I used to tell myself I hated happy endings. That I, like April, would be better off walking away before I knew the turnout of a would-have-been chapter of my own life.
Of course, my life isn’t a book and my story doesn’t have a conclusion the way April’s does. But I suppose books like The People We Keep are, among so many other wonders, a reminder that even though our lives take sharp turns and the world often crashes down around us and it seems nothing could ever turn out right, eventually at least one thing always does.
But Allison Larkin’s novel is more than a reminder: It’s a promise. Perhaps you haven’t been through everything April has. I haven’t. But we all have something. We all want better, even when we deprive ourselves of everything that could get us there.
April doesn’t know if she deserves better when we meet her, but she knows she doesn’t deserve an abusive parent, a reckless boyfriend, or a dead-end road. So she does the only thing she knows might give her a chance at something different.
And this is the connecting point between all three parts of her story. Every time something good comes along, she puts it behind her. The problem is, every time she leaves the past in her rearview mirror, she also abandons a good person she’s met that she’ll later realize she can’t live without.
We, like, April, might travel through life thinking we don’t need anyone. But even if you don’t share all of her experiences, you have likely, at least at one time or another, found a friend. A lover. Maybe even someone who cares for you the way a mother should even if she isn’t yours.
Every place April goes – even the places bad things happen – she finds just the person she needs to carry her through it. No matter how hard she tries to distance herself from each of them at all those points in her life, eventually they find their way back to her. Or maybe she finds her way back to them. Or maybe it’s both.
The people that matter most always hold you exactly when you need to be held, even when you’re convinced you don’t need to be loved.
I feel bad for expecting this book to leave me empty. Blame the times. Blame years of reading happy endings only to find my own life’s chapters lacking them for far too long. I’m happy now, well, happier at least, so maybe I’m looking at this book differently now than I would have a year ago if it had existed for me then.
Maybe there’s a lot to be said for rereading books at different points in your life. What doesn’t resonate with you once might speak volumes to you years from now.
Like April, I’m good at leaving. But leave it to Larkin to hand me this promise that no matter how hard I try to keep the good things from coming, they will always find me. And hold me. And never let me go.
I’m convinced, now, that sometimes even when we say we don’t want another book with a happy ending, deep down it’s exactly the thing we needed most when we finish one.
Meg Dowell is the creator of Brain Rush, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words, and Not a Book Hoarder, celebrating books of all kinds. She is an editor, writer, book reviewer, podcaster, and photographer. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about nonsense and Star Wars.