I receive so many emails, tweets and Facebook messages about the ending to I LET YOU GO. ‘What happened?’ ‘Is Ian back?’ ‘Does Jenna die?’ ‘I have to know…’
I have created this page to answer your questions about that final paragraph, but I will need your help to make sure the ending isn’t spoiled for those who haven’t yet reached it. Please don’t publish the contents of this page online, or share it with anyone unless you absolutely know they have finished the book. If your book club is discussing I LET YOU GO, please don’t just circulate the link – there will always be one or two who haven’t read the book yet! Instead consider keeping this information to yourself until your book club meet in person, and you can then share the page – perhaps after you have all debated the ending.
In the meantime, here are my thoughts…
The final chapters of I LET YOU GO do allow for a certain amount of ambiguity. Ian’s body has not yet been recovered, and Jenna catches a glimpse of what she fears might be writing in the sand; writing that could only be from Ian.
Every reader is free to make up their own minds about how a story ends, but here are my thoughts:
Ian is dead. It would be virtually impossible to survive a fall of that nature, and we know from other sections of the book (Patrick’s girlfriend, the father and son canoeists lost at sea, and the experiences shared by the local Detective Inspector) that bodies often take some time to wash up on the coast.
The glimpse of writing Jenna sees is in her mind. Even she can’t say for sure it was there (‘The sea washes over the writing I’m now not certain I saw at all.’) and when she looks again there is nothing there.
‘I’m seeing things. There’s nothing written there on the sand; nothing carved in bold, straight letters. It is not there. I cannot see my name.’
So why write the ending in this way? If Ian is dead, and Jenna is happy, why not make that clear?
Well, because I don’t believe life is as easy as that. However happy our endings – and I firmly believe that Jenna and Patrick will be happy together – they are always tainted to some degree by what has gone before. Loss, trauma and abuse leave a legacy that cannot easily be erased.
A final point about the last line in I LET YOU GO: ‘and then it is dark.’ On one level it is quite simple. The sun has set; not just on that day, but on our time with Jenna and with her story. Perhaps it has also set on her paranoia; perhaps she has turned resolutely away from the imagined writing in the sand, with newfound resolve to put her past behind her. Certainly I would like to think she will continue to heal from this point on.
The line also echoes the final line of the prologue. Jacob lies in the road, his stricken mother kneeling over him. They are lit by the headlights of the car that hit him, as as she looks up at the unseen driver and screams for help, the car reverses, and the beams of light shrink until they are left in darkness. Using the same words at the end of I LET YOU GO is a gentle reminder that, although it is Jenna’s story we have followed throughout this novel, at its heart is a five year old boy who lost his life. And he should never be forgotten.