Then We Came to the End: A Novel

 
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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.



Amazon Best of the Month Spotlight Title, April 2007: It's 2001. The dot-com bubble has burst and rolling layoffs have hit an unnamed Chicago advertising firm sending employees into an escalating siege mentality as their numbers dwindle. As a parade of employees depart, bankers boxes filled with their personal effects, those left behind raid their fallen comrades' offices, sifting through the detritus for the errant desk lamp or Aeron chair. Written with confidence in the tricky-to-pull-off first-person plural, the collective fishbowl perspective of the "we" voice nails the dynamics of cubicle culture--the deadlines, the gossip, the elaborate pranks to break the boredom, the joy of discovering free food in the breakroom. Arch, achingly funny, and surprisingly heartfelt, it's a view of how your work becomes a symbiotic part of your life. A dysfunctional family of misfits forced together and fondly remembered as it falls apart. Praised as "the Catch-22 of the business world" and "The Office meets Kafka," I'm happy to report that Joshua Ferris's brilliant debut lives up to every ounce of pre-publication hype and instantly became one of my favorite books of the year. --Brad Thomas Parsons

Customer Reviews:

  • My observational skills are lacking...
    Three months ago, I was browsing around in the library and came across the hardcover copy of this book. I've always enjoyed books about office life (i.e. Company, by Max Barry and Kings of Infinite Space, by James Hynes), so I grabbed it.

    Within minutes of reading this book, I went insane with all the "we" references. I tried to like it...I really tried, but couldn't, and then scrapped it.

    Now, I see the same book in Barnes and Noble (only this time in paperback with a different cover) read the description again, and now I've got the same book again, only I don't know it.

    So I'm reading the crazy thing thinking it sounds familiar, and finally I realize what an idiot I am...and blah blah, but anyway...

    I actually enjoyed the book this time. It wasn't great by any means... it was a tad long (but come on, my attention span isn't what it used to be). I really enjoyed reading little snippets about the lives of characters, and there was really a lot I could relate with.

    If you're interested in all this freakishly overdone office crap like I am, you'll probably enjoy the book on some level.

    I mean, how can you not love some pissed-off office worker dressed like a clown, blasting people with red paint pellets to make 'em think the end is near?

    ...more info
  • A must for corporate dwellers
    This hilarious back-and-forth chronicle is a must read for anyone that has endured, enjoyed or suffered the corporate working environment. Deep characters beyond stereotypes, compelling writing and thought-provoking anecdotes convert this into an office classic....more info
  • Get to the point!!!
    After hearing how funny this book was, seeing how many awards it had won, I tried to read it several times. Recently I picked it back up (after putting it down months ago) but quickly just gave up again - permanently this time. The long rambling pointless prose style just got to me. Couldn't stand it. It's like listening to that long-winded person everyone has in their office tell what should be a brief story about what they did last night - they drone on and on, sticking in details that don't matter, subreferencing to an extent that would drive Dennis Miller crazy, and won't just get to the point, until you forgot why you even cared and you wish they would just stop so you could get back to work. Yes, there are some very pointed and funny observations in the book, but they are buried within long passages that go nowhere and serve no purpose. I wanted to like this book, can relate to the material (recently lost my job after watching other waves of layoffs) but in the end just couldn't get through it....more info
  • A novel that reads like "The Office"
    If you like the show, "The Office", you will probably enjoy this book. The petty day to day ins and outs of office drudgeries, pranks, personality quirks and irksome characters makes this a book anyone who has a job can appreciate. Although it was not a book that I was rushing to get back to, I certainly laughed out loud at several points. I read this for a book club, and overall, the group rated the book a 6/10. One woman hated it, one loved it, and the rest thought it was OK/good. Most of us liked best the middle passage in the book where there narrator changes, telling the story from the perspective of Lynn. That part had more of a fiction/novel feel to it, and is more serious. The rest of the book is mainly a string of loosely woven anecdotes about the employees and their idiosyncrasies....more info
  • "At least those of us who smoked had something to look forward to at ten-fifteen."
    Corporate America is filled with cubicle dwellers and, if you are not one those now, it is very likely that you have been one sometime in the past. Some of us finally escape the dreaded cubicle jungle for good; others of us spend large chunks of our lives there. "Then We Came to the End" is the story of one such place, a Chicago ad agency suffering the steady drip of office layoffs due to the 2001 economic downturn. Joshua Ferris, himself a former member of Cubicle America, takes a tricky first person plural approach to tell this company's story and his collective "we voice" makes it easy for cubicle veterans to identify with what he describes.

    Ferris so successfully describes the office setting and its daily goings-on that some office veterans might cringe when he hits a little to close to home for comfort. This is an agency filled with people much like the ones you work with every day. You like most of them well enough, and even consider one or two of them to be good friends, but you almost never see them outside the office setting. Some of them have little habits and mannerisms that drive you nuts, some of them you find attractive, and you might even feel threatened by one or two others who always seem ready to stab you in the back if it means a move up the corporate ladder for them.

