Title: The We Came to the End: A Novel
Author: Joshua Ferris
Acquired: Borrowed from my sister
One Sentence Summary: Workers at a Chicago ad agency work together through a struggling economy, sharing the intimate and shallow details of their lives.
One Sentence Review: Ferris’ style and sense of humor make this book a great read for anyone who has spent time stuck in a cubicle.
Why I Read It: I read good reviews of The Unnamed and wanted to read something by Joshua Ferris, so grabbed this one from my sister when I saw it on her shelves.
Long Review: Once I decided that I wanted to read Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, I started seeing it everywhere — on display at the library, featured our local bookstore, on the shelves of an acquaintance in Madison, and then at my sister’s house when I went to Iowa for the Read-a-Thon. That’s when I took it as a sign that I should read this book.
Then We Came to the End is set at a struggling ad agency in Chicago, and is about the weirdly intimate but shallow relationships people build with their co-workers. There isn’t really one main character or storyline to share — I guess the fact that the ad agency is struggling in the down economy and has to lay people off is one thing, but it’s more a sense of anxiety than a plot.
The entire book is written in second person, so you get this ongoing sense of group think and community that can happen in the closed culture of an office. And the book has the most killer first paragraph:
We were fractious and overpaid. Our mornings lacked promise. At least those of us who smoked had something to look forward to at ten-fifteen. Most of us liked most everyone, a few of us hated specific individuals, one or two people loved everyone and everything. Those who loved everyone were unanimously reviled. We loved free bagels in the morning. They happened all too infrequently. Our benefits were astonishing in comprehensiveness and quality of care. Sometimes we questioned whether they were worth it. We thought moving to India might be better, or going back to nursing school. Doing something with the handicapped or working with our hands. No one ever acted on these impulses, despite their daily, sometimes hourly contractions. Instead we met in conference rooms to discuss the issue of the day.
I’ve only been working at my job for about six months, but I can already see that that paragraph is just exactly right. Wow.
I thought this book was really funny, spot on in many of it’s pokes at corporate life, but also oddly emotionally engaging — I really fell for these characters in the end and was sad that I was leaving them when the book ended. I think this book would be a funny read for just about anyone who works in the kind of place where office managers track chairs and people get judged by the photos, or lack their of, they display next to their computer monitor.
If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!