I went to my first meeting of the Brookline Booksmith Book Club yesterday to discuss Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris. The group was quite mixed on the book, but the overall rating was 3.6 out of 5.
Then We Came To The End follows a group of coworkers in a Chicago ad agency during the summer of 2001. Lay-offs are rampant, and the staff is abuzz with rumors about who will be next. The group is filled with characters - at least, until you realize that they're not really characters so much as people you know. There's the guy who likes to read inspirational quotes to people, the girl who has to try every new restaurant in the city (yeah, I've been her at times), the couple who are not-so-secretly having an affair, and the one guy who refuses to play along with the whole "game" of office politics.
Every time someone is fired in the book, the term "walking Spanish" is used, referencing how pirates used to lift Spanish sailors up by the scruff of their necks and make them walk on their tip-toes before throwing them off the decks of their ships. I really like the term, and it has found its way into my own vocabulary now. I always have to laud an author who can manage to do that.
My favorite part of the book was something that seemed gimmicky to some of the book club members: it is told in the first person plural - "we". In a book that is ostensibly about the shallow relationships formed at work and the way coworkers get wrapped up in gossip, using "we" allowed the reader to more intimately become a part of the goings-on. The section in the middle, however, detailing one evening in the life of the boss, was told in third person singular, making the jump in point of view jarring. I would have preferred the story to stay with the first voice the entire time, making the reader's (shallow) connection to the characters that much stronger.