So you don’t like the end . . . Spoiler Alert!
During the writing process, I asked several individuals to read and critique the story of Missy’s life and her friendship with Addie. Some reviewers wanted the ending changed. They wanted a renewal of the friendship. Is that what you were hoping for?
I tried to explain why there could be no reunion. Each reason I gave resulted in, “OK, but what if Addie’s daughter finds the book and she contacts Missy?” Or, “Maybe Addie could just write a letter.” Or, “I had a friend when I was little, and I think we could come back together.” It was difficult to accept the finality of that day in the field.
Would Addie look back on those years with the same fondness? Lies and the beliefs of the Jim Crow South determined each girls place in society, but Addie escaped. She built a life free of the secrets and laws that relegated her to an existence below Missy. Today, Addie is living in the present, proud of who she is and what she has accomplished, with no desire to return to that past.
Why wasn’t Missy’s hope for her happy ending realistic? Missy wrote this story to reveal her loving friendship and connection with Addie, but focused more on her own happy childhood and Abigail. In her memories, Missy minimized or often overlooked Addie, her family, and most importantly the injustice of their life. At times inclusion of Addie appeared to be an afterthought. Would Addie have missed this omission?
At the end Missy tries to portray a level of understanding and deep regret. However, she ignores the unfair practices perpetuated by her own family. Addie and her family lived in extreme poverty because of the meager existence granted to them by Granddaddy Tucker and continued by J.P. There was no ownership of property or an increase of land to farm over the years to meet the needs of a growing family. Missy’s frequent lack of attention to Addie’s difficulties throughout the story would have been painful to read. Her apology to Addie fell woefully short. Addie’s response in the final chapter was not anger, but her decision was confirmed with profound sadness.
I purposely wrote the story from Missy’s point of view. We witnessed Addie’s life from a distance and did not become invested in her feelings. Just as it would have been in the Jim Crow South, Addie’s voice was not allowed to be heard. We saw their childhood only through Missy’s eyes, and we want Missy to be happy. The final chapter is the first time Addie can respond free from dangerous reprisal. Before you judge her, please take time to find out about the struggles of her childhood. See the world that was hidden from us and often even from Missy. Be willing to care about Addie too.
I contemplated deleting the final chapter so the reader could believe in their happy ending. However, we all need to be challenged to think beyond what we have been told and search for the whole story. Imagine if we had witnessed the friendship of these two little girls from Addie’s perspective. Would it be the same lovely tale of happy memories in a segregated 1950s Alabama?
I invite you to return on the first Friday of each month for more insight into the realities of growing up in the Jim Crow South. For a better understanding of Addie’s life read my Monthly Musings and the entries for “Not your typical book club!” I hope an inside look into Addie’s childhood will encourage you to say, “The final scene must remain.”