When you are in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood . . . It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all.
In Part IX, Grace tries to figure out what she will tell Dr. Jordan in their next session. At this point in the novel, Grace has told her whole life story, right up until just before the murders. However, the gaps in her memory of the murders themselves remain in place, and she feels unsure about how to proceed with her story. Grace compares this sensation of uncertainty with the feeling a character must have in the middle of a story. Because a character does not yet know what happens at the end of the story, the future necessarily remains obscure for them. This situation resembles real life, in which there is no way to know what lies ahead, leaving us to stumble blindly onward. Grace suggests that, as long as a person or character remains “in the middle of the story,” there is actually no story at all. It is only after the story comes to its conclusion that it achieves its full shape, with a clear beginning, middle, and end. In other words, the ending confers new meaning on everything that came before it.
Even though Grace is telling her own story and knows that her story ends with two murders and her imprisonment, the gaps in her memory nonetheless make her feel like she doesn’t really know how her own account will conclude. The uncertainty brings an accompanying sensation of terror. Grace feels trapped inside her own story, swept along like debris on the surface of a river, powerless to make it stop, Grace experiences her own story as another kind of prison from which she cannot escape. The fear Grace communicates with these images clearly demonstrates just how profound an impact telling her story to Dr. Jordan has had on her psyche.