I was having a crappy day. Medicated, my eyes started to water as a tried to power through the sickness and understand what this Excel Spreadsheet was supposed to be accomplishing. Disembodied head looming somewhere above my cube, my boss collected to me like a balloon make a 4 pm meeting.
My new job is wonderful, as is my boss, we did our meeting with a business down the street from our office. When it ended early my supervisor told me not to worry about going back to work, to spend the evening resting and recovering.
My meeting was five minutes from the bookstore, so I collected book club’s October read I’m Thinking of EndingThings. I shuffled home and laid on the couch reading the rest of the night.
The book is an incredibly quick read. Had I been slightly more clear it would have easily been a one sitting read, I’d recommend doing it all at once. Most of the story is told from the vantage point of a road-tripping couple who started dating about seven weeks ago. Our narrator is the woman and she is “thinking of ending things” but the trip is to meet his parents so she is holding off on her final decision until after that.
The language is simple. There isn’t any of the fantasy imagery, no wonky multi-named characters, more or less linear with flashbacks to the relationship and our narrator’s childhood. There were few words requiring a dictionary, though, like the author, I checked Webster for cruciverbalist. The simplicity packed a punch, though.
The story feels like a rain that increases in tempo and impact as the story goes on. During the ride, it’s more or less clear sailing. They discuss philosophy, science, and swap life stories. However, when our narrator’s phone rings tension creeps in. As the tale progresses there are indications of impending doom. Key moments feel like a horror movie soundtrack just before we see the monster. But with all the build, I’m Thinking of Ending Things plays close to the vest with whatever the real danger is.
Did I anticipate the ending? Yes. I think I knew more or less what was coming, at least the major points. Here is where reading it in one sitting would have helped: My boyfriend turned out the reading light at the very climax, the scariest of scary parts. Just as our narrator was waiting, hiding, in the high school where the story concludes, I was waiting to go back to the story. I left her stranded there for hours while I slept and went to work the next day. Needless to say, I was also in a slightly frenzied place.
During my lunch break, I scrambled to finish a grilled cheese while ripping through the last few pages.
When I closed the book I felt like I’d been punched, jab, cross, right into my gut. I wanted to vomit.The clock struck 1 pm and I had to return to my work. In my haste, I felt like I had missed some of the explanation of the details, questions and puzzle pieces I had known meant something in earlier pages but didn’t understand the collective story. I got the big picture, but I was left standing with shards of glass, pieces not yet assembled. And when I read the other reviews online, I discovered I am not alone.
Do I think it was a good book? No. Not really. It was simple and heavy-handed, and normally I like those things but I like the book to know that it’s simple and heavy handed and not to feel like it’s fooling me all along. It was okay. It made me want to know what was going to happen, but I was in it mostly to have the details worked out. At the end, I still didn’t have that. Because it was such a quick read, because it is a book club book, because I do have time and don’t want to feel stupid and lost during the discussion, I will probably read it again. In one sitting. And try to put together the pieces I’m left holding. Maybe I’ll feel different after that.
As far as stars go, two, maybe three. I don’t want to share my conclusions with my group, though. I don’t want to overly color their impressions. So I just suggested they read it all at once and left it at that.