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Great Last Lines

In a Washington Post article published online today, book critic Ron Charles reflects on 23 books whose “final lines” have seared themselves into his memory. From Frankenstein and Gone with the Wind to The Handmaid’s Tale and Beloved, he offers us a glimpse into why certain lines at the end of specific books resonate so powerfully with him.

Here at Ink Blotter, I spend a lot of time working with authors to ensure that their first 10–15 pages will really land. After all, if you don’t have an effective hook to immerse a reader into your text, they’re unlikely to make it as far as your final lines!

But once they do—once they follow you through to the end of your novel—the words that conclude the experience have the capacity to linger long after they’ve closed the cover.

Here are just a few I love from books sitting on my shelf:

  • Annie Dillard, An American Childhood

“In New Orleans—if you could get to New Orleans—would the music be loud enough?”

  • Chuck Palahniuk, Choke

“Where we’re standing right now, in the ruins in the dark, what we build could be anything.”

  • Isabel Allende, Island Beneath the Sea

“That is how it is.”

  • Sandra Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek

“Just because it’s today, today. With no thought of the future or past. Today. Hurray. Hurray!”

  • Alice Walker, The Color Purple

“But I don't think us feel old at all. And us so happy. Matter of fact, I think this the youngest us ever felt. Amen."

In the process of digging into favorites sitting on my shelf, however, I was really surprised to discover how many of my very favorite books—the ones I go back to over and over and over again—don’t have particularly memorable last lines. Huh!

How about you?

What last lines have you read that continued to resonate long after you closed the book?

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