 Reply
  10. Carmen wrote:

    I like better a great journey than a fantastic ending, but there are books like All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer in which the ending is so original and fantastic that it is just the cherry on top.

    Posted 8.21.15 Reply
  11. I can forgive a bad ending much easier than a blah journey. Except in the case of Gone Girl, which had the worst ending ever. I’m quick to put a book down if I’m not hooked within the first thirty pages. I just don’t have the patience.

    Posted 8.22.15 Reply
  12. Alice wrote:

    I am definitely more likely to forgive a bad ending. If I have had to slog through a book for a good ending I just wish I had skipped to the end.

    Posted 8.23.15 Reply
  13. That ending is like black licorice. People either love it or hate it.

    Posted 8.24.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      Haha – and cilantro! Regardless, I loved the book overall and am still amazed at how well you captured the finding/losing your identity through motherhood issue (I’m a young mother if you can’t tell!). Thanks for stopping by!

      Posted 8.24.15 Reply
  14. Catherine wrote:

    Are you trying to make my head explode?! I’m waffling all over the place. If I’ve invested the time and the ending is the pits (which I have two examples of for next week) I feel betrayed because I’ve invested the time.If it’s a really slow start I may opt out and then will miss out on the fabulous ending. I. DON’T. KNOW. but I’ll go with blah journey.

    I may be back to change my mind at some point. 😉

    Posted 8.27.15 Reply
  15. Shaina wrote:

    I tried to think about this in terms of recent reads…

    I felt that The Beautiful Bureaucrat had an absolutely stellar journey, but I admit to knocking off a star because the ending just didn’t do it for me.

    I’m finding it harder to think of a book with a bona fide meh journey but brilliant ending, but my gut tells me I’ve definitely read them and forgiven them!

    This is great food for thought.

    Posted 9.11.15 Reply

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