    As the layoffs continue, surviving agency workers feel more and more pressure to look busy even as their actual workloads shrink to almost nothing. Rumors and speculation become the order of the day, and little clusters of whispering employees gather to discuss old rumors - and to send a few new ones out into the workplace themselves. They may not know each other very well but the employees have strong opinions about each other based on what they observe at the office. As office-mates disappear one-by-one and the company looks more and more unlikely to survive its downward spin, personal grudges, petty dislikes, and old rivalries become more and more important.

    One laid-off copywriter sneaks back into the office and even attends meetings in an attempt to prove his worth to the agency. Another refuses to admit that he suffers depression but begins stealing prescription medicine from a co-worker's desk. Others prefer to pretend that it is business as usual and they carry on with their office love affairs, both real and imagined. As their numbers dwindle, those still on the job become more and more frantic and strange things begin to happen. Workers raid newly vacated offices to find better chairs or office doodads for themselves; some fired employees tend return like bad pennies; and others begin to crack in their own rather unique ways.

    Joshua Ferris put me back in a world I personally experienced not that long ago. His use of satirical dark humor to describe the office trauma in "Then We Came to the End" sets just the right tone for the story he tells. Ferris also has a knack for perfectly describing even the most minor of his characters, as he does, for instance, in the case of one loner payroll clerk: "Her office was a firetrap of put-off filing. Sandy had gray hair and wore one of those ribbed finger condoms that gives one speed in the sport of accounting." (Hey, I think I know that woman.)

    Despite my flashbacks, this was a fun book for me to read and I recommend it to anyone who has been there and is not afraid to go back one more time for a little visit....more info
  • Funny, and a little bit of drama
    I think the strongest points of this book are the humorous sections, and the weakest are the drama sections. This is not to say I didn't care about the characters and their sometimes sad, futile work situations. But, there are some stretches of this book that stretched a little too far and I fell my attention wander a bit. Good book, but not the best....more info
  • Amusing and Deeper than First Appearance
    I found this book to be an amusing read.

    It may seem superficial with the characters being somewhat two dimensional. However, they still seemed to be entirely believable. That believability made me take a closer look. And I realize that the characters are actually quite deep, but the presentation is two dimensional. But, being that the perspective is that of the workplace, the shallow presentation is purposeful.

    Many people see their workmates in two dimensions. Sure there is a deeper story but we tend to view fellow workers in a shallow fashion.

    In all, an excellent commentary on white collar workers, especially in the context of the economic downturn. (The office portrayed experiences tough times.)...more info
  • I prefer to watch jelly set.
    This book was billed as "A terrific first novel....Awfully funny." This should have read "Disappointing last novel....Awful".

    It wasn't that I lost the will to live as I am still here just that I did not find that it made me even smile, let alone laugh.

    My apologies to the author, after all he did write in good English - or should that be American and tied together many strands of office life and the social activity as he envisaged it and in a way that I would struggle to do.

    But I feel very let down by the promise of a laugh or two and the actual lack of anything like this happening at least up to page 62. This is where I decided to call a halt as nothing had caused my chuckle muscles even to twitch.

    I have experience of watching paint dry being a decorator and do declare this a rewarding activity compared to reading 'Then we came to the end'.

    Comedy can be a way of confronting harsh or difficult facts of life and learning not to take ourselves so seriously. The text in this book lacks life in most part and when there is a spark of a basic truth it is sad and hopeless. Being funny about what ails us can help us to put it in perspective and when we go through those trials we can remember the joke in it all.

    Remember the final scene in the film 'Life of Brian' - made by the Monty Python people - where the condemned sing 'Always look on the bright side of life' while nailed to their crosses. How many millions of people know that song and whistle and sing along with it when it is played?

    Joshua, I apologise again as you are a fellow human being with all the strengths and frailties same as me but I couldn't get past page 62. Please try writing another novel but perhaps a murder mystery or other serious drama. You might find some funny bits appearing in it even if they aren't meant to be.

    Regards
    Richard Phillips...more info
  • One of the best you'll ever read!
    A truly great book and a very very talented writer. You'll enjoy every minute of it....more info
  • An interesting character study
    Not your typical novel, Joshua Ferris' debut, "And Then We Came to an End," places the reader right in the middle of a group of somewhat wacky employees at a failing advertising industry. By narrating the story from the viewpoint of the first person "we" it's almost as if we're viewing things from the eyes of an anonymous co-worker, but we learn in the author's interview at the end of the book that he's using "we" in a collective sense. The book really consists of a number of vignettes describing scenes between co-workers who, like many of us, seem to have alot of time on their hands to avoid doing their jobs. The angst of employees at a failing company is well described, as are the travails of the various characters. The book is also quite funny at times (a bit reminiscent of "The Office"). Ferris makes an interesting choice by placing a chapter in the middle centered on the hard-working boss - Lynn Martin - and her denial of the disease she's suffering from.

