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Showing 1-10 of 43 reviews(5 star, Verified Purchases). See all 409 reviews
on July 9, 2017
This is not primarily a work of humor -- although, as other readers have noted, it has some funny bits and a general thread of wit that runs throughout -- nor is it really about office politics and cubicle drama. It is not about advertising, though anyone familiar with the weird, pseudo-creative terrarium of an ad agency will probably get an extra chuckle out of it. This novel is about what it means to be "we" in the modern world, with its ephemeral relationships and reluctant allegiances, about what belonging means, and about what happens when (as is practically inevitable in the hook-up, snapchat, gig economy, cul8r world) belonging comes to an end. The last two pages of this novel literally took the breath out of me. If you aren't prepared to invest some attention and empathy in the world Ferris conjures here, this book will feel like heavy lifting. But the attention will pay enormous rewards. This is a profoundly beautiful book.
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on August 21, 2016
If you like Office Space and The Office, this is the perfect book for you. Same office dynamics, yet more in depth look at the corporate world and the life of the cubicle dwellers. And yes, turns out we really don't know anything about the people we work with, the same people we spend 8-12 hours, 5 days a week...We don't know what they shaped them, what motivates them, what their real fears are.
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on June 25, 2014
This is the first book I've read that has been written entirely in the first person plural. There was a sense of unease throughout not knowing if I was looking out through the eyes of an almost mythical many headed creature or if there was a singular cowardly and malicious force lurking in the shadows, kneading us all together with its hands into a lifeless, amorphous mound of dough. The last sentence really shook me to the bone!
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on January 17, 2010
Joshua Ferris, relatively unknown in the world of Literature, comes up with one of the most audacious first novels in quite awhile. In my estimation, Then We Came To The End is the best literary novel of 2007, surpassing even Tree of Smoke, national book award winner of the same year. While the former doesn't even begin to touch the latter in terms of pure, literary ambition, it stands higher for me because of its immoderate amount of humor.

Like most books (or other forms of mass media for that matter) focusing on the nuances of the working world, this one goes the comedic route. Reading through the first chapter, you get a vivid sense of where Joshua is going. The main characters were introduced and the overall tone was established. It is then that the humor kicks in.

But it isn't the kind of humor that hits you as screwball or outrageous, the origin of the humor stems from the fact that every single one of these characters are caricatures of ourselves and of people we have perhaps met in our very own work spaces. That, to me, was what made the book funny. Work life, especially in commercial companies like the anonymous advertising firm described in this book, is funny in its very nature. The embarrassment of having your personal quirks on display for your fellow professionals to see, as is the urge to laugh at exhibitions of the same, constitutes much of the material in this book.

Compounded with a good sense of structure, a wondrously modern prose voice and a deep feel for the characters, the story captivates you and brings you to a place of identification with both the characters and the situations they find themselves in. It is this sympathy that provokes us to turn the pages, even though at times we wonder where the plot may be taking us. But it does payoff in the end with no small measure of satisfaction.

