And Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris
Joshua Ferris is an American author who was born on November 8, 1974 in Danville, Illinois, USA. He was educated at the University of Iowa then at the University of California in Irvine. His writing has achieved several awards including the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year. He has also been nominated for the National Book Awards for Fiction. This book was his debut novel and is the book for which he is best known. The book is unusual in that the story is told in the first-person plural.
And Then We Came to the End is a comedy book that takes place in a fictitious advertising agency in Chicago that is experiencing a downturn at the end of the ’90s internet boom.
Joshua Ferris, indeed, worked in advertising for several years before obtaining his MFA in writing from UC Irvine. The book received very positive reviews and has now been published in twenty-five languages.
On some levels it works for anyone who has ever worked in an office, hating everything about it. However, it just did not work well for me. I found it more confusing and the characters a bit pathetic rather than funny. It is said that Then We Came to the End is the definitive novel about the contemporary American workplace. That may be so, but I did not like the book much, nor did I enjoy the style of storytelling.
Ferris certainly has a distinctive style of writing. I just do not like it. The book promotes its story through numerous impromptu conversations between colleagues. The reader learns that Larry and Amber had an affair, and Amber is pregnant. They are told that Chris Yop is panicking as he exchanged his office chair without asking permission and also that Joe Pope is despised:he got promoted and now everyone must listen to him. Also, apparently nobody likes Karen Woo because she is always trying to appear to be more intelligent than everyone else. The reader is also made aware that the boss, Lynn, has cancer. The author makes clear that the advertising agency is in financial trouble, and that the unstable employee, Tom Mota, is to be laid off and the staff worry that anyone could be next. The story is reminiscent of many offices.
While there are flashes of humour and brilliance throughout this novel, on the whole I did not enjoy Ferris’s debut novel at all.
It is certainly a technically proficient piece of writing about unimportant people discovering truths that most people learn early in life. Then We Came to the End does deal seriously and sensitively with the pathos of a person recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Ferris does an exceptionally good job of writing about this, however, in my opinion, this is not indicative of most of the book. For me it did not justify reading so many meaningless pages describing office luncheons and chair-swapping capers and employees and those made redundant.
This may be a very clever book, but I did not enjoy it and cannot recommend it.