    A strong first effort, and an author I'm definitely going to follow. I'm interested in whether he tries to write a more conventional linear novel next. ...more info
  • dark comedy
    I enjoyed this black comedy of cubicle life. The first part entranced me with its dry humor and spot-on depiction of the lives of corporate drones. The middle section was darker -- an more searching exploration of the psyche of those who confuse their work with their lives -- or more accurately have no lives. Then the jocular tone returns for the final section.
    The author is very skillful in the way he gradually brings the various characters to life, although they do remain someone opaque. We get to know them in a similar way to the way we get to know our own work colleagues. We see their little tics and peculiarities but we only see part of them -- the work part. The rest remains unknowable to us.
    This book has been compared to "Catch 22." I don't think it's quite up to that level, simply because the subject matter -- the folly of war versus the folly of office life -- can't be compared.
    Having said this, this is a fun read -- a little sad, a little funny, a little disturbing.

    For more on me and my book The Nazi Hunter: A Novel go to www.alanelsner.com...more info
  • Hilarious, riotous, Catch 22 - I think not
    I read the reviews on the cover and they all raved, so I bought it. I barely got through the 100 page rule - i.e. you have to read 100 pages minus your age. It's about an advertising agency and the people in that agency so I'm not sure why it would be interesting and it's not. It's so boring and vacuous i did not complete it and can't believe the fuss.

    However Josh Ferris is a good writer but Wim Wenders is a good movie maker and his movies are still boring. I can't recommend it....more info
  • Over rated
    I could not stick with this book because 1. it was not funny 2. it was fairly bad prose, no discipline or craft at all 3.the author did not make me care about the characters in any way.

    Do not be misled by the many positive reviews. The critics sometimes go overboard for some mediocre piece of fiction, and I think this is the case here....more info
  • And what a long end to arrive at
    Do not waste your time or your money. The characters have no character and garner no emotional attachment. I did not care if they lived or died. The conversations are cumbersome, repetitive and witless. The content is vacuous, shallow and lacking.

    Some reviews have said that if you liked "the Office" then you would like this book. I loved "The Office" - it is comedy genius. This book does not deserve to be mentioned in the same paragraph, let alone sentence as "The Office".

    I genuinely do not believe that I have ever read a worse book than this - I only finished it out of a bloody-minded determination and a belief that it must improve. Sadly it never did but thankfully it did come to an end....more info
  • If there was less than one star this book would get it
    This has to be the worst book I have ever read. I love to read and I work in a cubicle. So this book sounded like it might be good. This book made me want to poke my eyes out. It was so boring and didn't make sense. It jumped from funny little stories to a sad story about cancer. I actually threw this book in the trash. I have never done that before. It took forever to read because it did not grab my attention. I forced myself to stick with it but I couldn't even finish it. I think I had one or two chapters left....more info
  • We can't stop thinking about this book.
    When we finished reading this terrifically funny debut novel, we thought about our co-workers at Metal Center News and McWilliams-Watermark and INS Advertising. We thought about the people's whose apartments we cleaned and the actors we acted with, and we wondered how they were doing right now and if they were happy and if they looked anything like what they looked like back then.

    We laughed a whole lot in a "Catch-22" kind of way when we read this book and we were also surprised how serious and sentimental it was. But we also think that the publisher went a little too far with the bright yellow cover and the little cartoon characters. It's not a sitcom, we thought. It's literature!

    One more thing, just between us: what's the last line mean, anyway?
    ...more info
  • The real office
    Everyday we spend the best part of our energy on the people who work with us. That ad hoc family that surrounds us day after day. The people we know better than some our own family, and yet really don't know at all. The agency is downsizing, restructuring any other term they can find for layoffs. Every day brings the anticipation and dread. Will it be Carl, who has been more and more erratic as of late, or Jim, who always manages to say the most inappropriate thing, Karen who can reduce even the most heartbreaking incident into something to be mocked, Chris who pilfers a coworker's chair, or Marcia the acid tongued? Of course we could all be like Joe, perfect Joe, who is always ready when called upon, never joins in the pranks or gossip or complains about being the target of the group's increasingly childish jokes and seems to have the respect of their boss Lynn. Joe will never make the Spanish walk with his belongings in a box, escorted by security. One of their main topics of speculation on the health of one of the agency's partners, Lynn. As coworkers become more paranoid and spend more time talking than working, the layoffs continue. The more employees try to ferret out the less they actually know about their coworkers and about their eventual fate.

