About the Ending of GRAND & HUMBLE…

GrandHumble by Brent HartingerSo I recently released a revised edition of an older book of mine, Grand & Humble, which tells the story of the most popular teenager in a high school, and the least popular kid, and the mystery of how the two boys are linked.

(It’s currently available for FREE in all e-platforms.)

It’s one of my personal favorites of all my books, with a “twist” ending that I’m really proud of.

That said, I’m aware that some people find the ending confusing. That’s led directly to a few one and two-star reviews on Amazon (along with some raves, natch).

That’s okay. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. And I agree that to understand the ending, you have to understand a pretty complicated idea. The ending is, and was always intended to be, a real mind-bender. How exactly are these two characters related?

For the record, if you’re confused, here’s the answer. Spoiler alert!

Harlan and Manny are the same person, but in different timelines. In Manny’s timeline, his birth-parents were killed at the corner of Grand & Humble. In Harlan’s timeline, his parents avoided the accident and survived. Harlan is who Manny might have been, and vice-versa.

Over the course of the novel, Harlan and Manny’s paths almost seem to cross again and again. But of course their paths never do actually meet, because they can’t. They exist in separate timelines, after all. Meanwhile, their paths do cross those of their respective best friends, Ricky and Elsa. That’s because those characters exist in both timelines (albeit as slightly different versions of themselves.)

Like I said, it’s a complicated idea! I admit that I, the author, use a lot of misdirection along the way, trying to keep the final reveal a secret until the very end. The entire “separated twin brothers” subplot is a red herring. But that’s what the author of every mystery does, and this book is a classic puzzle box mystery. Of course, once the answer is revealed, it should all make sense in retrospect.

For many readers, it does. But some are having a hard time making that final leap.

Am I disappointed that some people are confused? In a way, yes. I’ve said many times that the whole point of writing is communication, and the whole point of communication is to be clear. To be understood.

Also, I don’t ever want anyone to feel stupid or confused by something I’ve written.

That said, it was difficult to simply reveal the truth, since neither of the main characters is aware of the other; they solve the problems of their own lives, but neither of them solves the overall mystery of the novel. That’s up to the reader, who has to be the one to put all the pieces together and figure it out. At the end of the second to last chapter, I did try to spell it out as clearly as possible:

Manny didn’t want to dwell on the past, at least not right now. But there was one more thing he wanted to know. “What were their names, my parents?”

“Victoria and Richard Chesterton,” his dad said. “They used to call you by your first name, not Manny. Your middle name. It’s a family name, but I always thought it sounded pretentious. Which means if they hadn’t died in that accident at Grand and Humble, right now everyone would probably call you—”

“Harlan Chesterson,” Manny said.

If I had to do it again, would I do write the book differently? Well, it always really sucks to get one and two-star reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. But plenty of people “get it” as well. And the ones who do get it, seem to really appreciate a fresh and unexpected twist.

And let’s face it, the whole point of Grand & Humble is to get the reader to question something very fundamental: these two characters seem completely different, virtually opposites, but they’re not. In fact, if not for the events at the corner of Grand and Humble, they would be exactly the same.

Could this be true for all of us? In America especially, many of us talk like we are all in complete control of our lives, that we are the sum result of the choices we’ve made. And in a way, that’s kind of true. But it’s also true that we are the result of some forces beyond our control. Most of us are smart and humble enough to admit that certain events in our lives, certain situations, are so profound that if they hadn’t happened, we’d be someone pretty different.

This is what I’m exploring in the novel, in addition to writing what I hope is an engrossing, entertaining puzzle box thriller.

In the end, I’m pretty happy with this latest edition of the book, even as I recognize that not every book is for every reader.



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25 Responses to “About the Ending of GRAND & HUMBLE…”

  1. Meme 28 August 2016 at 1:56 am #

    Thanks for a book that kept me guessing. I suspected the quantum physics angle , but the 'red herring' kept it suspenseful til the end. Just wanted you to know, I got it. Thanks again

    • bhartinger 29 August 2016 at 6:09 am #

      Really? You suspected? Seriously, you're the first person who's ever guessed the ending before actually getting there. Good for you!

