I just finished the book on my commute to work this morning, and my mind is still whirling, just thinking about it. How are you all feeling about the ending? I’m also quite excited to share a secret with you, but you’ll have to read all the way to the bottom of this posting.
So when we rejoin Miles and Lydia, we find out that they’ve spent the night together in her hotel room. Personally, I’m a bit bothered by this—it felt so unnatural and forced and simply for the sake of adding a touch of sex to the book. There’s no emotional connection between the two, and the fact that Lydia thinks that Hayden is a psychopath—while Miles doesn’t—makes their physical relationship even less plausible to me. Luckily, the book didn’t dwell on this and quickly swept them away by plane to a research station in Aulavik National Park, where they hoped to find Hayden and Rachel. I didn’t really expect them to find anything at the station, but I certainly didn’t anticipate what they did find: a shrine to Hayden and Rachel. Miles was able to decipher the bizarre diorama built by Hayden and deduce that Rachel had gotten sick and that both of them took off in a sled, hoping to find help, despite the rapidly approaching winter. Miles tries to convince himself that both are dead, although there’s no proof. This story just kind of drops off, and we never find out if Miles returns to Cleveland, in an attempt to have a “normal” life or what happens to Lydia.
With Ryan, we finally learn what happened to his hand. He’s Tasered by some “friend” of Jay’s, who is actually looking for another Jay. (Wow, talk about confusing!) When his uncle Jay repeatedly denies knowing where Jay Kozelek (a former roommate of his) is, the man, who we now know is named Dylan, cuts off Ryan’s hand. We never learn how Uncle Jay and Ryan escape, but Jay drops Ryan off at the hospital, leaving him with some money and instructions to meet him in Quito, Ecuador. Jay never makes it there, but Ryan does and assumes a new identity—David Angel Verdugo Cubrero. I’m not exactly sure why, since I was never that attached to Ryan, but I was really sad that he didn’t reconnect with his parents once he recovered. What did you think about Ryan following Jay’s directions, even after all that happened?
By the end, we finally realize that the George Olson and Lucy story did not happen concurrently with the other two. In a surprising twist that many of you guessed, Jay = Hayden = George Orson. The George and Lucy story happens after Jay/Hayden leaves Ryan at the hospital. We learn on the very last page that Jay/Hayden is going to become a teacher so he can “touch a young life.” (Creepy!) At this point, Hayden becomes George Orson and seduces Lucy. Their story together ends with a bit of a cliff-hanger: They’ve traveled to Cote d’Ivoire, trying to get their hands on several million dollars. When George fails at this, he and Lucy plan to travel to Rome under new identities (hers being Kelli Gavin). George never joins her at their arranged meeting place, and Lucy heads back to their hotel room to see what’s keeping him. There’s a man with a gun at the door (the same man she happened to see at a restaurant earlier). This man was with two other men when she saw him before, so she assumes that the other two are inside the room with George. Finally, she does the smart thing and doesn’t approach. With this, Lucy’s story abruptly ends and, presumably, so does George/Hayden/Jay’s, since he never joins Ryan in Ecuador. It seems Hayden meets an unfortunate end.
So what do you think of the timeline of events? And did you like how the book jumped around between the various characters? Like many of you, I want to go back and reread the book, looking for clues. Did you find any? (I keep thinking of the use of red items in The Sixth Sense, which provide clues to the truth about Bruce Willis’s character through the entire movie.)And now for the good news: Dan Chaon has graciously offered to answer our questions! Please submit them below by next Friday, July 30. I’ll start. I’d really like to know:
Do you have an idea in your head about what happens to Lucy after her story ends?
How did you keep all the characters straight as you were writing?
Thanks so much for following along! I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the ending.
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