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Stephanie
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End of Book Discussion: What Next?

[ Edited ]
What do you make of the ending? What do you imagine will happen to these characters after the last page is turned? Has the author satisfied your interest in these characters?

This thread is suitable for those who have finished the novel. Spoilers for the ending are to be expected.

Message Edited by Stephanie on 10-28-2007 07:31 PM
Stephanie
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taxtout
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Re: End of Book Discussion: What Next?

I am ready for a book about Iris and Alex and what happens next in their relationship. It can start out with some kind of resolution for Esme.
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Cahill42
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Re: End of Book Discussion: What Next?



Stephanie wrote:
What do you make of the ending? What do you imagine will happen to these characters after the last page is turned? Has the author satisfied your interest in these characters?

This thread is suitable for those who have finished the novel. Spoilers for the ending are to be expected.

Message Edited by Stephanie on 10-28-2007 07:31 PM




Once I realized that Kitty had essentially taken Esme's baby and raised it as it's own, I wasn't too surprized when I came to the ending. O'Farrell did leave the ending kind of open-ended as to what happens next, but I have to say that I was pretty satisfied with the ending as is. I've read many other books that drag on, and on, and on after the climax scene ("The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver is one), and I was kind of glad she ended it where it did. If O'Farrell had continued on with the storyline, the book would have been another hundred to two hundred pages, and, I think, ruin the wonderful tone and atmosphere of the novel. That's not to say that I'm not curious to know what happens next, but I think that particular storyline belongs to another book.

As to the "ambiguous" ending, I didn't find it all that ambiguous. I'm quite certain that Esme smothered her sister, or lacking that, Kitty died naturally while Esme was in the room and Esme delayed calling the people in the white coats. I'm not sure if Esme is truly crazy in the sense of the term, but after spending "sixty-one years, five months and six days" in that nightmare called a mental institution, if she wasn't mad before she was forced in, she probably was just a little bit after they released her. Given the fact that Esme had a least two major traumas in her life (baby brother Hugo's death and the rape that precipitated her committment), and that she received little to no support and/or therapy, it's no wonder she's a bit odd.

Overall, I don't think that the book could have ended any other way. To repeat myself, I think that if she had extended it, it would have ruined a great book.
Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences.---J.K. Rowling

I'm a leaf on the wind, watch me soar.---Wash
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Mizzyb
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Re: End of Book Discussion: What Next?

Of course, the possibilites are endless. However, I believe Iris' outrage over her lover's pregnant wife has put an end to that relationship. As for her 'brother', she still pulled away from him and shifted her attention to Esme. I think Iris will really find herself thru her relationship with Esme.
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Cahill42
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Re: End of Book Discussion: What Next?



Mizzyb wrote:
Of course, the possibilites are endless. However, I believe Iris' outrage over her lover's pregnant wife has put an end to that relationship. As for her 'brother', she still pulled away from him and shifted her attention to Esme. I think Iris will really find herself thru her relationship with Esme.




I agree that any future relationship with Luke is over, dead in the water with her seeing his pregnant wife (ugh, some men), but I'm not too sure about Iris and Alex's relationship. I think that they will always be in each other's lives, whether romantically or as brother/sister. Iris freaked out when Alex said to her "It's always been you for me, and I'll always it for you," I mean on a nearly nuclear level. Esme saw her from Kitty's room shouting, gesturing, acting genuinely agitated. I'm kind of on the fence as to whether Iris was freaked out because the idea of her and Alex together was repugnant or if it was because Alex hit a nerve that was too close to home. I'm leaning more toward the latter rather than the former. I guess that's the latent romantic hiding inside! Or it could be that I just want somone in the novel to have a happy ending. :smileyhappy:

--Andrea
Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences.---J.K. Rowling

I'm a leaf on the wind, watch me soar.---Wash
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Stephanie
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Re: End of Book Discussion: What Next?

I would have at least liked to know whether or not Esme got to live out her life with Iris, or, if again, she was taken away and incarcerated. I do believe she smothered her sister, but I wish that she hadn't. I wish that she had made what was left of her sister's life a greater hell than it already was. I found almost nothing of redeeming value in Kitty, she was a whiny, simpering, Mama's girl, and she was the one that kept Esme locked away all those years - not the parents, or the doctors, or the sad state of a society that would allow such a thing. Kitty deserves every ounce of the blame.
Stephanie
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Cahill42
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Re: End of Book Discussion: What Next?



