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Buzz Book Club: Then We Came to the End, Section Three

Welcome back Buzz Book Club readers! This week my June selection, Then We Came to the End, continues to be a potent mix of hilarious insights into the American working life and sad moments of souls being crushed. It's easy to see why this has been such a critically successful book: The tone is so spot-on.

Here's a recap of how the Book Club goes if you're new: Every week I'll suggest chapters to complete by the next post (which, in this case, will go up every Friday in June). In these weekly Book Club posts, I'll posit a few questions to prompt discussion in the comments section.

Of course, you are always welcome to read beyond the weekly chapters, but please don't spoil anything in the comments! After the jump you'll find some questions that struck me as I read this section.

The next assignment: Finish the book! We'll discuss the end next Friday, June 27.

To discuss the third part of Then We Came to the End (in which we read the chapter titled "The Thing to Do and the Place to Be" and the first two chapters of the section called "Returns and Departures."),

.

  1. In "The Thing to Do and the Place to Be," the narration suddenly switches from the collective "we" of the office workers to the mind of Lynn Mason. Why do you think Ferris wanted to tell Lynn's story in that way? Did the change in style work for you?
  2. By this point, it's pretty clear that the book is far more character-driven than plot-driven. Some action does happen (Yop tossing the chair into the river, etc.), but for the most part, it takes a backseat to the new things we're learning about the characters. Are there particular characters whose stories are keeping you engaged with the book? Are you having a hard time caring about any of them?
  3. This section taught us a lot about Joe, especially through his story about why he strives not to be a part of any group. Do you think that helps or hinders him in his office relations? And do you think, as Genevieve says, that "everybody's part of a group"?
  4. I was struck by this passage: "Even with the best of intentions, it was impossible not to offend one another. We fretted over the many insignificant exchanges we found ourselves in from day to day . . . and next we knew, we had offended someone with an offhand and innocent remark." That seemed to sum up so much of the overly polite but subtext-laden conversation that takes place in offices everywhere. Could you relate to that — from your office work or otherwise?
  5. As we are easing into the final section of the book, do you have any theories or ideas about what the title, Then We Came to the End, might mean?
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Linda-McP Linda-McP 7 years
1. I agree with freegracefrom that it wouldn't be right to tell Lynn's story in the "we" voice since she isn't a "we." When Ferris switches tone and focuses on Lynn's personal story, he allows us to look outside the office--at what really matters in life. Without good health little else matters. For me, Ferris successfully conveys Lynn's confusion as she confronts life and death issues. When she says "I know what to do with my life. I just don't know what to do with this one night" before the surgery I teared up. 2. I think in some ways I'm becoming the "we" who is interested in office gossip about the co-workers but not really interested in connecting personally with any of them. I'm curious about what happens, of course, but it's Lynn that I care about most. Her personal story away from the office is compelling. 3. When Joe distances himself from the group and refers to "these people" he clearly damages relationships with those who work for him...or rather those who work for Lynn,as he claims. His exchange with Genevieve where she points out his condescending tone and asks him "...what sort of opinion you have of the people who work for you" reveals much about how he sees himself: "I'm not Lynn. But I'm not really one of them, either. I'm caught somewhere inbetween... ." The burden of striking the right balance costs him both personally and professionally. 4. I was struck by this section as well. We never know how our words or actions will be perceived by others. Unfortunately, this often prevents us from having honest interactions with those closest to us at work and sets us barriers that keep us from truly knowing those with whom we spend many hours. 5. I suspect that "we" ends when the company folds or when enough people leave to take other jobs. As universal as the "we" is to all of us who have worked (we can all identify with the office politics and the personalities that Ferris reveals), each office has its own culture; those who were part of this "we" may struggle to fit into their new environments.
freegracefrom freegracefrom 7 years
1. The change in narrative was subtle. I almost didn't notice the change because I was drawn in. I think Ferris told the story in that way to emphasize that Lynn is wholly apart from the collective "we." So it wouldn't have been right if Lynn's story was told through the "we" voice. I'm glad he gave us insight into her personal life, because I was dying to know if she did indeed have cancer! 2. The more we learn about the characters, the more I want to learn about them. I want to see how Lynn handles the cancer scenario. I want to see if Benny ever gets the nerve to tell Marcia how he feels. 3. Joe's loner behavior clearly helped him stand out professionally, but I think it's evident that it has also hurt his office relationships. There is a trend developing at this point in the story now where more individual characters seem to be speaking out against the collective "us". There is more of a backlash against the mob mentality than before. Joe Pope, Chris Yop's anger at not being emailed about the project, Marcia's determination to fight back against the Yopanwoo Tribe, Lynn's question to Joe: "Joe have they suckered you into it at last?", Genevieve's angry mass email. 4. "Even with the best of intentions, it was impossible not to offend one another. We fretted over the many insignificant exchanges we found ourselves in from day to day . . . and next we knew, we had offended someone with an offhand and innocent remark." I could certainly relate. I tend to overanalyze the things that people do/say. Sometimes, I'm justified, but I imagine that I'm usually being silly. I remember making a joke one time to a coworker about how she didn't give us service with a smile - she was so angry, she went and told someone else in the office that I was complaining about her not being friendly! You just never know what will set people off. 5. I haven't given it much thought. Perhaps, the title will refer to some sort of disbanding of the "we". Maybe it's the end of the company?
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