    Then We Came to the End is a wickedly funny first novel from Joshua Ferris. He has captured the endless quest of the office worker to fill time without actually working. The gossip, the endless jockeying for recognition, the speculation on what's ahead...the aggression and apathy. This was an entertaining book....more info
  • A gem.
    I'm puzzled by the mixed reviews that readers seem to give this book. But I'm glad that it has apparently been a commercial success nevertheless, because it deserves to be. Perhaps its workplace setting and the blurbs on the book cover, which emphasize how "hilarious" it is, have led too many to expect the absurdism of "The Office". This book is richer than that TV show. While "The Office" has caricatures of workplace personalities, Ferris manages to create relatable workplace characters - impressively doing so even while using the first person plural "we" narrator throughout most of the book. Highly recommended!...more info
  • Unique but monotonous
    Ferris explores the workplace in the context of an economic downturn. Petty office politics, ingenious ways to waste time, quirky characters, and incestuous relationships are the order of the day. To great effect, Ferris tells this story in the rarely-used first-person plural voice. Parts of this book are funny and other parts are touching, and I was thoroughly entertained for about 100 pages. Eventually, the first-person plural becomes somewhat tedious, the workplace setting runs out of interest, and I was ready for the book to end. ...more info
  • better in retrospect
    I came to the book after reading an excellent short story by Ferris
    in the New Yorker ("The Dinner Party"). However, it took me a while
    after I finished it to decide whether I liked this novel. The use of the first
    person plural is different, but I don't think that is what makes the book really
    unusual. Inconsequential stories of everyday office life are transformed into
    prose that is in places poetic, and in others crass. The mundane nature
    of the material he works with made me miss the careful construction of the
    story, and the not so hidden subtext.

    As other reviewers have noted, the novel really does come together
    in the last 20 pages. However, even after I finished reading it, I kept thinking back
    about the book - not the specific stories perhaps, but rather the
    main ideas and feelings: how the existential fear of losing a job (and in most cases in
    the novel, the character's identity along with it), is reflected in the mundane jokes and
    worries over being found out with a stolen chair. In the end, I thought it
    worked very well, but I can see how others may be disappointed.


    ...more info
  • Fun, inconsistent 2007 novel on life at a failing ad agency
    Joshua Ferris' acclaimed debut novel depicts a fading millennial Chicago advertising agency. The first-person narrator is an anonymous employee who seems to express the collective thoughts of the group while walking the reader around the office and sharing stories. Ferris populates this fictional agency with a richly drawn cast of employees. The accounts of office minutia are usually hilarious and realistic (one employee tries to pass an entire day without touching his computer keyboard) but occasionally neither (the tiresome discussion of office chair switches). The team faces the constant threat of layoffs (they call it "walking Spanish") during the post-Internet bubble advertising slump. Agency owner Lynn's struggle with breast cancer is a key theme of the novel. A segment of the book abruptly shifts from the office to a third person omniscient view of Lynn that, while dignified, disrupts the flow of this fictional work. This strong modern novel is recommended: I read this a few months ago and it still occasionally is in my thoughts. ...more info
  • A Marvelous Read, but for a VERY Specific Audience
    I can understand the mixed reviews of this book, though I loved every page of it and wished it would never end. To appreciate it, you not only need to have worked in an office, you need to have worked in this KIND of office.

    I happened to work in two offices where everyone had their noses in everyone else's business, where people had conniptions over nonsense such as where their "legitimate" chair is located, and whether or not the axe will fall anytime soon. That it is set in the Spring and Summer just prior to 9/11 is no accident; the economy was already starting to tank and 9/11 only made things worse for those teetering on the brink. In this office, people are being fired right and left, but the remaining folks are more worried about the health situation of their boss and the private lives of their co-workers. Who has a crush on whom? Who is a complete whackjob? This is office life, folks, at least in my old office.

    This book is so full of quotable lines and great twists that there isn't much I can say without giving it away. People who have worked in my situation will likely love it. People who haven't, or who don't enjoy programs such as The Office because they hit too close to home, will not like it at all.

