Then We Came to the End Review
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For those working for a large ad agency in Chicago in the late ‘90s, life was good. They had all the perks—not to mention the cash flow to pay for anything they wanted. Sure, they complained about their jobs over lunch, or over lattes at the office coffee bar, but things were easy then. And then it came to the end. With the beginning of the new century came hiring freezes and salary freezes—and then the layoffs.

The remaining members of the team—their numbers dwindling each day—fight to keep their crappy jobs. They try to come up with brilliant campaigns for clients that keep disappearing. And though they still gather at the coffee bar and in each other’s offices to spread a little gossip, there’s just something missing: like the carefree feeling of having all the time in the world for a cup of coffee. Instead, there’s the sinking feeling that the people with whom they’ve been sharing gossip for years are now the competition.

They never know who could be the next to go. It could be Tom Mota, the obnoxious prankster. Or Jim Jackers, whose most creative ideas actually come from his uncle. Or Larry Novotny, who’s trying to convince Amber Ludwig to have an abortion—so his wife won’t find out about their affair. Amid the gossip and speculation, though, they worry about their boss, Lynn Mason, a tiny yet intimidating woman who’s rumored to be battling breast cancer.

As a former advertising drone, I was instantly drawn to Then We Came to the End. I thought it would be like a kind of literary Office Space for creatives. And, for a while, it is. The characters are quirky, and their antics are definitely entertaining. Anyone who’s ever worked a 9-to-5 in an office will be able to relate—and, at times, laugh along.

After a while, though, Ferris’s style becomes distracting. Most of the book shifts from third-person to first-person plural—and while it’s intended to make readers feel as though they’re part of the story, sometimes it just doesn’t work. Instead of pulling the reader in, it’s just frustrating—and sometimes it feels a little gimmicky. The story also skips around chronologically without much warning—and while I fully realize that working day to day in a cubicle tends to make you lose your sense of time, I’d at least like to be able to follow the story without too much effort.

Then We Came to the End isn’t exactly the playful office parody that you might expect, either. The dark humor is plenty dark—but it’s not humorous enough. While the quirky characters are interesting, their stories tend to drag after a while. And the long section in the middle about Lynn Mason and her struggle with cancer doesn’t really help to make the story fun and uplifting.

Office life is often depressing enough. If you’re like me, you like a little escape after the work day is over—but Then We Came to the End just makes it all feel tedious and futile. And though there are happy endings to a few of the characters’ stories, it’s just not enough. It’s just too dismal and distracting to be an enjoyable, leisurely read.

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