I’ve been thinking about possible endings to the book I’m working on. I’ve written an end, but it might not be the right end. At the same time as writing the book, which in part is based on life after being held hostage, I’ve also been reading for research. My first draft complete, and part way into the first rewrite I’ve been studying Some Other Rainbow, the story of John McCarthy and Jill Morrell. This is the first book that I’ve read that equally reflects the experience of the person left behind and the person held hostage, something that I try to do in the book I’m writing.
It was amazing to read this true experience, to see what resonates with what I’ve written and what doesn’t. Jill writes about extensive campaigning, working on the political reasons behind hostage taking at a time when international relations were difficult and dramatic changes were seem in the geopolitical landscape. I hadn’t even considered the political aspects of what happens to my character. I will think about it more, but I suspect that I won’t be trying to expand on that arena.
What did interest me in particular is the experience of both John and Jill after his release. That’s a significant part of my book, and while I knew from the start that it wouldn’t be an easy period for the couple I’m writing about, at first I wasn’t clear what would happen to them. Writing myself into the story it became clear they would separate, the difficulties becoming overwhelming for a while. And depending on how the book ends they may or may not get back together. So it surprised me that I was upset when I followed up Some Other Rainbow by reading a 2009 article from Jill Morrell, in which she explained that she and John broke up four years after his return. She expressed the unresolved feelings that she had about spending five years of her life on the campaign, and the impossibility of attaining the ‘normal’ life they both wanted. I guess when you read a story following a couple through a traumatic experience, when you get to know both of them, there is some sort of unwritten promise, that for resolution, the relationship will survive. Some Other Rainbow ended at a point where John and Jill were together: it is only because they are real people, with real lives, because newspapers continue to be interested in them, that I was able to follow up what happened. I need to think about this more in the context of how I end my own book, and I’ll be revisiting Some Other Rainbow too.
No happy ending, no pot of gold