    Joshua Ferris is an excellent writer and this is a stunning debut. I'm very much looking forward to what comes next. ...more info
  • major fun
    This book is hilarious. At least it was to me, having worked in advertising. But it's more than just that. It's about the comraderie and absurdity of workplace relationships that holds true for any context. You don't think he'll be able to sustain the humor for an entire book, but he does it, beautifully. And it's more than just funny; it actually develops some real heft. A very satisfying read with what I thought was a brilliant last sentence....more info
  • not quite Dilbert, but close
    I don't think you have to have worked in a cube farm to enjoy this book, but it probably helps. On the other hand, if you've ever been the victim of a layoff, it may hit a little too close to home. Narrated in first person plural, an omniscient "we," this tragicomedy is not so much about downsizing as it about the quirks of the various members of a corporate office. The book is chock-full of stereotypes, including the diminutive female boss, Lynn, with a fabulous shoe collection, and her lieutenant, Joe, who fits in with neither management nor staff. The author succeeds in making the point that sometimes managers tend to view their staff as a collective entity rather than as individuals. By the same token, some employees fail to see their supervisors as having human characteristics. In fact, the heart of the book is the story of Lynn's struggle with her fear of breast cancer surgery. Lynn epitomizes how people allow their jobs to define who they are and how their jobs affect their standing within their various relationships--with their friends, their families, and their coworkers. Work can be stressful, but the routine of our jobs can be comforting also. One copywriter shows up for a meeting 2 hours after he's been let go, just because it's been on his calendar for months. There are lots of quotable quotes in this book, but one of my favorites is on page 53: "We liked wasting time, but almost nothing was more annoying than having our wasted time wasted on something not worth wasting it on." Dilbert, take note.
    ...more info
  • I Thought I'd Never Get To The End!
    Is Joshua Ferris a terrible writer? Of course not. Are the people who loved this book insane? Far from it! And not only do I heartily admire Mr. Ferris for completing a novel and getting it published - something I probably will never achieve for myself - I also respect anyone who could finish this book and find an inspiring message within. Reviews are subjective, and all I can say is that I really tried to like this book, but after reading page after page, word after word, my will to live slowly drained from my body, and my inner voice screamed, "Just Give Up Already!" But I didn't give up. But I didn't enjoy it either. I kept waiting for the agony to lessen and the uplifting experience to begin. You know it's bad (or should I say, WE know it's bad) when there's only 30 pages to go, and we still have to force ourselves to pick it up. Inside joke there! See I was paying attention. So my advice to anyone who's made it halfway through this book and loves it, is to keep going because you'll probably love it even more. But if you get to the halfway point and start debating whether to finish the whole thing, or to move on - MOVE ON! Really. Cause if you don't like it by page 190, you won't like it by page 385. Things I didn't like: The characters were so forgettable, that I think even the author had trouble keeping them straight, which may explain why he kept referring to them by their first and last names, even in dialogue. Even though none of the (numerous) characters shared a first name. I thought that was completely unrealistic. Whoever refers to their co-workers by first and last name in speech? "Oh Martha Jeffers, could you go ask Chris McDonald over there if he has the reports for Fergus Magnusson?" One particular character was called Jim Jackers, and I confess to alleviate the tedium I silently referred to him as Jim J****ss - you know like the MTV inspired movie. Now THAT made me laugh! And there was not much written about their lives outside the office. So I didn't really feel like I had a handle on the characters. Also towards the last quarter of the novel, something happens which I thought was interesting, but then turned out to be more of a red herring. By the very end, when the author talks about what's happened to some of the characters, I knew that had I connected with them, I would have found it moving, but I really didn't care. Kind of like when you go to see a movie and the soundtrack swells up when it wants the audience to cry, but instead you think it's a good time to go get popcorn. How ironic that the title of the book is Then We Came To The End, because I honestly thought I'd never reach the end! The more I read, the further away the ending seemed to get. Like in Poltergeist when the mother is running desperately towards the door, but the faster she runs, the further away the door got. I know this review is long, rambling, unfair and biased. Let me repeat - a lot of people will find much to admire about this book and rightly so. But there are people like me who wish that they could just step into a time machine and put the book back on the shelf and walk away. ...more info
  • superb
    Finished this engrossing novel this afternoon. Still a little emotionally impaired by it. Still jangled by its compassion and humor. Still reeling with the author's powers of observation.
    Add me to the ranks of confused-by-the-negative-reviews. I'm sorry, but this is a page-turner, folks. "Not get into it"? This layered story lays bare much, much more than office ennui. This is a novel about inner lives, dreams private and public, and how we, social animals all, connect and disconnect and sometimes connect again. People say the characters are thinly drawn? Dickens-esque in its characterization, I'd say. It's also very funny....more info
  • Didn't want this novel to end!
    For those of you looking for a quick recommendation, I can say that this is the best book that I've read this year. It was funny but sad, outlandish but true, and I fell head over heels in love with it.

    Ferris's novel is set in the fairly mundane setting of an office workplace, but the story extends far beyond this. It focuses on a group of individuals toiling away in a failing company, and examines the relationships that develop not just between these people with each other, but also with their jobs. It's told primarily from the first person perspective ("we"), but I didn't find this style gimmicky or difficult to deal with at all - in fact, I felt it really served the authors purpose of showing that these people were all in it together, for better or for worse, essentially an extended family for each other. Or maybe it also represents the corporate drone mentality that can easily strip away one's identity... take it as you will. Regardless, given this point of view, Ferris does a great job of really developing his characters in believable and compassionate way.

