Totally Unexpected, Out-of-Left-Field Literary Endings

As I mentioned n the current “Whatcha Reading?” thread, I just finished Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust. It was a very funny portrait of upper class life in interwar Britain, and I enjoyed it immensely.

However… the ending to the novel came completely out of left field. This was truly a strange, “WTF???” ending that nobody who’d read the first 2/3 of the book could possibly see coming. Namely…

The cuckolded husband decides to chuck it all and go on an adventure in the jungles of South America. He nearly dies, and is rescued by a crazy old man who keeps him prisoner, forcing him to read Charles Dickens novels aloud, for the rest of his life.

Really, a*** Twilight Zone ***ending to what had been a witty, cynical comedy of manners.

What other books surprised the heck out of you with bizarre endings that didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the book?

Mind you, I’m not looking for mere twist endings. I’m not looking for unexpected killers in mystery novels, interestingly horrifying endings to a horror novel, or absurd endings in absurdly comical novels. Rater, I’m looking for endings that seem completely unrelated to anything that had happened earlier in the novel. Endings that leave you scratching your head and wondering, “Where did THAT come from?”

I agree with you so much about A Handful of Dust.

When I read LOTR as a jr high kid, Frodo’s ‘failure’ at the Crack of Doom through me for a loop. I was stunned. Reading back as adult, I see it completely differently, of course.

When I was a kid, I thought “Battlefield: Earth” was a pretty entertaining book, but the switch from “overthrow the alien overlords” plot to the “survive in the world of intergalactic banking” plot wasn’t something I saw coming!

John Gay’s 1728 play The Beggar’s Opera does this, pretty deliberately:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beggar's_Opera

Atlas Shrugged. I was reading novel about the collapse of society caused by the world’s ‘movers and shakers’ withdrawing due to increasingly draconian government interference in the free market. That was all well and good until the last couple chapters, when it suddenly turned into a science fiction novel.

A Man in Full, by Tom Wolfe, was a great book. Then, the author decided he didn’t want to write anymore, and provided the reader with an incredibly bizarre ending for the main character.

With an endless political manifesto in the middle.

I’d forgotten that one, but you’re right

Both of the main portagonists become avid Zeus-worshippers and apostles of Stoicism.

Well, Stephen King often does an “oh crap I have to end this book now” deal - for example, in It it’s a giant alien spider, sort of? And there’s a turtle? or The Stand the Hand of God?, although I guess neither are exactly as off the rails as you might be looking for. But neither fit what was going on in the book at all.

Well, I don’t think The Stand ending really is all that out of character. There were a lot of supernatural things going on in that book.

It, on the other hand, well…he was taking a awesome amount of drugs. It’s the only way to explain his books during that period.

I thought Chris Bohjalian’s* The Double Bind* had the biggest “WTF??” cop-out ending I’ve ever encountered.

The protagonist didn’t escape the attack as described in the beginning of the book. She was actually brutally raped and mutilated, and the entirety of the plot turns out to be her psychotic reaction to that event.

A book I read many years ago in French class – and haven’t been able to track down – was titled “L’homme qui dort cent ans” (“The man who slept 100 years”*) It’s overall a nice book about the alienation and difficulty of an American who travels into the future and is unable to adjust to the changes in society.

Then, out of the blue, in the final chapter, it’s revealed (without any foreshadowing) that in Australia, they still lived exactly the way it was in America the century before. So he moves to Australia and lives happily.

The ending was probably the worst I’ve ever seen in a book.

*There is a novel from about the same time called L’Homme qui dort, but it’s much more philosophical; maybe the one I read was a parody of that.

I thought the part at the end where:

The boys all have a gangbang with Bev.

was a lot more left-field.

Maybe not quite a WTF? but definitely a surprise…
In Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion The reader traverses some 600 pages wondering if sensitive, intellectual Leland Stamper will manage to seduce his beautiful sister-in-law or whether his uber-tough big brother will beat him up and drag her back to his cave by the hair.

In the final chapter beautiful Vivian says “to hell with you both”, walks out on her family and her old life, meanwhile the two brothers bury the hatchet and figuratively go dancing off arm-in-arm to do battle with the wilderness and the logger’s union.

Not sure what point, if any, Kesey was trying to make (he was tripping when he wrote it), but it’s a darn fine novel anyway.
SS

And they were only 11 years old!!:eek:

Surprised King wasn’t damned for writing child porn.

My mom and I were reading the same copy of ‘It’ she got the year it came out, her at night and me the next day. She read that part and wouldn’t hand the book over to me the next day, told me to finish it when I was older. I snuck it back and finished it. That ending was disgusting and I wish I’d never read it, especially knowing my mom had just read it - yuck.

David Wingrove’s Chung Kuo series, which was this science fiction series where the world is ruled by these seven Chinese warlords who are constantly jockeying for power. Some people criticized the book as anti-Chinese, but I don’t think it was. The series was extremely morally ambiguous…you had likeable and “good” characters do some horrible things, and really awful characters make tremendous altruistic sacrifices. The books dealt with themes like stability vs change, order vs freedom. and I found them engaging. Until I got to the last book.

In the last book, we find out that the character of Howard DeVore, who’s always sort of been the villain of the books…DeVore is this European banker who’s leading a resistance/terrorist movement against the Chinese warlords based partly on racism and partly on his desire to just liberate the world from the oppressive system of the warlords…we find out he’s an extradimensional alien spider creature who is responsible for almost all of the historical evils of mankind, who wants to rape people and then destroy all life on earth. He’s beaten and then we find out that the world set up throughout the series is just a simulation and not the “real” world, but all the characters in it are also characters in the real world (although they’re different people), and the book ends on a space colony in the real world, which had been set up by a colony ship in the imaginary world.

Been trying to think of one, and remembered Darwinia, by Robert Charles Wilson. The story starts in a world where the continent of Europe has been inexplicably replaced in the late 19th century (I think) with a continent on which the life has followed an entirely different evolutionary history. The first part of the story tracks an expedition from the US to explore this continent. Anyway, somewhere around halfway into the book, it is revealed that what caused the world to change suddenly is that

the whole world is some kind of computer simulation, and some Cthulhu-ish critters had switched the disks (sort of) for Europe in an effort to gain access to the real world. Or something.

Read to the end of the book out of inertia, but damn did that ever irritate me.

The Stand relied too much on Dues ex Machina. If the Hand of God was going to intervene, it didn’t need a nuke, it could have intervened earlier.

OTOH Turtles are always welcome.

This reminds me an awful lot of Venus Pus X.

Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow: studied and intricate novel of Denmark/Greenland colonialism and post-colonialism, digressions into sub-Arctic lifestyle. Driven by a crime thriller narrative and a kickass protagoniste.

Then: What? [No spoiler proffered]