Suicide and humor are two words not often associated with each other, but Nick Hornby takes the pair on in his novel A Long Way Down, a dark comedy about suicide and life after a failed attempt. The book is narrated by four characters taking turns telling the story in their voice. The resulting hodgepodge gang includes Martin, a quasi celebrity who loses everything after an affair with a fifteen-year old girl; Maureen, the middle-aged mother of a severely disabled son; Jess, an obnoxious teenager living recklessly to avoid her reality of a missing sister; and JJ, the American and aspiring musician who's found himself lonely and alone in England. This unexpected group meets on New Year's Eve on the roof of the well-known suicide spot
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Before even having met Maureen, Jess, or JJ, Martin says, "I'm sitting here now" (Hornby 11) and in those few words the ending becomes blatantly apparent. A story does not have to end with everything coming together perfectly for its now incredibly happy characters in order to be a happy ending. As in A Long Way Down, so long as the story's resolution is positive a happy ending is present. A happy ending in itself is not undesirable, but in a book where it is ironically expected yet unrealistic it becomes a disappointment. The night of the group's three month reunion, after asking what they would do if someone came up to jump that night JJ then says, "It's true that none of us feel like killing ourselves tonight. But, like
if he asked us why? If he said to us, So tell me what great things have happened to you since you decided not to go over the edge? What would you tell him?" (Hornby 331). The book ends with these questions left unanswered and readers left wondering how this story could inspire hope when they have no idea as to how or why Martin, Maureen, Jess, and JJ all even made it out alive. The story's disappointing ending lacks imagination and originality.
Lucky for Nick Hornby, the botched ending of A Long Way Down doesn't come close to overshadowing his