Then We Came to the End
Winner of the Hemingway Foundation / PEN Award, this debut novel is "as funny as The Office, as sad as an abandoned stapler . . . that rare comedy that feels blisteringly urgent." (TIME)
No one knows us in 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 Chicago ad agency depicted in Joshua Ferris's exuberantly acclaimed first novel is family at its best and worst, coping with a business downturn in the time-honored way: through gossip, elaborate pranks, and increasingly frequent coffee breaks.
With a demon's eye for the details that make life worth noticing, Joshua Ferris tells an emotionally true and funny story about survival in life's strangest environment—the one we pretend is normal five days a week.
One of the Best Books of the Year
Boston Globe * Christian Science Monitor * New York Magazine * New York Times Book Review * St. Louis Post-Dispatch * Time magazine * Salon
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Joshua Ferris’ debut novel is excellent for anyone who spends half their waking life in an office (or tries not to). Then We Came to the End is collectively narrated by a group of creatives in a Chicago advertising agency. Ferris neatly dissects these personas while making their cruelties, grievances, and lunatic follies all too familiar. Thanks to the specificity of the setting and his characters’ authentic emotions, Ferris's first-person plural conceit feels less like a high-wire gimmick than an embrace—as if he’s saying, yep, we’ve all been there. “Do you realize how insane we’ve all become?” one woman asks—a cry from the heart of the American office.
In this wildly funny debut from former ad man Ferris, a group of copywriters and designers at a Chicago ad agency face layoffs at the end of the '90s boom. Indignation rises over the rightful owner of a particularly coveted chair ("We felt deceived"). Gonzo e-mailer Tom Mota quotes Walt Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the midst of his tirades, desperately trying to retain a shred of integrity at a job that requires a ruthless attention to what will make people buy things. Jealousy toward the aloof and "inscrutable" middle manager Joe Pope spins out of control. Copywriter Chris Yop secretly returns to the office after he's laid off to prove his worth. Rumors that supervisor Lynn Mason has breast cancer inspire blood lust, remorse, compassion. Ferris has the downward-spiraling office down cold, and his use of the narrative "we" brilliantly conveys the collective fear, pettiness, idiocy and also humanity of high-level office drones as anxiety rises to a fever pitch. Only once does Ferris shift from the first person plural (for an extended fugue on Lynn's realization that she may be ill), and the perspective feels natural throughout. At once delightfully freakish and entirely credible, Ferris's cast makes a real impression.
Excellence at a good pace
This novel has a unique story line, multiple well developed characters and a great pace to complement. This is definitely intelligent contemporary fiction without being overwhelming. I look forward to reading more of Joshua Ferris' work and following his writing career. I am glad I get to continue to read his shorter pieces in The New Yorker.
Hilarious! Captures the workplace and the different personalities perfectly.