Then We Came To The End - Joshua Ferris

Then We Came To The End satires the modern day American workplace; that of the office. It details the ridiculousness, the monotony, the humor and the tedium that is all associated with spending eight hours a day in a cubicle, surrounded by the same people day in and day out. Ferris brings us inside the walls of a Chicago ad agency just as the market is taking a turn for the worst and layoffs are inevitable.
It was a shrill, carping, frenzied time, and as poisonous an atmosphere as anyone had ever known - and we wanted nothing more than to stay in it forever.
I'm not quite sure what to say about this book. It took me awhile to warm up to it. I liked certain parts a lot, and others I felt dragged on. But overall, I liked it more than I didn't like it - if that makes sense. It is very funny, but not in an obvious or obnoxious kind of way. Ferris does a fantastic job relating the comedy in the trivial compulsions, exaggerated emotions and complicated politics that result from the abnormal dynamic of today's corporate culture. In this way the novel almost functions as a farce, except by the end I found myself caring about these characters, without having really gotten to know them at all (except one - whose story is the only section of the book that isn't narrated in the first person plural, and is a very touching and honest account that made me believe that Ferris understands women). It took awhile to get going but once it did, I couldn't stop reading.

Ferris' novel brought up interesting questions: do we ascribe more importance to our everyday life than we should? Do we continually search for meaning in meaningless situations? In a particularly funny part of the novel, an employee, Benny, decides that for an entire day, he will answer everyone's questions with quotes from The Godfather, to see if people noticed or even cared to hear what he was really saying. No one does:
I mean if you can get by with quotes from The Godfather, and nothing you say matters, that's pretty bleak, don't you think? Don't you want what we say to matter?
Then We Came To The End was named one of the Top Ten Books of the Year in 2007 by The New York Times Book Review and was also shortlisted for the National Book Award - I think it is well deserved.

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2007


  1. I enjoyed this book, especially the fact that it's in first person plural. At first I thought that meant you were seeing it from a characters point of view and I spent awhile trying to figure out who "I" was but eventually I realized that wasn't the case. Then I just enjoyed reading it as though I was part of this ad team. It did have its sad moments but overall I enjoyed.

    Love the review :)

  2. I bought this book, and then never picked it up to read it -- I ended up swapping it out on Paperbackswap, but now I wonder if I should have kept it...! argh.

  3. Red, I liked the first person plural as well, and especially liked Ferris' explanation (in an interview included in the back of the book) as for why he used it. Maybe I should have included that in the review...

    Coffee and a Book, It's not for everyone but maybe you would have liked it? You can always get another one!

  4. This sounds like such an enjoyable book! Great review too. I am going to be on the lookout for this one!

  5. I read Ferris' second book, The Unnamed. It was okay...but not fantastic. I've heard Then We Came to the End is supposed to be better than that one. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  6. Yeah, I think I'm going to have go re-order it! Argh!! More books to my shelves, and I already had this one on there!! :)

  7. Sounds interesting! Working 9 hours a day in a cubicle, I really feel like I could relate.

  8. Vaishnavi, You should! And thanks!

    booksploring, I've heard mixed reviews of both. Some like The Unnamed better and others like TWCTTE. I think I'll keep my eye out for The Unnamed, but I won't be running out to pick it up.

    Coffee, I know the feeling!

    Leica, Haha me too! That's half the reason I picked it up in the first place :)

  9. I really want to read this. I haven't gotten around to picking up a copy yet, especially since quite a pile has suddenly accumulated on TOP of my bookshelf. I recently listened to The New Yorker's Fiction Podcast of Jonathan Ferris's short story, The Dinner Party, which I definitely recommend. Thanks!

  10. This book hit me just right because when I read it I had just gotten a job where my office was in a cubicle.