Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Heather reviews Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris

Then We Came to the End: A NovelBook: Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris
Published: 2007, Little Brown & Company
How I Got This Book: received as a Secret Santa gift a couple years ago
Why I read it: it sounded like a really entertaining read
My rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary (from Goodreads): For anyone who has ever worked in an office, hating everything and everyone in it, yet fell apart when it was time to leave -- this book is for you. Heartbreaking, yet hysterically funny, Then We Came to the End is the definitive novel about the contemporary American workplace.

My thoughts: Then We Came To The End has been on my to read list pretty much since it's release but for some reason it took me almost 4 years to actually pull it off my shelf. As with any book that I wait that long to read, there was a huge amount of hype leading up to it. There was nothing that wowed me about this novel, but I found it to be an entertaining read that was very easy to relate to for anyone who has ever worked in the typical office environment. There were many points where I was laughing out loud because I could picture some of the events happening in my own office. There were a lot of things that were a little outrageous but still very funny to picture. It's easy to see that author Joshua Ferris' view of corporate America is a bitter one, but he's able to poke fun at that in his debut novel.

I enjoyed the use of first person plural and how we never find out who the narrator is. He/she speaks on behalf of the group and refers to all of the employees of the ad agency where this book takes place as the collective "we". The characters were all so entertaining, from the crazy ones, to the slackers to the workaholics. There have been a lot of comparisons to The Office and Office Space in other reviews, and it's definitely very much along those lines but I would say more like if the employees of Dunder Mifflin were all on crack.

While there were plenty of funny moments, there were also a lot of really depressing ones. The characters were waiting with bated breath to find out who would be the next to be laid off. They were all aware that their jobs as advertising creatives basically turned them into soul sucking demons. As someone who goes to work most days dreading what lays ahead, I know how terrible it feels to have a job you absolutely can't stand but you need it to survive. Ferris wrote Then We Came To The End shortly before the economy got really bad, so I imagine that if he had waited to write this just a year or two later, the stories and desperation of the characters would be so much worse. There's not much you can do other than to laugh though when you realize you're not the only one who hates their job or works with a bunch of crazies.


  1. Yeah, Ferris writes a funny book - and I agree that the Office Space and The Office comparisons are quite apt. But I wouldn't call the "serious" moments "depressing" - they're more humanizing. They attempt to balance the slapstick a little bit, and illustrate the point the book of the novel: How much connection do you really have to the people with whom you spend more than 40 hours a week?

    But we DO find out who the narrator is - at the end. At it's the most brilliant part of the novel, in my view. It's us! We've been with these characters the whole time - and it's not until the end we realize how closely we actually are connected. We're the only ones left. Just you and me.

  2. I actually didn't like this book too much because it hit too close to home. I work in an office and I suppose when I'm reading, I yearn for something a little more extraordinary and different from what I'm used to.

  3. I'm a little bit in love with Joshua Ferris. This debut novel of his took my breath away at moments. The humor is very, very dark--much harsher than The Office or Office Space. I loved the book for both the humor and the heartbreak.

    For a LOT more heartbreak, read Ferris's second novel, The Unnamed. It's about a man with a disease that can't be diagnosed, and how he--and quite poignantly, his loved ones--live with it.

  4. @Diva Schuyler I have The Unnamed on my shelf and I'm pretty excited to read it.

  5. Sounds like my office at the moment - lots of people leaving or retiring and the air is full of memories both hilarious and bittersweet. The Office employees on crack - oh, jeez!


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