      Thanks for the nice words.



  2. bhartinger 1 September 2016 at 8:06 pm #

    Thank you!

  3. Lillian Froemke 2 September 2016 at 2:13 am #

    Liked this story a lot. Read it in a couple hours.

    • bhartinger 2 September 2016 at 7:25 am #

      Thanks for letting me know! Glad you enjoyed it.


    • bhartinger 2 September 2016 at 7:27 am #

      Don't forget to leave a review, if you haven't already. ;-)

  4. Maxine 9 September 2016 at 4:29 am #

    Great writing! Kept me guessing all the way! "The what if?"…always very mysterious and intriguing to me. You have presented it in such a way to keep your readers turning those pages! Thanks for some enjoyable hours!!!

    • bhartinger 9 September 2016 at 7:17 pm #

      Extremely kind of you to say so. Very pleased you enjoyed it!

  5. bhartinger 9 September 2016 at 7:16 pm #

    Glad you liked it! ;-)

  6. Wally 22 September 2016 at 3:06 am #

    Hey Brent! Is there anywhere I can read the original version digitally? I'd love to compare

    • bhartinger 24 September 2016 at 6:49 am #

      Actually I don't have a digital version of the original. Sorry about that!

  7. Connor 24 September 2016 at 6:47 am #

    I actually suspected when elsa said she had a crush on someone. we know that she is not romantically interested in manny so obviously she has to be interested in a different main character or supporting character. i was hoping in the end for two thing, but I was very satisfied with the one that i got. #1 they are the same person. #2 the two best friends getting together.

    • bhartinger 24 September 2016 at 6:49 am #

      Thanks! Glad you liked it.

  8. Judith 26 September 2016 at 1:47 pm #

    I love books that make you think,what if. Thank you

    • bhartinger 27 September 2016 at 5:24 am #

      You're welcome!

  9. Julián 29 September 2016 at 7:59 am #

    After reading all of Russel Middle Brook book's (I really liked them all), I was expecting this book to be a love story between Harlan and Manny. Obviously I was wrong, but I was not disappointed, I really liked how it kept me guessing what was going on, and the ending was brilliant. Five stars

    • bhartinger 29 September 2016 at 6:58 pm #

      Thanks! So nice of you to say on both counts. I tried to do something quite different with GRAND & HUMBLE, so I'm happy it worked for you. (I was concerned that people would think it was a M/M love story…)

      If you haven't already reviewed it on Amazon, I'd love it if you did!


  10. Glenna Pritchard 6 October 2016 at 12:20 am #

    Loved the book read it in one siting. Does make you think about what ifs. Thanks for writing the book I so enjoyed reading it. Will be looking for other books you have written

    • bhartinger 7 October 2016 at 1:30 am #

      Thanks, Glenna! I'd love it if you leave a review on Amazon. :-)

  11. Rojean 11 October 2016 at 11:37 pm #

    Could not put it down ! Kept me thinking between Manny and Harland and how they fit and yet didn't! Finally, I got it. Great book! You are on my 'best liked author' list.

    • bhartinger 15 October 2016 at 11:02 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  12. Doris 28 October 2016 at 9:00 pm #

    I wasn't. too enthusiastic about the text in the beginning , but from the middle on you caught me.. The ending was sensational! I was wondering how you woul get the two boys together, but then ….

    • bhartinger 29 October 2016 at 7:08 am #

      Hey Doris! Thanks for the comment. Glad you like it!

  13. Jaz 16 January 2017 at 9:13 pm #

    I couldn't put this book down until I finished and the entire ending had me completely shocked. 10/10 would read again, and I can't wait to read more of your books.

    • bhartinger 16 January 2017 at 11:49 pm #

      Thanks, Jaz! I love hearing that. (And please consider leaving an Amazon review, if you haven't already.)

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