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Then We Came to the End: A Novel Paperback – 26 Feb 2008
|Paperback, 26 Feb 2008||
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"What looks at first glance like a sweet-tempered satire of workplace culture is revealed upon closer inspection to be a very serious novel about, well, America. It may even be, in its own modest way, a great American novel." ―Los Angeles Times
"A masterwork of pitch and tone. . . . Ferris brilliantly captures the fishbowl quality of contemporary office life."―The New Yorker
"Not too many authors have written the Great American Office Novel. Joseph Heller did it in Something Happened (the one book of his to rival Catch-22). And Nicholson Baker pulled it off in zanily fastidious fashion in The Mezzanine. To their ranks should be added Joshua Ferris, whose THEN WE CAME TO THE END feels like a readymade classic of the genre. . . . A truly affecting novel about work, trust, love, and loneliness."―Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times
About the Author
Joshua Ferris's first novel, Then We Came to the End, won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Barnes and Noble Discover Award, and was a National Book Award finalist. It has been translated into 24 languages. His fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Best New American Voices, New Stories from the South, Prairie Schooner, and The Iowa Review. He lives in
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Like most books (or other forms of mass media for that matter) focusing on the nuances of the working world, this one goes the comedic route. Reading through the first chapter, you get a vivid sense of where Joshua is going. The main characters were introduced and the overall tone was established. It is then that the humor kicks in.
But it isn't the kind of humor that hits you as screwball or outrageous, the origin of the humor stems from the fact that every single one of these characters are caricatures of ourselves and of people we have perhaps met in our very own work spaces. That, to me, was what made the book funny. Work life, especially in commercial companies like the anonymous advertising firm described in this book, is funny in its very nature. The embarrassment of having your personal quirks on display for your fellow professionals to see, as is the urge to laugh at exhibitions of the same, constitutes much of the material in this book.
Compounded with a good sense of structure, a wondrously modern prose voice and a deep feel for the characters, the story captivates you and brings you to a place of identification with both the characters and the situations they find themselves in. It is this sympathy that provokes us to turn the pages, even though at times we wonder where the plot may be taking us. But it does payoff in the end with no small measure of satisfaction.
The satisfaction I get from this book cannot be understated, or overstated. It has given me glimpses of myriad memories from my own working life. Sometimes, in life, we get caught up in our career and overlook the relationships of the colleagues we see day in, day out within the cul-de-sacs. This book does have that déjà-vu magic. And above all, it succeeds as an enjoyable piece of literature. Few books nowadays can claim to do that.
Like the movie Office Space - one of my all-time favorites - this might be one of those "you had to be there" kind of things, meaning that to fully appreciate it you may have to have worked in an office environment; i.e., the world of horrific coffee, unproductive meetings, cheap carpet, unreasonable deadlines, ergonomic chairs, romance rumors, post-it notes, and the inevitable waves of layoffs. Since that's been my world for far too long now it was as familiar to me as if I'd written it myself. It's dead-on and in some ways even made me appreciate the little sub-culture created around one's workplace, one you're often not really aware of as its own special little world until you're suddenly booted from it.
I enjoyed it and will probably re-read at some point.
Then We Came to the End was shortlisted for the 2007 National Book Award.
As the story goes on the characters mature and come to respect each other. I had a vague feeling that there's a deep moral in there somewhere, if I was smart enough to understand it. It uses some narrative gimmicks of the kind I usually dislike, but which are used so effectively that I was drawn in. One schtick is to use the first person plural as a point of view. A large part of the story is told by "we" and not until the last sentence is the reader told who "we' is. Other parts are POV of separate characters, and then, towards the end one of the characters reads from the novel he has been writing about the others. It's complicated but it works.