then we came to the end by j ferris

Who hasn’t taken office supplies home before?  How would we go through each workday without a little bit of harmless office gossip?  Joshua Ferris’ first novel Then We Came to the End is The Office in written form.  Or Seinfeld.  Or Dilbert.  It’s a depiction of the typical Great American office.  The white-collar life.  We get up every day to work, to make money, to make a living but who goes through each day without imperfections?  Who hasn’t complained about the annoying colleague or the evil boss?  I’ve never played any practical jokes on my colleagues (nor a victim of any *knock on wood*) but it doesn’t take the characters in the book to tell us how annoying that could become if it persisted every other day.

The managers at my old job were heavily committed to Gallop surveys and guidelines when it came to disciplining and shaping the company.  I was once surveyed by my boss with an extensive list of work-related questions (although they seemed to poke at my personal life too) including, “Do you have a coworker that you consider as a “work place best friend?”  It wasn’t difficult to answer that.  In fact, the entire office knew we were two peas in a pod.  We did everything together.  Without her I would’ve gone insane in that agency of ours.  Reading this book has made me realize how much I appreciated her presence… and how easily the characters’ lives pertain to mine.

The book takes place inside an advertising agency in Chicago.   There is a handful of characters in the office that the reader quickly becomes accustomed to especially because of its first person plural narrative.  Each day is something different for the office bunch:  they make a mystery of a “misplaced” chair into a the-sky-is-falling crisis; they hunt down the asshole who hid a piece of sushi behind a bookcase so it would smell like rotten bodies in the office; they share the tragedy of a colleague’s murdered daughter; they learn about the irony of a love affair gone wrong. Ferris meticulously describes how each character behaves in front of and behind the gang – and its familiarity is what makes the novel humorous.  It’s witty and quirky.  But it was not compelling enough to keep me wired throughout the entire book.  If you like The Office I can guarantee that you will like this book.  As in any other office, the characters in Then We Came to the End share the best of times and the worst of times, only to find their bond stronger at the end of it all.

dee’s recommendation: 3.5/5