    I've read several reviews claiming that this book is not funny. I guess it depends on your sense of humor. If you are looking for ribald, slap-stick humor in book format, then you probably will not find this book enjoyable. If you prefer a darker, wry humor, such as that seen in the movie "Office Space" or the television show "The Office", then you will probably find the humor in this novel as well. You need the ability to see the potential for humor in mundane and often futile situations. Comparisons between it and "Catch-22" are, I think, very apt as well. It won't be to everyone's taste, but for those who can appreciate that the lines between laughter and tears can often be very blurry indeed, then I think this book will be a worthwhile read. I found it both funny and touching, and consequently immensely rewarding. I look forward eagerly to Ferris's next book....more info
  • A very tough read
    I'm about a fifth of the way through this book, and I'm having a really tough time getting through it. Like many of the other reviewers, I was impressed by the praise it was getting and was expecting a quick, entertaining read. Instead, reading it has dragged on for 2 weeks (I actually stopped and read Generation Kill, which is the same size, in 2 days in between). A lot of the negative reviewers have mentioned the Office in comparison, and I think that highlights how poorly the characters are developed in this book. On the Office, Michael is a massive douche 80% of the time, but the other 20% is used humanize him, make him sympathetic, and provide insights on why he is the way he is. As a result, you care about the character, and his bumbling comes off funny and less anger-inducing. That is not the case in this book. So far, I have seen nothing to make any of the characters endearing. As a result, you have the guy that plays asinine pranks, the guy that prattles on about his "buckshelves", and the guy that constantly interrups. They are all hateable, because there's nothing that makes them stand out in any way except for their annoying quirks. I don't think I can finish this one, which bugs me, because I rarely put a book down, and I'm also tempted to find out what this "High school writing" ending is....more info
  • overrated at best...
    I read 2-3 novels a month, and this one has completely bored me from page one on. Im not sure what he is trying to say, except that we are all stuck in ruts and fear for our careers, and we don't need him to tell us that. Sharing his trivialities of his everyday office life is nothing more than an overblown, unorganized minute by minute journal, written by someone who has nothing better to do then share his day to day boredom with the world for money. I put it down FINALLY at page 74, HOPING...if not BEGGING for it to become organized, thoughtful, and at least slightly entertianing. Needless to say, it was brought to the used book store within a week for exchange....more info
  • Love this book
    At first, I wasn't won over by this book. But by the end, I was tremendously impressed with how the author had played with voice and structure....more info
  • Not Exactly A Ringing Endorsement To Work In The Corporate World
    The author gives a contemporary twist to ground that was covered in Joseph Heller's fantastic book, 'Something Happened'. Mr. Ferris' story revolves around employees in the throes of downsizing. Based upon many years of personal experience, I'd say that despite this tale taking place in the childish, insecure atmosphere of an advertising agency, any large business could have fit the bill (insurance, publishing, finance, the list is endless.) A great primer for people about to enter the corporate world. If you are already toiling in this environment, Mr. Ferris' book will ring true. Funny, sad, frustrating, enlightening and ultimately a sympathetic account about being part of the corporate rat race; it is well worth your time. A truly entertaining and easy read....more info
  • Good read for anyone that has worked in the corporate world
    A good book for me is one that you won't forget. I won't forget this one. One of the characters tries to get through a day by quoting lines from The Godfather - that's laugh-out-loud funny. The mix of that level of humor with a topic as serious as cancer is very well done, as is the ending of the book. Anyone that has ever worked in the cube world will like it - you will recognize some of the characters as being like people you have known, only amplified a million times. ...more info
  • Moderately fun read that ultimately falls short
    This is probably the first book I've ever read that uses the first-person plural voice, and it works, primarily because of the last line, but also because of the theme. This is a story about a shared experience: working in an office at a pointless job in modern America. Most of us can relate. There are several parts in the book that are laugh-out-loud funny. The main thing that I think mars the novel and keeps it from being really good is an overlong middle passage, regarding the boss's battle with cancer, in which point of view is broken. Also, the wrap-up ending--aside from the great last line--is a little too neat and obvious. Overall, this is a moderately fun read that I wish had lived up to my expectations a little better....more info
  • Well-written but not very engaging...
    I bought this book because I really enjoyed Ferris's short fiction. I found it hard to stay interested in this novel as none of the characters, in my opinion, were developed enough for me to actually care about them....more info
  • Office Humanity
    At first, I was somewhat hesitant to read a workplace satire. There is a certain pain in watching Office Space that only one in the depths of cubicle hell can really feel in between the humor. But thankfully, I didn't let that prevent me from reading Joshua Ferris's novel once it had been gifted to me. Set during a period of layoffs in an advertising agency, Then We Came to the End shows the humor and the humanity of working in an office with people you'll never really know. My only real complaint is with the number of characters, I ended up mixing some together, which is probably sadly somewhat true to life. Humorous, and also surprisingly somber at times, TWCTHE brings the humanity back to the workplace. ...more info
  • A slow starter with a great finish.
    I will be the first to say that in the beginning of reading this novel, I was incredibly disappointed. I could not, for the life of me, understand why this book had received such incredible praise. However, around 250 pages in, the story has a dramatic change of focus and some brilliant character development rises to the surface. Additionally, as others have said, the last 20 pages are truly unique and show a literary insight that surpasses that which I would have originally credited the author.

