Wednesday, September 6, 2023

How Did "Notes on an Execution" by Danya Kukafka End? Spoilers!


Book Review and Spoilers for "Notes on an Execution" by Danya Kukafka

How did "Notes on an Execution" by Danya Kukafka end? Looking for a plot summary for book club or an explanation of what happens to the characters at the end? "Notes of an Execution" by Danya Kukafka is an emotionally charged literary fiction novel that left me reeling with thoughts and questions. Keep reading for a deeper dive into this heartbreaking read!

Notes on an Execution by Danya KukafkaNotes on an Execution 

by Danya Kukafka

goodreads // amazon // library

Ansel Packer is scheduled to die in twelve hours. He knows what he’s done, and now awaits execution, the same chilling fate he forced on those girls, years ago. But Ansel doesn’t want to die; he wants to be celebrated, understood.

Through a kaleidoscope of women—a mother, a sister, a homicide detective—we learn the story of Ansel’s life. We meet his mother, Lavender, a seventeen-year-old girl pushed to desperation; Hazel, twin sister to Ansel’s wife, inseparable since birth, forced to watch helplessly as her sister’s relationship threatens to devour them all; and finally, Saffy, the detective hot on his trail, who has devoted herself to bringing bad men to justice but struggles to see her own life clearly. As the clock ticks down, these three women sift through the choices that culminate in tragedy, exploring the rippling fissures that such destruction inevitably leaves in its wake.

Blending breathtaking suspense with astonishing empathy, Notes on an Execution presents a chilling portrait of womanhood as it simultaneously unravels the familiar narrative of the American serial killer, interrogating our system of justice and our cultural obsession with crime stories, asking readers to consider the false promise of looking for meaning in the psyches of violent men.

Book Review and Spoilers of "Notes on an Execution" by Danya Kukafka 

What Worked for Me

"Notes on an Execution" does an amazing job at being suspenseful while also not hiding the ball Reading this novel, we know pretty early on that Ansel murdered several girls, and that he will likely receive the death penalty. Who those girls are, how, and when is concealed for a little while, but I like that the author shifted the focus of the story from the typical "did he do it" to instead look at "why did he do it? Is there reason and meaning to be found there and if not, what do we do with that void?" Tanya Kukafka really elevated the genre by skipping over the typical suspense and asking much more pointed and important questions about criminality. Ansel's crimes are truly found to be senseless and in the end, this felt much more terrifying and real. 

Lavender's story arc was heartbreaking and so raw There is such a spectrum of emotions that I felt reading Lavender's point of view. her story stuck out to me reading this book because I am also a mom of two young children. Initially, I was incredibly angry with her character but ultimately came to forgive her as she did herself. It was just so heartbreaking - the choices that Lavender had to make to protect herself and her children, and watching the consequences of those choices play out horribly. All of the ways she was the cause of and also victim to the horrible choices of others.  

So much respect is given to the deceased characters "Notes on an Execution" spends time respecting and reflecting on who the women Ansel murdered could have become. These moments had such a touching sort of whimsical thinking that felt true to the characters and also how in grieving you would imagine who these young girls and women could become, the potential and love that was lost. Ansel and his childhood trauma are presented fairly, but in a way that makes it clear that that hurt is in no way an excuse or explanation for the crimes he committed. Because we all have hurt, what we choose to do with that is what makes us ourselves. 

What I Struggled With

Manufactured conflict There are very few moments in the book that I did not enjoy, however, there is one moment that sticks out. Even though the ring Jenny is wearing from Ansel could connect him to the crimes, Ansel is initially not questioned because a higher-up in the police force of the town wants to pin the crime on someone else. Certainly, this does happen, but if this was truly how they operated there I think Saffy's reaction to this would have been different. She could have been frustrated that cases kept going that way and remarked on it, but instead, it felt like this case was conveniently cherry-picked to be mishandled to stretch out the story arc.

How Did "Notes on an Execution" by Danya Kukafka End? Spoilers!

The climax of "Notes on an Execution" begins with Jenny getting away from Ansel. Jenny finds a job in Houston and with the help of her sister, Hazel, is able to get out and file for divorce. Afterward, Ansel begins spending time with his niece, Blue, and his brother's wife at their cafe. This quickly ends when Saffy approaches the women to let them know that Ansel is not safe. When Ansel is rejected by them he enters a tailspin. This leads him to drive to Jenny in Houston. Ansel sees Jenny exiting her workplace and kissing another man, her new boyfriend. Ansel then follows Jenny to her home, breaks in, and murders her. 

Initially, we see Ansel planning his escape from jail with the help of someone working at the jail, Shawna. Thankfully his plan is spoiled when Shawna does not follow through with the plan. She had initially agreed to put a gun under the seat of the van and told Ansel that she was going through with the plan. However, when he gets on the bus and reaches for where the gun is supposed to be there are only jumper cables. 

Jenny's death ignites a memory in Hazel of Ansel burying a box the night that Ansel proposed to Jenny at their parent's house. When Hazel digs the box up, she finds a bracelet and barrette that belong to the other girls Ansel murdered. Jenny brings the belongings to Saffy who flies to Houston with the items to question Ansel after he is detained for questioning regarding Jenny's murder.

Ansel caves after getting pressured by Saffy and he is sentenced to the death penalty. At the end of the novel, he is put to death. The author explores the moral questions of execution and why this does very little to create a sense of justice. Instead, it puts Ansel on display and gives him attention, and perhaps a truer justice would have come from a lifelong sentence in jail alone without any opportunity for martyrdom. 

Favorite Quotes from "Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka

"There is a story you know about yourself. There is a story everyone knows. As you pull Shawna's note from your waistband, you wonder how that story became so distorted - how only your weakest moments matter now, how they expanded to devour everything else." - page 10

"It was audacious, and so like him, to throw her to the wolves then demand her forgiveness for it." - page 226

"What a disappointment. She had finally solved this epic mystery - touched the place where Ansel's hurt had congealed - only to find his pain looked just like everyone else's. The difference lay in what he chose to do with it." - page 260

"She wonders how a concept like justice made it into the human psyche, how she ever believed that something so abstract could be labeled, meted out. Justice does not feel like compensation. It does not even feel like satisfaction." - page 281

"It does not matter why he killed those girls and Jenny. Hazel believes that a person can be evil, and nothing more. There are millions of men out there who want to hurt women - people seem to think that Ansel Packer is extraordinary, because he actually did." - page 289

And that's a wrap on "Notes on an Execution" by Danny Kukafka! Let me know below if I missed any twists or perhaps you have a favorite quote I skipped? Share it below! Thanks for reading, readers!


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