Stephanie wrote:
I would have at least liked to know whether or not Esme got to live out her life with Iris, or, if again, she was taken away and incarcerated. I do believe she smothered her sister, but I wish that she hadn't. I wish that she had made what was left of her sister's life a greater hell than it already was. I found almost nothing of redeeming value in Kitty, she was a whiny, simpering, Mama's girl, and she was the one that kept Esme locked away all those years - not the parents, or the doctors, or the sad state of a society that would allow such a thing. Kitty deserves every ounce of the blame.




Brava, Stephanie! I agree, there's little to like about Kitty, though I do believe she is a pitiable character. Yes, she brought everything that came to her down upon herself (with the possible exception of Alzheimers, a disease I wouldn't wish on anyone), but I do think that there's a small part of her that feels guilt over what happened to Esme. That line she repeats over and over, "It wasn't meant to be forever" resonanted with someone who does feel guilty over her actions and possibly even feels remorse. That being said, if my sister had tried to do that to me, well, I'd probably be in the same boat as Esme.

As for Esme, I don't really know how well she would have functioned in the "real" world out of Cauldstone. Let's face it, she's been locked up for sixty-plus years. TV didn't exist when she went in. Heck, indoor plumbing wasn't even all that common. She had to have undergone a serious culture shock, experiencing the modern world after being institutionalized for so long. There are stories of convicts who will go out and committ a crime, just so they can go back to what's comfortable. Well, maybe comfortable isn't quite the right word, maybe familiar would be better. I think Esme smothered Kitty on purpose, not only out of revenge, but also possibly because she knew that they would lock her away again, where she would be safe from the world.
Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences.---J.K. Rowling

I'm a leaf on the wind, watch me soar.---Wash
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Stephanie
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Re: End of Book Discussion: What Next?

Kitty couldn't bring herself to have Esme released, because it would have shown her for what she was - not the woman of high moral values she wanted others to see, but as a liar, thief and betrayer of her only sister.

I'm sure modern technology came to the institution... television, etc. I'm sure they had books to read as well, and Esme didn't seem altogether shocked by modern society. Intrigued, perhaps? Plus, if, after their parents died, Kitty had gone and gotten Esme out of there, she wouldn't have been in an institution for 60+ years. Kitty could have, at any point, gotten Esme out of there - selfishness prevented her.

As to the guilt of an old woman who spent 60+ years locked up because her sister wanted to steal her baby ...

do we really think a jury would convict Esme?
Stephanie
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IBIS
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Re: End of Book Discussion: What Next?

I agree that no jury would convict Esme of murder once Kitty's betrayal comes out.

I did wonder where Esme would go since Cauldstone is now closed to her, and that hostel is horrible. My hope is that Iris will take Esme in, and re-establish the grandmother-granddaughter bond that Esme and Iris both need. They are the only blood-relatives each has.

In spite of Iris' independent lifestyle and spirit, one can't help but notice how lonely her life is (even with the dog and 2 men who love her!) Hopefully, having Esme in her life will give Iris more communal and familial connections. And make her less commitment-shy, and confident enough to find and commit herself to love.

I have high hopes that Iris and Esme will do well.

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IBIS

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Fozzie
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Re: End of Book Discussion: What Next?



Stephanie wrote:
I found almost nothing of redeeming value in Kitty, she was a whiny, simpering, Mama's girl, and she was the one that kept Esme locked away all those years - not the parents, or the doctors, or the sad state of a society that would allow such a thing. Kitty deserves every ounce of the blame.



True, I didn't find Kitty to be a sympathetic character. Based one her thoughts, she did seem to feel guilty about what she had done. However, I keep thinking about this line from page 236 of the book:

"Kitty doesn't look up. She looks determinedly at her watchstrap, rolling it between her fingers, and the thought crosses Iris's mind that she sometimes understands more than she lets on."

I think Kitty hid behind her Alzheimer's so as not to have to confront and acknowledge Esme during the visit. That made me wonder how often she may have hidden behind the veil of Alzheimer's in the past, as a sort of mental defense mechanism, protecting herself from the knowledge of what she had truly done.
Laura

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CanTri
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Re: End of Book Discussion: What Next?

I was so flustered when I came to the end of the book..."that's it?". But I agree that it really couldn't have ended in a better way and it tied the whole story back to the title wonderfully.
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susandale
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Re: End of Book Discussion: What Next?

