Study Guide

The First Part Last What's Up With the Ending?

By Angela Johnson

What's Up With the Ending?

There's a reason that Bobby moves to Heaven, Ohio, and not Cleveland, Columbus, or Canton:

I can tell you how it feels sitting in the window with Feather pointing out the creek that rolls past our backyard. I can tell you how it is to feel as brand new as my daughter even though I don't know what comes next in this place called Heaven. (31.10)

Johnson ends the novel with all the subtlety of the sledgehammer. If she wanted to get more obvious about the optimistic ending, she'd have to take out a bullhorn and yell in our ear, "Heaven, Ohio is a metaphor for opportunity and all that is good in the world!" The chapter is even titled "Heaven" in case we weren't clear what sort of note we're ending on. Bobby isn't just in a town called Heaven, he's in a chapter of his life brimming with hope and possibility. Aw.

As the book ends, Bobby's found an apartment and he feels like he has support in his brother there. But what's extra appealing about Heaven is that Bobby can get the same fresh start that his daughter gets—he has no history here, no identity, no people to disappoint but himself and Feather. And that's enough for him. You might even call it heavenly (you know, if you're the type to beat a dead horse).

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