Review: Then We Came to the End

then we came to the endJoshua Ferris’s debut novel, Then We Came to the End, won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. It was also a National Book Award finalist.

Many of us who work in an office hate everything and everyone in it. We hate our colleagues, office politics and the deadlines. Still, no one likes to get laid off. That is true. No matter how hard we hate our job, we still want to keep it.

Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End is hysterically funny. Still, there are quite a few heartbreaking moments in it. The novel captures the essence of the contemporary American workplace.

Ferris’s style of writing is irresistibly casual. Better still, he manages to make readers a part of his fictional advertising agency. Through several impromptu conversations, we are introduced to the characters. We discover that Larry and Amber have had an affair and that Amber is pregnant. We realize that Chris Yop is panicking because he exchanged his office chair without obtaining the required permission. Joe Pope is a universally despised guy. He has just received a promotion and now everybody has to listen to him. Of course, none of his subordinates are happy about this development.  Karen Woo is another character that everybody likes to hate because she’s always trying to seem smarter than everyone else.

The head of the advertising agency Lynn has cancer, but she doesn’t want anyone to find out that. The agency is in trouble and wants to lay off people. In fact, the unstable Tom Mota is being laid off. Anybody could be the next and we are dying to know who will be the next casualty.

By the time you finish the book, you will start wondering whether the novelist had spent time in your office. And that is the strength of this novel. With great dexterity Ferris has captured those moments that make our workplaces funny and horrible at the same time.

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