[ Edited ]
I was not suprised that Esme appeared to smother her sister. Who could blame her after all of Kitty's acts of betrayal. Any expectation that Esme could find it in her heart to forgive Kitty would be most unreasonable. My one concern is that once again Esme will become a victim of her sister's manipulation. I would hope that she will not be punished any further, and that she and her grandaughter could have time together to share each other's stories and get to know and understand each other. I do wonder though, how Iris will be affected when she fully realises her father's true parentage.

Message Edited by susandale on 11-15-2007 05:06 PM
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Stephanie
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Re: End of Book Discussion: What Next?

Good point about how Iris will react to finding out Esme is her real grandmother. I think she will fully sympathize with Esme, and perhaps she'll even be able to shake the negative grip (and guilt) that Kitty had on her regarding Alex. I think Iris will be proud to call Esme her grandmother, once all is out in the open. I also think she will be totally and completely infuriated- I'd hate to be in her path when she first hears the truth!
Stephanie
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avidreadergirl
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Re: End of Book Discussion: What Next?

I do agree that the ending was pretty good, however, when I heard that Esme was being leaded down the hall by the hospita staff, I had a sinking feeling she was going back in and I really wanted to see her and Iris continue to connect. I'm not too sure that Iris got that Esme was her grandmother.

One of the issues that I was very confused about was early on in the book. When Esme baby brother and nanny die, what did they die of? It's mentioned that people didn't believed Esme was there, who could she have lived? That whole section was confusing. It talks about how everyone was gone.. .that even the groundskeepers were gone. . .why?

I grew up with an older cousin who was severally mentally ill, even instutionalized for part of her life. One thing I really respected about this book really made me think about "where is the line between oddness and insanity".

My congratulations to the author on a very thought provocing novel.
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Fozzie
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Re: End of Book Discussion: What Next?



avidreadergirl wrote:
One of the issues that I was very confused about was early on in the book. When Esme baby brother and nanny die, what did they die of? It's mentioned that people didn't believed Esme was there, who could she have lived? That whole section was confusing. It talks about how everyone was gone.. .that even the groundskeepers were gone. . .why?





I thought it was cholera.
Laura

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DiGear
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Re: End of Book Discussion: What Next?

I agree with you regarding Iris's and Esme's relationship. It was my hope that the two of them could build and share on a motherly and grandmotherly level. I believe Esme's "problems" were from being a strong individual as a female, something our society didn't recognize in those days. I also had a great aunt who was institutionlized for over 40 yrs because at the time she was declared insane. In todays medical enviroment she would be diagnosed as depressed. She was an outspoken female for her time as well. Everyone was amazed at how 'intelligent" she was when she was released. The common thought was .."she actually makes sense now.." Was it that she always made sense or that she just didn't fit into society's role. I felt as if Esme was an independant thinker and was dealing with the death of her brother in her way and no one cared enough to understand her mourning process. Her parents were very emotionally distant anyway during the girls lives. I liked Esme a lot. She had spunk, unfortunately sometimes she displayed it odd ways.
I also felt sorry for Kitty. I think she had gotten herself into a situation that she just didn't know how to resolve. As someone said, she had to maintain her "image". How often do we see that happening among some of our acquaintances today?
I read the book in 2 days. I loved it and am looking forward to more from this author. I have recommended it to my book group.
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susandale
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Re: End of Book Discussion: What Next?



DiGear wrote:
..... I also had a great aunt who was institutionlized for over 40 yrs because at the time she was declared insane. In todays medical enviroment she would be diagnosed as depressed. She was an outspoken female for her time as well. Everyone was amazed at how 'intelligent" she was when she was released. The common thought was .."she actually makes sense now.." Was it that she always made sense or that she just didn't fit into society's role. I felt as if Esme was an independant thinker and was dealing with the death of her brother in her way and no one cared enough to understand her mourning process. Her parents were very emotionally distant anyway during the girls lives. I liked Esme a lot. She had spunk, unfortunately sometimes she displayed it odd ways.
I also felt sorry for Kitty. I think she had gotten herself into a situation that she just didn't know how to resolve. As someone said, she had to maintain her "image". How often do we see that happening among some of our acquaintances today?
I read the book in 2 days. I loved it and am looking forward to more from this author. I have recommended it to my book group.




Like you, DiGear, I have grown up with a special aunt, who spent many years on and off in mental institutions here in Australia. She was a very gifted seamstress as well as a beautiful pianist. In fact she taught me the basic skills of playing the piano when I was young. While she may have expressed some interesting views at times, I often wonder how different her life could have been had she been born twenty years later.

I could not put the book down once I started reading it, and saw so many parallels between the way Esme was treated in the asylum and the experiences my Aunt had.
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