Then We Came to the End is an ingenious, witty and moving book by Joshua Ferris. His debut novel actually and a book that got rave reviews by every critic possible. It is unfortunate that it has not become the best seller that it deserves to be, some blame the awkward title, which I agree is pretty bad. I'm constantly mixing it up when I try to tell people, it's awkward to say and I always want to insert an "and" in front of it to make it And Then We Came to the End. If it is truly the title that is keeping you from the book, then don't let it. It's awkwardness does not transcend into the novel itself. The novel in fact is a brilliant, witty, original and well written story about people who happen to work in an office.
Then We Came to the End is written in the collective "we." Yes, you heard me, it's written from the first-person collective. It is funny and if you've ever worked in the office, you know that it's so true. You start saying, we Totally had one of those guys in our office! It starts out seemingly more like a statement on the office life, the office collective that tends to permeate in most office environments. It focuses on the constant gossip and drama that people tend to create in the office. But then something unexpected happens. With one amazing chapter that stands separate from the rest of the book, your heart is suddenly twisted and everything changes. The tone changes and everything you read is spun in a more human way then the mechanical collective spin the first half of the book has. The chapter "The Thing to Do and the Place to Be" is by far the most well written and emotionally compelling chapter of the book. And it is my favorite. By the time you get to that chapter your entertained by the book but you're kind of starting to wonder what is the point of the book. Is it all just to make fun of the office environment? Is it all just to show how wry and witty the author can be? How clever he can be? But no, that isn't the point and you are glad for it because you like the book so far, and that one chapter makes you love the book.
And when you do come to the end of the book, it is sad but satisfying. The last line of the book is a bit unexpected and somehow perfect because it brings you in personally, you feel like you have some sort of revelation, even if you're not sure what it is. You say yourself, "Ah ha! At last I see!" but aren't really sure what it is that you see. But that is a gift, to give your reader a sense of enlightenment, a sense that now because of your book they see the fuller picture.
Even if you haven't worked in an office setting before (you lucky bastards) you can appreciate this book. But for the people who Have worked in an office setting, this book can't be missed. It's an original and intelligent book, full of heart and humor. It is true and exaggerated, real and false all at the same time with the perfect balance. Ferris seems in line with those first time masterpieces such as Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain and Janet Fitch's White Oleander. I don't know how you can get much better than Then We Came to the End as an author. Simply, it's a masterpiece. Except, he could always come up with a better title.
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