Summary and book reviews of Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

Then We Came to the End

A Novel

By Joshua Ferris

Then We Came to the End
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    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Mar 2007,
    400 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2008,
    416 pages.

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Book Summary

This wickedly funny, big-hearted novel about life in the office signals the arrival of a gloriously talented new 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."

You Don't Know
What's in My Heart

WE WERE FRACTIOUS AND overpaid. Our mornings lacked promise. At least those of us who smoked had something to look forward to at ten-fifteen. Most of us liked most everyone, a few of us hated specific individuals, one or two people loved everyone and everything. Those who loved everyone were unanimously reviled. We loved free bagels in the morning. They happened all too infrequently.

Our benefits were astonishing in comprehensiveness and quality of care. Sometimes we questioned whether they were worth it. We thought moving to India might be better, or going back to nursing school. Doing something with the handicapped or working with our hands. No one ever acted on these impulses, despite their daily, sometimes hourly contractions. Instead we met in conference rooms to discuss the issues of the day.

Ordinarily jobs came in and we completed them in a timely and professional manner. Sometimes fuckups did occur. Printing errors, ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Although Then We Came to the End is told predominantly in the first person plural, there is a brief departure to describe Lynn Mason's last night before she undergoes surgery. Why do you think the author chose this point in the novel for the shift in perspective?
  2. What was the most humorous moment in the novel for you? Does the author's incarnation of the office remind you in any way of your own work environment?
  3. Then We Came to the End features a large and diverse cast of characters. Which character is your favorite? Which do you find least likable? Does any character closely resemble a person with whom you work?
  4. On page 57 the author writes: "Yet for all the depression no one ever quit." Did you ...
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Reviews

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Speaking personally (and let's face it, all reviews are nothing more nor less than one person's opinion, even when written in the third party under the banner of a renowned newspaper!) I found Then We Came To The End a difficult read (despite having spent a decade working in a large ad agency). That is not to say that it is necessarily a bad book but that the gushing reviews on the cover, and in many places in the media, telling me that this was a wildly funny book acted as something of a cold shower to my enjoyment. Knowing I was supposed to be laughing but finding myself not was like watching one of those over-eager sitcoms where the laugh track punctuates the actors' most banal lines, killing whatever residue of humor might have been found.

To describe Then We Came To The End as "wildly funny", or to suggest that it will resonate with anyone who's ever worked in an office (as some reviewers do) seems to be over-egging things, and also does a disservice to a book that has more to offer than just a good laugh, in that it serves up a, sometimes profound, insider's view of a particular time, place and culture - and not just the funny parts, but the dull and stupid bits as well, not to mention the sad and downright strange.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (851 words).

Media Reviews
Newsday - Maud Newton

A novel so complex it may well deserve Jim Shepard's assessment:'the 'Catch-22' of the business world.

San Francisco Chronicle

An assured debut and an entertaining read.

Los Angeles Times - Darcy Cosper

Heartfelt and delivered in solemn deadpan. It may even be, in its own modest way, a great American novel.

The Washington Post -James P. Othmer

[W]e conclude that categorizing Then We Came to the End as anything other than an original and inspired work of fiction would be doing it a great disservice.

Chicago Tribune

Fabulous....with the sort of exuberance and energy that marked Jay McInerney's `Bright Lights, Big City.'

O Magazine

Wonderfully comic. He knows, like other masters of the form, that great comedy has a hard bite.

Library Journal - Stephen Morrow

With so many books on office life, it's nice to see someone add fresh spark and originality to the subject.

Kirkus Reviews

This debut novel about life in a Chicago advertising agency succeeds as both a wickedly incisive satire of office groupthink and a surprisingly moving meditation on mortality and the ties that bond...The funhouse mirror here reflects the office dynamic at its most petty and profound.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. At once delightfully freakish and entirely credible, Ferris's cast makes a real impression.

Reader Reviews
mbg1968

Me too...
I had read a lot of positive reviews about it so I tried it. It was funny at first, but I got too bored and quit about half way through.

Penny

Finally stopped before the end...
I found this a well written book. But, I finally got fed up "listening to" a whole group of "mystified" slackers whining about their fates in life, love and layoffs. When I realized I didn't care for any of the characters or their stories I returned ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Joshua Ferris writes: "I was born in 1974 in Danville, Illinois, a small town just over the Indiana border. I went back recently and the house where I grew up had taken something out of Alice in Wonderland and shrunk to half the size of what I remembered it being. In 1984 my mother, sister, brother and I moved with my step-father to Cudjoe Key, Florida, where I learned how to fish, boat, snorkel, and work. At ten I had my own landscaping company for Cudjoe residents happy to pay three bucks an hour to have their weeds pulled and lawns mowed. I had my first ...

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