Ah, the Milk Truck Ending, a demented relation of the Deus Ex Machina. My high school English teacher coined this term, "Milk Truck Ending". Apparently, a kid had written a story in which, right at the end and completely at random, a milk truck ran over all the characters. Nothing's more frustrating than a story with real potential and a milk truck ending. This is what happened with Any Place I Hang My Hat, a 2004 novel by Susan Isaacs. I guess I knew it was chick lit, but a few things led me to perhaps think otherwise. First, the chick in question is on a (feisty and snarky) search for her family roots, not necessarily romance. There was also the heftiness of the book (pushing 400 pages) and the stellar reviews from the Washington Post, Seattle Times, et al. But men are, apparently, the new milk trucks.
Ensconced (far from happily) on MUNI, I reached page 370 out of 379. (Spoilers ahead.) Our heroine was just so close to ending the book single and learning to be happy about it. I said to myself, "if she ends up with a man in these last 9 pages, I will throw up." Well, she didn't only end up with a man, she was engaged to be married, all within those few last pages. (Okay, it was someone she knew, but still...) I didn't throw up, because I'm not able to will myself to actually do so. But I did feel very disappointed. Our chick had endured way too much to be handed such a played-out ending.
We all know that marriage isn't the end to anyone's story, unless you have an unfortunate accident on the dance floor. We know there are other options, but we never see them. I have no problem with people in stories getting married, but marriage is always presented as the only real option. And this is probably why I'm so unclear on what the other options are. I demand to see more options in my pop culture! And if these chicks end up with men, I want (nay, demand!) to see them really choosing between different men. Why is the first man we see almost always the one our heroine ends up with? Is it the cause of brevity, or just another insinuation that any guy is better than none at all? You can probably guess which one I think it is, and brevity probably isn't the reason that 50% of marriages are ending in divorce. That may sound depressing, but our idea of compulsory marriage is depressing indeed. That's why we need to get rid of it ASAP.
Thank goodness Women Who May Never Marry is next on my list...after I define about 20 terms that I can't seem to finish Gender Trouble without knowing, that is...