    To the negative reviewers who all admit to not finishing the book, your review really does present an unfair bias. Though it is problematic that it takes the book so long to get started, which is why I did not give it five stars, it is a great read. ...more info
  • Beat the bad job blues
    I read this book while working through my last month at a really awful job. The office politics, gossip, downsizing and hilarious attempts at coping with the daily grind by the employees at this fictional ad agency was a salve to my frayed nerves. At least they had each other and at least I had something to read that literally made me laugh out loud on the bus during my commute.

    From a literary perspective, I found the language of the book to be really interesting. It isn't often you find a book written from the collective point of view, and for once, I thought the intent of the book matched the technique employed by the author. The collective narration wasn't a gimmick, it actually advanced the point of the novel. I am glad the book received such good reviews, I am a big fan....more info
  • Good writing, but not so great story
    Some really good writing and an interesting premise, but not an appealing read. Is it reading a first person plural narration? Maybe. Or could it be the fact that it's more a vertical story than a horizontal one? I'm not sure. A lot of people like this book, but I wouldn't recommend it....more info
  • Confused, strained and synthetic
    The title of the book is taken from Don DeLillo's first novel, Americana, which is (not surprisingly) also an art-house novel about an advertising executive and his wacky, post-modern relationships with his co-workers. It's from the first line: "Then we came to the end of another dull and lurid year."

    Ferris strikes me more as a theorist than an artist. Reading this book felt like an intellectual exercise, as though it was written to be an extended literary device, a form of self-satisfying academic experimentation, not a story.

    I am sure there are people who enjoy reading books that are constructed as intellectual exercises, but I don't. In my experience, these are the same people who sneer at the very idea of deigning to enjoy a good story. I prefer novels that are about feeling and experience. This one isn't. ...more info
  • Sparse Humor
    If one could call Joshua Ferris' debut novel Then We Came To The End a blockbuster for the book world, that would be the one word to fit the profile of the novel. He had the invisible ally of reality on his side to tackle a real-life portrayal of an everyday office experienced by a majority of his audience. Ferris' use of the grueling workdays work in his favor as he displays them with humor and reality.
    Similar to the TV show "The Office," Ferris' novel mirrors the idea of showing a funny aspect of menial chores to be done in an office. His unique writing style incorportes humor with a quality which I cannot seem to identify. The novel starts of slowly and uses the humor simply to retain it's essence. This, may be, the one drawback to Ferris' novel. The slowness of the novel takes away from the humor because it takes so long for the jokes to progress. Although the humor was few and far between, when it was used it did exude laugh out loud laughter, however it was the sparsity of the jokes that lost hilarity. For instance a large part of the first half of the novel is spent showing employees' reactions to being fired one man decided to cut up his clothes. Another decided to take another man (the firee)'s "buckshelves" [bookshelves] and when reiterating the story to his peers he expressed his fear of "the man" and with Ferris' use of hyperboles he could successfully show how "the man" controlled the office.
    Though a little rough around the edges the incorporation of humor took away the edge to exude a novel which can enjoyed by many....more info
  • Ferris writes from experience
    Author Joshua Ferris spent three years working for a national advertising company, and he uses it to good effect describing office discord in THEN WE CAME TO THE END. Copy editors and art designers are referred to as "creatives"; working on an ad campaign that has been ruined by client interference is called "polishing the turd." A campaign for caffeinated water is lampooned.

    The creatives working at this fictitious advertising agency are bored stiff, despite the sword of Damocles hanging over their collective heads. The agency is in financial trouble, and layoffs are pending. They spend most of their time slinging bull and rumor-mongering in Benny Shassburger's office. One of them can't believe it's "only 3:15."

    Although none of them are fully developed, you will recognize most of these people. Joe Pope, about the only one of these people who takes his job seriously, is widely disliked and even bullied. He has received two promotions, and as a senior copy writer, is their boss. Two of them are working on novels and screen plays. Carl Garbedian seems to be going crazy. At one point he does a circuit of the office in the nude. He's depressed because his wife is a doctor, and he feels he's throwing his life away doing what he does. Tom Mota is among the first to be laid off and rumors spread about his seeking revenge. His e-mails to former colleagues don't help.

    THEN WE CAME TO THE END will remind you a whole lot of CATCH-22 author Joseph Heller's SOMETHING HAPPENED. At midpoint in SOMETHING HAPPENED the protagonist's son grew ill. In Ferris's novel it's the boss, Lynn Martin, who is sick. Rumor has it that she's got breast cancer and that an operation is imminent. For most of the novel Ferris uses the first person plural "we." In order to get inside the head of Lynn Mason, he switches to third person "she". What was mostly farce, now becomes pathos, as this stalwart woman now becomes vulnerable. The other dramatic scene involves an office shooting with a twist that you won't see coming.