The satisfaction I get from this book cannot be understated, or overstated. It has given me glimpses of myriad memories from my own working life. Sometimes, in life, we get caught up in our career and overlook the relationships of the colleagues we see day in, day out within the cul-de-sacs. This book does have that déjà-vu magic. And above all, it succeeds as an enjoyable piece of literature. Few books nowadays can claim to do that.
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on June 13, 2007
Many books seem to have their freshest ideas and best writing in the early chapters and then lose steam throughout the rest of the book. This is one of the rare books that gets better as you read it and then finishes with a brilliant, moving close. As noted many times, it's written in the third person, but that serves much more than a creating writing "Wow" factor. The book is about how much of our personalities can be defined by our group identity. The one person who doesn't fit into the group makes a very powerful explanation as to why he resists it. The author keeps circling back on particular characters and with each visit back to them their individual stories become deeper, richer and more poignant. I often read on the train, and there were many passages that made me laugh out loud, as he portrayed the quirky, but all too real characters. Some scenes are positively brilliant -- the grieving mother who sits inside the McDonald's playroom that her child use to visit at every lunchtime; the aggrieved fired employee who wreaks his revenge by returning to the office in a clown suit and with a paint pistol; the worker who can't figure out what to do with, and becomes in explicably obsessed by, the totem pole a recently deceased colleague left him; the breast cancer victim who is afraid to enter a hospital and who is so alone, she has to ask an ex-boyfriend for help geting her to the hospital. Having worked in a similar environment, I think Ferris hits the group-think dead on perfectly, although as many reviewers have noted, his observations fit any office environment, not just an ad agency. The only thing missing from the book is the often amusing, absurd interaction with clients. (I highly recommend the late Glenn Savan's A White Palace for an excellent portrayal of that.) In my view, this is one of the most entertaining, innovative novels I've read in years.
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on November 5, 2008
The clever and sophisticated people in this novel begin by acting in petty and childlike ways. They are a group of workers in an advertising agency in Chicago.. Augusten Burroughs's "Sellevision" and Scott Adam's Dilbert strip come to mind. The book is often mordantly funny, although it includes the murder of a child, a death from cancer, a death in military action, and bouts of depression and mental illness. These actions are effectively counterpointed with concerns about such matters as ownership of a chair or decorating an office cubicle.
As the story goes on the characters mature and come to respect each other. I had a vague feeling that there's a deep moral in there somewhere, if I was smart enough to understand it. It uses some narrative gimmicks of the kind I usually dislike, but which are used so effectively that I was drawn in. One schtick is to use the first person plural as a point of view. A large part of the story is told by "we" and not until the last sentence is the reader told who "we' is. Other parts are POV of separate characters, and then, towards the end one of the characters reads from the novel he has been writing about the others. It's complicated but it works.
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on March 8, 2012
I'm going to be fairly short with this review, but this story is going to stay with me a long, long time. I almost stopped reading after the first few pages. The book starts out self-conscious and difficult, trying too hard to be smart and trying to call up Heller and Vonnegut, but more often ending up disjointed. Then the combination of the text hitting its stride and the reader falling into the beat of it mesh, and I almost want to call it a masterpiece (flawed though it is). Maybe settling into this book is like settling into a new workplace. The people are as real as life, they're sometimes grim, there are some you'll like, some will irritate you, all will have their bright spots of humanity. At times funny, wise, hilarious, scary, genuinely clever (not just superficially so). Read it through to the very end.
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VINE VOICEon April 20, 2007
For those of us who have worked in small and large offices since the word "downsizing" was invented, you will identify with this book. The author, in his quirky style of the first person plural, brings to the forefront the strife, competition, talent and insecurity of the corporate and semi-corporate environment.

This book reminded me of the time when, as a manager, I spent the day in closed door meetings discussing a possible terrorist threat. It was a scary time. When it was over and we discharged the employee in question, the staff's response was of relief: not of the removal of a terrorist threat but the closed door discussion did not involve his/her personal termination based on peformance. You have to love it!

The characters in Ferris' book resemble so many of our fellow employees, extremes maybe, but if earning a living wasn't such a serious business, we could laugh at each other 40 hours per week. There are very serious situations in this novel which should force the employee into reality, but employee competition is the brass ring. Read this book; you will find a different voice.
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on October 20, 2008
I came to the book after reading an excellent short story by Ferris
in the New Yorker ("The Dinner Party"). However, it took me a while
after I finished it to decide whether I liked this novel. The use of the first
person plural is different, but I don't think that is what makes the book really
unusual. Inconsequential stories of everyday office life are transformed into
prose that is in places poetic, and in others crass. The mundane nature
of the material he works with made me miss the careful construction of the
story, and the not so hidden subtext.

As other reviewers have noted, the novel really does come together
in the last 20 pages. However, even after I finished reading it, I kept thinking back
about the book - not the specific stories perhaps, but rather the
main ideas and feelings: how the existential fear of losing a job (and in most cases in
the novel, the character's identity along with it), is reflected in the mundane jokes and
worries over being found out with a stolen chair. In the end, I thought it
worked very well, but I can see how others may be disappointed.
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on July 7, 2014
Too funny! A great spoof on the go-go pre-crash 2007 era world of advertising. But the genius is on the characterizations which are winning, poignant and beautifully detailed. Fun to read and thought-provoking. An excellent book that is one-of-a-kind. I read it on my Kindle.
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