Conrad watches his mother drive away in a taxi. He finds Calvin in the backyard and asks what happened. Calvin says Beth is going to Houston for a while and tells Conrad not to blame himself. He admits he never worried about Conrad, because he always appeared in control, but should have worried more. Conrad tells his dad he loves him, a sentiment Calvin reciprocates. The camera pulls back to show the house, with the two on the steps in an embrace.
The ending of the novel is a bit less dramatic, visually speaking, than the ending of the film. Beth leaves Calvin and does not say good-bye to Conrad. Calvin tells Conrad his mother has gone and plans for the two of them to live in a rented house in Evanston, where Conrad will finish high school. Conrad begins to criticize his mother for her departure, but Calvin turns the tables on his son and suggests Conrad needs to learn how to take criticism himself. Conrad agrees and advises his dad to criticize him more often. Conrad tells his father he loves him. The novel also includes an epilogue, which takes place in the new house where Conrad and Calvin live. Conrad finishes his therapy with Dr. Berger but insists they will remain friends. He also goes to Lazenby’s house to make amends. Conrad is slowly healing.
Sara Constantakis, Novels for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Novels, Judith Guest, Volume 33, Gale-Cengage Learning, 2010