How We End Up, by Douglas Wells is a contemporary drama that explores the relationships we form, the actions we take, and the consequences that flow from them. Jackson Levee is a Florida teacher who longs for recognition of his poetry. He considers poetry to be the highest form of the written art and yet, he understands the dilemma – nobody reads poetry anymore. Still, Jackson is a man of his poetic principles and he believes one day his time will come. When Jackson stumbles across two nine-year old twins, Hadley and Hayley, in serious trouble at the beach and about to drown, he does what we all like to think we would do – he swims out into the surf and regardless of his own safety rescues the two youngsters from the water. The rescue proves to be a seminal day for Jackson, as he discovers himself to be a hero, he writes a poem about the day of the rescue and suddenly finds himself on national television, with the twins and their mother, reading his poem to the masses. An extremely successful book deal and a “poet in residence” chair at a local University set Jackson up for his successful life and career, or so he thinks. The story follows the up and downs of the lives of Jackson and the twins, which now seem to be forever inextricably linked.
This book is a readable treatise on modern society, what we value, as a people and what is important to us as individuals. Douglas Wells pulls no punches in How We End Up as, through his characters, he shows up our flaws, our arrogance, but also our irrepressible hope for the future and the belief that there must be something better, just around the corner. The impermanence and the ease of jettisoning relationships in today’s world is probably the point that came through loudest and clearest for me, as a reader. All three main characters in this story; Jackson, Hadley, and Haley experience what they believe is the “perfect” person for them – their soul-mate, so to speak, yet with almost unerring certainty, they somehow manage to sabotage their relationship or outside circumstances allow them to justify tossing away what they have, for something that may, or may not be different or better. As a peek inside the minds of everyday, average people, struggling to survive and prosper in a world they either feel alien in or are unable to understand, the book does a good job of possibly making us, as readers, look in the mirror and see ourselves in these characters. This was an enjoyable and easy read, with the author’s style and language sophisticated and at times complex.