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Happy Endings (2000)

by Margaret Atwood(Favorite Author)
3.96 of 5 Votes: 4
review 1: It seems that most of the negative reviews miss the entire point of this short story essay and assume Atwood thinks too highly of herself and is negative without just cause.Pick up a book by Nicholas Sparks. The plot is as described by Ms. Atwood, to a T. These are popular books that make it on NYTimes Best Sellers List all the time. Girl and boy meet (man and woman, if you are feeling generous based on how the characters act in most of his books). Connection! True love! Oh, no. Letter from an ex, so and so's family doesn't approve, so and so gets married to another person. Oh! Person realizes they made a huge mistake not marrying who they first met and fell for. They remedy it. They get married. The End. Of course, if the traditional novel dealt with what happens after a ... morecouple meets, rather than the meeting itself, it would be quite different. People, as a whole, enjoy bickering (I'm writing this because I ended up being upset at several reviews I felt missed the mark- people enjoy bickering, myself included) and picking apart those they are closest to. Divorce happens, constantly. True love turns into true hate. And then you die.Or older married man meets unmarried girl who is in love with boy her age. She has an affair with the older man because he makes her feel safe, and anyway, he knows his way around the bedroom and her body more so than the boy does, so girl ignores the fact that she knows older married man has emotions and feelings invested in her more than just "fancying." She ruins it all by sleeping with the boy her age on a day she knew older married man would be coming over. Depression, crime of passion- the gun that was bought in the previous chapter for seemingly no reason all of a sudden becomes crystal clear in the plot and then! Everyone has died.Or John & Mary are government workers. They find out that there is a plan to kill the president. They and they alone can stop it. There are many near misses, many near death experiences in this story but in the end, all is almost well; they didn't stop the assassination, but they were able to kill the group responsible. Too bad everyone views them as villains now and thinks that THEY were responsible for the assassination. But before they are both publicly executed, they realize they have fallen in love. Their public kiss after they declare innocence marks the beginning of a new era where no one trusts anyone and the government has a hand in everything. John and Mary are dead. Or how about John is a King and Mary a lowly woodswitch. John hears screams while he is on a hunt and rides his horse to find out what the matter is. He finds Mary surrounded by bandits. Too many for her to take on all at once, magic or no. He rescues her. The bandits die. Well, all except one that had his hood on the entire time. That turns out to be King John's most trusted advisor. Mary was meant to die because she refused to help the advisor overthrow the King. Mary moves into the castle at King John's urging. She becomes a castle witch, helping with cures for illnesses and whatever else the gentry need. The advisor stays quiet. Neither John or Mary know what the advisor has in store for them, until it is almost too late. They are saved because Mary & John find out that they fight together perfectly in battle. They are married because they also realize they have fallen in love. Mary and the child dies in labor; John kills himself with no heir apparent to the throne. The family line ends there.The only true ending is John and Mary both die. Not right away, of course, but they do die and thus their story ends.As Ms. Atwood states in this short story, "True connoisseurs, however, are known to favor the stretch in between, since it's the hardest to do anything with," plot is the most important part of a story. It's also the part most writers hate the most as it's very difficult to keep going at when writing. It becomes exhausting. You want it to end. You want to cheat your readers (and yourself) and wrap it up half way through the second major battle with, "And Mary and John both get a sword to the chest and die. The End," but you don't. You keep going because you have to. Plot is the only thing that makes reading and writing worth it, after all, but those who love writing plot heavy stories are few & far in between. Look at how many trilogies are put out instead of longer series.No matter what choices any of us make, in the end, the only thing we have guaranteed in life is that we will all die. We do not get to have a picture perfect life all the time. If you're lucky, you get moments ("Life is made of moments, many worth exploring"- Yes, Into the Woods quote, had to) that are picture perfect and that is illustrated in this short story. Every novel that has become popular follows a formula no matter the genre. As writers, we can try to not follow formulas, but as time goes on, it becomes more and more impossible and unlikely that you shall find a unique narrative. It is neither bad nor good; it just is. Ms. Atwood comes across as a writer that was frustrated & annoyed with literature all being, basically, the same. It's a realization most readers and writers eventually have and, eventually, most of us at least, get over it. We realize we still love anything to do with word craft despite there maybe not being anything new because a story can still grasp us and teach us something new about ourselves.What did this short story teach me? That every single writer (and most readers) go through the being jaded with everything to do with it phase. It's almost become a right of passage, it seems, to hate everything about a particular craft that you do truly love. Eventually, you grow out of it. Whether it hits you as a teenager or as a young adult or as someone older than that, eventually, you realize that everything in life ends with death and that is neither bad nor good; it just is. We all die, in the end, after all.
review 2: This is a short very funny sort of interlude into a man and a woman's life. An illustration of how simple decisions can change the course of someone's life to be radically different. I like the fact that the author does not hide that her story is anything other than fiction. it is in no way reality - not even a depiction of reality - but an illustration of the choices that you can make when writing a work of fiction. But I am also a sucker for fiction that is quirky and playful, while being completely honest with what it is - fiction and simply words written on paper. Very short story that is a great and funny read! less
Reviews (see all)
This is a really short story that is almost an essay about endings. Fascinating and eye opening!
Belongs to the school of thought that happiness is for the stupid. Which is very stupid.
Concentrated, wise, nested and brilliant.
A very very quick funny read! Loved it.
Short and cynical.
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