Thursday, October 16, 2008

Then We Came to the End

From the book:
They spend their days- and too many of their nights- at work. Away from friends and family, they share a stretch of stained carpets with a group of strangers they call colleagues.
There’s Chris Yop, who is clinging to his ergonomic chair; Lynn Mason, the boss, whose breast cancer everyone pretends not to talk about; Carl Garbedian, secretly taking someone else’s medication; Marcia Dwyer, whose hair is stuck in the eighties; and Benny, who’s just – well, just Benny. Amidst the boredom, redundancies, water-cooler moments, meetings, flirtations and pure rage, life is happening, to their great surprise, all around them.
Then We Came to the End is about sitting all morning next to someone you cross the road to avoid at lunch. It’s the story of your life, and mine.
My two cents worth:
Then We Came to the End’ is a story that revolves around a group of people who work together in a Chicago advertising agency during a period of downturn at the end of the 90's boom. The combination of working in an advertising agency and facing the possibility of losing their jobs brings out the best and the worst out of the characters in a hilarious manner.
Joshua Ferris’s debut novel successfully captures the essence of the modern day office environment to perfection. If you are or have worked in an office, there is no doubt in my mind that there would be a character, an incident or a statement that you can definitely relate to.
I myself connected with the book in so many different levels. The strongest connection that I felt was when Tom Mota, flipping out from being laid-off ranted:
“For all our penny-wisdom,” he said, “for all our soul-destroying slavery to habit, it is not to be doubted that all men have sublime thoughts.’ Did you hear that, Benny? Did you hear it, or do you need me to repeat it to you?” “I heard it,” Benny replied. “They never knew me,” Tom said, shaking his head and pointing up to those bastards. “They never did”

I’ve never been ‘shitcanned’ and I hope to God that I never ever will be but I hear you Tom and I get where you're coming from. Does anybody really know us? Do we really know the person sitting next to our cubicle, these people we spend more time with than our own families even? Do they know the sacrifices we make to be part of this routine madness? Do those people that you refer to as the 'bastards' up on top know or even care? It's too much to ponder on, life's too short. So I say, to hell with all of them! 'Life' is happening all around us!

That quote alone is proof of my connection to the book. I also found the book to be tremendously insightful or maybe more of a statement of my thoughts on the subject matter. To me its a true depiction of today's working world. There was definitely humour in the book but yet it was a bit of a struggle to finish. The author had deliberately used gossip and moaning as a way of escape from the daily grind and that approach was unappealing to me as a reader. Honestly, I gossip and moan from 9 to 5, Mondays to Fridays (occasionally on a Saturday and/or a Sunday) so reading about it at home seems like a bleak reminder of how sad my life really is. However, despite all the gossiping and moaning, it was worth the read when it came to the ending which brought some meaning to all the insanity.
I end this review with another quote from the book:
“Hank Neary had a quote and we told him politely to shove the quote up his ass. “When death comes, let it find me at work.”

Hank, I’m sorry to say that I agree with the rest and would also like to politely request that you shove the quote up your ass.
For more information on Joshua Ferris (who’s also quite good looking) check out the interview at

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