Thursday, May 1, 2008

Book Review: Then We Came to the End

Then we came to the End is by former advertising copywriter Joshua Ferris. That fact alone is a reason for me to read the book, because I like to support my fellow copywriter peeps. This book landed on Entertainment Weekly magazine's top 10 of 2007 book list and it has a unique conceit - namely that it is written in 1st person plural "we" for all of the book except a short interlude in the middle. In my work, I write in 3rd person plural nearly all the time - because companies want to appear friendly and inclusive - but using it for a narrative? That's difficult to pull off - but I happy to report that Ferris does.

We are introduced to a creative team at a Chicago advertising agency who are all trying to look busy so they won't be the ones who fall victim to layoffs. The characters seem familiar to anyone who has toiled in an office - the practical joker Tom, the shy but sweet Benny who is in love with the loud-mouthed Marcia, the trendy overachiever Karen Woo, the depressed Janine, hysterical Chris Yop, loner Joe, Amber and Larry engaged in a "secret" office affair and Lynn, the boss who everyone is scared of, who becomes the heart of the story.

As business becomes worse, characters start getting fired, though the story is not always told in linear fashion, but rather the circular storytelling of office gossip. There are incidents that are hilarious (one involving a office chair), puzzling (such as old Brizz leaving Benny a massive totem pole in his will), disturbing (a certain office visit by Tom after he is let go), and sad (the death of a child, breast cancer) - all told in that breathy "Have you heard about..." tone so prevalent around the water cooler.

I really enjoyed reading this debut novel (there are even some fun ad campaigns interspersed) and look forward to more from Ferris.


Linda said...

this sounds interesting. I'll put it on my list for the library.

Anonymous said...

The plot was weak and shallow, told in a long winded and tedious fashion. This book is a lightweight.

Lenore Appelhans said...

It's true that the plot doesn't blow you away - but this is a book about an office and not a thriller. I think the interlude in the middle concerning Lynn grounds the novel and keeps it from being "only shallow". And I found it breezy, but not lightweight, and certainly not tedious. But thanks for your comment!