Jacqueline Hollands’s debut novel, The God of Endings, reveals the loneliness of the life of an unwilling vampire.
Jacqueline Holland’s debut novel, The God of Endings, follows an unwilling vampire as she navigates the passing of centuries alone. Young Anna’s untimely death from the plague propels her into what she views as an inescapable nightmare— a life that never ends. Faced with ongoing hardships and treachery from her former fellow humans, she pins the blame of her sufferings on one mythical figure from her past: Czernobog, the god of endings. Holland details the days of the art teacher (“Anna”, now going by “Collette”) who strives to be ordinary, all while sensing a danger that threatens to unravel the mundane life she has carefully cultivated.
Much of The God of Endings takes place through the lens of Collette’s memories, while the rest is set in the familiar ‘present-day’ of the 1980s. While “Anna” navigates literal witch hunts, war, and societal advancement in the past, “Collette” in the present faces an ever-growing thirst that threatens to derail her quiet, calm disguise as an art teacher. To add to her problems, one of her young students is chronically ill, and his parents are suspiciously complicit, though she cannot guess how. Each time disaster strikes in her life she smells smoke (a sign of Czernobog), and these troubles are signaled by the very real smoke alarm going off to “imaginary smoke.”
The imagined existence of vampires-among-us is not new, but Holland holds a refreshingly human lens to the idea: how much suffering can one person take when they cannot die? Anna/Collette’s grim view of life is compounded by the fact that she is often rejected by humans when they discover what she is. Each of her attempts to reach out to others ends in death and destruction, no matter what time period she finds herself in. Collette struggles to reconcile this to her current way of living, fumbling through experimental changes to her eating habits and social interactions.
“To know God and be known by him is to be reviled by men,” another character remarks when Anna learns he has been rejected by others for being a Jew. Loneliness is part of the human experience, yet Anna/Collette is certain that her isolation is because of what she is, and she is certain that this dooms her to unhappiness.
I know what it’s like to feel doomed to misery, as someone who has experienced grief many times over. I found it almost comical (if not depressing) how much Anna/Collette believes her misfortune is specific to her. Despite this, I have also felt this way— as if being punished for existing. The ultimate revelation of the truth of Anna/Collette’s experience in The God of Endings can serve as a truth for our personal experiences as readers; how do we respond to change, and what do we accept into our lives when the things and people we love the most suddenly leave us?
Eventually, Anna/Collette is faced with new challenges to her personal ideology and the intervention of the dreaded Czernobog himself. As she recalls her own trials, she begrudgingly accepts the trials of the sickly boy in her classroom and must confront what she believes to be true about love, suffering, and death. The God of Endings asks readers to make a choice about life and how to live it, and the novel ends with Anna/Collette’s fate in her own hands, and the reader’s fate in their own hands. – Brandy Burgess
The God of Endings is Jacqueline Holland’s debut novel.