    Despite its similarity to SOMETHING HAPPENED, Ferris's effort is fresh and thought-provoking (It was on the short list for the National Book Award.) It also includes an author question and answer session and a list a questions you can use to stimulate your book club. ...more info
  • Skip it.
    This is a sketch - painfully dragged out to novel length. Should have "come to an end" somewhere around page 50. I hung in until about page 100, and then threw in the towel. Some friends told me that it got better after that - but who cares?...more info
  • Funny, smart, dark, moving, clever novel.
    At the risk of sounding like a snob, I have to think that any reviewers saying this book is boring or bad are just not good readers, or should stick to action packed genre fiction. This is one of the more incredible books I've read in recent years. It's slow-paced but every sentence is delicious...it's incredibly fresh, full of humor and sharp observation about people, work, and life. There are a lot of characters, so if you read it on and off over the course of a couple months, you probably won't feel as engaged with the story...it's a great read if you have time to really plow through it. You'll become incredibly interested in the characters in their glorious weird individuality and you'll become totally engaged in their mundane, gossipy lives. If you stick with it, the book becomes genuinely moving and even truly exciting at its climax. It's incredibly original and such a rewarding read if you have a taste for subtletly, humor, and human observation. If you find yourself bored by it, stick to the da vinci code. ...more info
  • Living up to the hype
    I was intrigued by Joshua Ferris's Then We Came to the End when I read the NY Times review of it. However, I was a little wary of the first person plural conceit of the telling. Would it be too cutesy? Would it just be a novel whose sole highlight is the unusual point of view? Having read it, I can honestly say the book lives up to the hype. The story takes place in a Chicago ad agency during the summer of 2001. The "we" who narrates the story is everybody--the people in the office. You know them. You may be one of them. Many of us have been in workplaces where there was this collective sense of self, where people talked amongst themselves so frequently that you couldn't always remember where you heard a particular bit of news, you just knew it by osmosis, and where although you felt part of a large "we" that had no real secrets you still had no clue as to the inner lives of your co-workers. Honestly, the first person plural is the only way this book could have been written--it wouldn't have worked any other way. Ferris is enormously talented and lets this point of view work for him. Then We Came to the End is funny and true to life, and it has one of the most satisfying final lines of any novel in recent memory. I've been recommending it to everybody.

    ...more info
  • Survival in a cutthroat business environment
    Deanna Hurst powers Joshua Ferris' story THEN WE CAME TO THE END, with her firm songwriting and speaking skills adding drama to the story of coworkers fighting for jobs, perks, and survival in a cutthroat business environment. ...more info
  • please let me get to the END!!!
    NOT what i expected, not funny, not interesting..not really anything!!
    the gossip isnt even funny...not even worth a long review.......more info
  • Boring and miserable
    I thought the book was so uninteresting. The people were boring, the story lines were boring. Why would you want to read about a miserable office full of depressing people? If you are going to write about ordinary people's ordinary lives, you have to be a better writer. ...more info
  • A Very "Male" Book
    I liked this book. The first person plural was effective, not annoying, and disturbing in retrospect. The characters were real and yet not stereotypical. There were a few humorous parts. That said, I found this to be a very "male" book with little perspective of a woman's struggles in the workplace - even with Lyne's "interlude." Not that Ferris is under any obligation to tap into the female office psyche, of course. Just that I would have found the novel more enjoyable, I think. It was a bit dry. Some people already being driven insane by corporate culture might want to avoid it until they retire. Too close to home and all that....more info
  • Safety in Numbers
    Ferris' use of a plural first-person narrative voice in this book about the daily struggles of mid-level advertising executives isn't the royal we. Instead, it's the degrading corporate we that took over America in the 1990s in an attempt to get ever more work from the individual by convincing him he was part of something larger than himself (like a team or even a crusade). If that's all there was, however, this book would simply be sad -- a jumbled collection of post-9/11 Dilbert-esque anecdotes. Instead, it's a hilarious (and sometimes introspective) rant against the powers that be, along with the belated discovery that most Americans are too afraid to escape the rat-race and live as the unique, beautiful, creative individuals they believe themselves to be. After all, it's always safer to be a rat....more info
  • Well done, but not much to it
    This book made a big splash when it came out, and it's easy to see why. A tour-de-force written in the first-person-plural, it's remarkable in that it sustains the tone and humor of satire for the length of an entire novel.

    Well, that's not entirely accurate. There's a diversion about halfway through in which the "we" voice takes a break. Still, the feat is remarkable.

    Beyond stylistic interest, the book is highly readable, with plenty of sharp and entertaining observations about how we behave at work. It's sort of like the TV show The Office, but in text, so it necessarily has some more emotional depth.

    But, frankly, not a whole lot more. This is a book that's fun to read, but doesn't have a lot of staying power.

    Well written, well done, but not much to it....more info