This wickedly funny, big-hearted novel about life in the office signals the arrival of a gloriously talented writer.
The characters in Then We Came to the End cope with a business downturn in the time-honored way: through gossip, secret romance, elaborate pranks, and increasingly frequent coffee breaks. By day they compete for the best office furniture left behind and try to make sense of the mysterious pro-bono ad campaign that is their only remaining "work."
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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
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.