four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
28-May-June-2007
user_rating: 
0
Award Year: 
2007

A-Then We Came to the EndJoshua Ferris takes an original, often uproarious, look at life in a corporate cubicle in this debut novel. At a downtown Chicago advertising agency, copywriters and designers find creative ways to waste time in the waning days of the 1990s Internet boom. When the "new economy" falters, the company begins to lay off its overpaid staff, gradually transforming itself into a cubicle ghost town. The remaining employees spend their time gossiping, stealing chairs from empty offices, decoding hidden meanings in mass e-mails from management, and speculating on who will be the next to get the axe—unless, of course, there are free bagels in the conference room.
Little, Brown. 400 pages. $23.99. ISBN: 0316016381

Los Angeles Times 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Then We Came to the End is full of such brilliant miniature treatises—on the experience of time (‘We had visceral, rich memories of dull, interminable hours’), the hierarchies of complaint, the meaning of lunch—all heartfelt and delivered in solemn deadpan. … What looks at first glance like a sweet-tempered satire of workplace culture is revealed upon closer inspection to be a very serious novel about, well, America." Darcy Cosper

Minneapolis Star Tribune 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Rarely have bubbles been burst with the grace and aplomb—and, well, brilliance and heart—displayed here by Ferris. It should be said upfront that this is a very funny book; reading it is like tagging along on a corporate tour led by Joseph Heller and Mike Judge, with occasional color commentary by Sam Kinison." Ethan Rutherford

Atlanta Jrnl-Constitution 4 of 5 Stars
"If Ferris had written only about the petty, childish nature of office life, he might have turned out a funny but forgettable book. But he also writes about the dark places to which our work and personal lives sometimes take us, and the relief our colleagues can bring in those moments." Soyia Ellison

Chicago Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"Ferris’ writing displays a strong descriptive flair, but the greatest asset of Then We Came to the End is the nuance of its narrative voice, which has the gossipy warmth and seeming closeness of a conspiratorial co-worker leaning over a partition to impart the latest rumor." Art Winslow

Christian Science Monitor 4 of 5 Stars
"Then We Came to the End is a vicious send-up of cubicle culture that somehow manages not to lose sight of its characters’ humanity. … Even his most gonzo creation is given a sympathetic aspect that saves him from caricature." Yvonne Zipp

St. Louis Post-Dispatch 4 of 5 Stars
"Comparisons to the film Office Space and the TV series The Office are inevitable and not entirely off the mark. … But where the big and little screen versions focus a gimlet eye on satirizing the bulk of the office staff, Ferris presents us with a cast of fully realized characters." Amy Woods Butler

San Diego Union-Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The episodic ebb and flow, and multiple subplots and arcs of Then We Came to the End, doesn’t always sustain the narrative, but the subtle characterizations, unfolding over the course of the story, imbue the work with unexpected depth and dimensionality that perpetuates the novelistic momentum." Gordon Hauptfleisch

Critical Summary

Anyone who has spent time in corporate America will recognize the inhabitants of Joshua Ferris’s office: the Gossip, the Whiner, the Stapler Thief—and why not? Statistically, Americans spend more time with coworkers than with their families. Ferris, a former cubicle dweller himself, has created a rich cast of characters whose depth and realism surprised reviewers. Some admitted to initial doubts about Ferris’s use of the first person plural—a collective, omniscient "we"—but all agreed that the generic narrator succeeded in pulling readers into the story. While the piercing, razor-sharp wit will keep readers laughing out loud, the plot twists and sudden character revelations make Then We Came to the End an insightful, intelligent commentary on humanity and individualism in the workplace. Concludes the Los Angeles Times: "It may even be, in its own modest way, a great American novel."