The Night of Many Endings, by Melissa Payne

Assumptions. We’ve all made them. We create narratives for strangers based on their housing (or lack thereof,) their jobs, their weight, race, religion, political party, tattoos, piercings, clothes, hair color…need I go on? No. Anyone reading this knows what I’m talking about. You probably did it today and so did I. The assumptions are usually wrong and yet, we keep on doing it. We’ve all been on the receiving end too, likely in a hurtful way, promising ourselves we would never do that to someone else…and yet…

The irony is that we all know the solution. Once we truly get to know someone, once they become distinct and a friend, those categories we originally focused on vanish. It’s amazing what a little effort and a little compassion can accomplish.

This is the theme of The Night of Many Endings, by Melissa Payne, a unique book with five main characters, each dealing with their own losses and challenges, each making incorrect assumptions about the others, and each set on a new path after one momentous night.

It is closing time at the library in Silver Ridge, Colorado. Head librarian, Nora, is ready to resume the search for her missing older brother, an addict and transient. Assistant librarian Marlene, a recent widow and self-appointed watchdog, has just caught teenager, Jasmine, stuffing an unchecked book into her bag. Horrors. Vlado, the steady, calm security guard, prepares for an evening of reading to further his education. Outside, Lewis, a grizzled old homeless man, numbs the pain with some obscure white powder. Five lives, five people who have no intention of letting their stories overlap.

Until a blizzard changes their plans. A tree falls and the roads become impassable. Suddenly Nora, Marlene, Jasmine, Vlado, and Lewis are stuck in the library all night. With no power, minimal sustenance, and dwindling cell phone batteries, options are limited. So is patience, understanding, and generosity. However, as conditions at the library get colder, defenses drop and hearts start to thaw.

If you were a teen in the eighties as I was, you remember the iconic John Hughes film The Breakfast Club, about the motley crew of five high school students stuck in Saturday detention. The Night of Many Endings reminded me of that film, but is still a story all its own. One that is profound and thought-provoking.

This was a terrific read. I put a lot of scenes through my own filter of experience. Sometimes I felt light and hopeful, sometimes I felt shame and regret. But I left with a personal vow to try and be better. In my opinion, that is what this story is trying to teach us. I recommend it.

9/10 Stars

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