Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris – 3.5 stars (out of 5)

Then We Came to the End

Synopsis from Good Reads:

No one knows us quite the same way as the men and women who sit beside us in department meetings and crowd the office refrigerator with their labeled yogurts. Every office is a family of sorts, and the ad agency Joshua Ferris brilliantly depicts in his debut novel is family at its strangest and best, coping with a business downturn in the time-honored way: through gossip, pranks, and increasingly frequent coffee breaks.

With a demon’s eye for the details that make life worth noticing, Joshua Ferris tells a true and funny story about survival in life’s strangest environment–the one we pretend is normal five days a week.

Thoughts:

-The first half of this book I couldn’t decide if I liked it or not. The chapters were almost unbearably long. There were so many characters they were hard to keep straight. The POV is Plural 1st Person which took me awhile to get used to. But the thing that kept me going was the irreverent description of daily office life. So many passages I just thought, “Yes! That is exactly what it’s like!” I think it would resonate with anyone who’s worked in an office before.

-The viewpoint, as I mentioned, was Plural 1st Person. I can’t even remember the last time I read something in that style. I kept expecting the narrator to reveal himself – because it felt like a him and not a her. But really, it was a we. Once I got accustomed to it, I kind of liked it. The story could have easily been told through 3rd Person, but I feel it would have lacked the emotional connection we get through the use of 1st Person.

-The second half of the book is where I really began to truly enjoy it. I finally felt like I had a good handle on the characters and I cared about them. I wanted Benny to finally tell Marcia how he felt and was genuinely distressed when the ongoing lay-offs separated them before he worked up the nerve.  Each time a character was let go it felt like a death in the family.

-Overall I ended up enjoying the book. It really reminded me of my first “real” job. It was a family-like office that I was eventually laid off from. It was not uncommon to find people gathered at one office or another, not exactly working. There were pranks. There was complaining. A lot of it. And when it came to the end, no other office has ever lived up to the atmosphere and relationships I had there. Joshua Ferris pretty perfectly described that experience, but in a more thoughtful and clever light. I would recommend this book to anyone who’s worked in an office setting.

 

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