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

Welcome back Buzz Book Club readers! This week, my June selection, Then We Came to the End, took a turn for the dark. At the start of the book, I spent most of my time laughing, but in this section, I found myself doing a lot more cringing. If last week I thought it was "equal parts devastating and hilarious," this part was a bit more devastating — but I'm still completely hooked on the story.

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: 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." We'll discuss this section next Friday, June 20.

To discuss the second part of Then We Came to the End (in which we read to the end of the section titled "You Don't Know What's In My Heart"),


  1. This section had a lot of disheartening things in it — from the way Tom talked to Marilynn in the hospital to the horrid things someone is doing to Joe Pope. The first week, I laughed maybe 85 percent of the time and cringed the other 15 percent; this week, the ratio was nearly reversed. Did you find this section more awkward, or were you still chuckling?
  2. The characters seem like insatiable gossips, so obsessed with knowing everything about the details of everyone's lives. But as we saw numerous times — from Carl's depression to Janine's lunchtime trips to the McDonald's — knowing a lot about someone is not the same as knowing them. Why do you think the characters need to know so much about people they might not care much about on any real level? And have you been in situations similar to that?
  3. On a similar note, why do you think the "we" characters are so obsessed with picking apart Lynn and Joe (who, for the most part, seem relatively sane and well-adjusted)? Is it just an attempt to pick out weaknesses with anyone in a position of power?
  4. The characters get worked up not just about people but about things — like the serial numbers on the chairs. What do you think is behind that obsession? Have you ever encountered similar obsessions in your office lives?
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Linda-McP Linda-McP 8 years
4. To answer the last question first, I agree with freegracefrom: the attention to serial numbers on office chairs is a distraction for them. Even though they realize "how far we had fallen" when discussing Marcia's chair it is one more thing that unites them and allows them to divert attention from the meaningless of the work they are left to do. The creative challenge of meaningful work is disappearing from their workplace; the fear of being fired is real. 1. As I'm getting to know the characters, I'm beginning to understand their motivations a bit more. I find myself laughing with them and not at them at times. Much of their behavior seems to be motivated by their insecurities; they admit that "we had the feeling that our bad ideas were probably worse than the ideas of others." What could be and probably should be a cooperative work place is, in fact, quite competitive. That produces some cringe worthy moments. 2. They admit that they "[do]not like not knowing something. We [can]not abide being left in the dark." And that leads to the gossip about others. To know something that someone else doesn't know is powerful; to be the first to share that information with colleagues gives credibility to the person in the know. It seems that when they focus on someone else's misfortunes, they can momentarily not focus on their own. In a sense, there's comfort in knowing that others have dark moments in their lives just like the rest of us. 3. Again, I agree with freegracefrom about why they unite against Joe and Lynn: these two are outsiders, they aren't "we." They are powerful and exercise a great deal of control over those who work for them. Despite efforts on Lynn's part to know the staff, she realizes that the best she will ever do is know things about them without ever knowing who they really are. The corporate structure seems to necessarily separate bosses from the staff and the staff gets some of its identity by sharing a dislike for those in power. While they are interested in knowing things about the bosses, they can never cross the line to truly get to know them since that would disrupt the unwritten "rules" of the workplace.
freegracefrom freegracefrom 8 years
1. Oddly enough, I think I was cringing more last week. The earlier few chapters were (depressingly) easy for me to relate to, but I felt like these chapters were more focused on the actual characters of the workers in the office. The characters are all having to deal with heavier situations now though, so I can't say I was really chuckling either... 2. I think my office is a lot like this, but my coworkers aren't nearly as interesting! It was so sad the way they all kept on going to McDonalds to stare at Janine. Could you imagine ever having to deal with the sort of pain that she had to deal with? And still they think it's ok to treat her like a walking freak show? 3. I think the only reason why they want to pick apart Joe and Lynn is only because they are removed from the rest of them. I tend to be very secretive about my personal life in the workplace and that piques my coworkers' curiousity. I mention one thing to one person and someone else asks me about it later. Then again, there are a lot of coworkers they know nothing about. Maybe they are especially intrigued by people that they see as being more successful than them... the way people tend to be more interested in the private lives of celebrities? 4. My theory as to why they get so worked up is that they enjoy the distraction from the mundane reality of their office existence. They convince themselves that meaningless things have importance perhaps because they have difficult finding the meaning and purpose in the work that they do?
jellydonut80 jellydonut80 8 years
i love this book! I just finished it about 2 months ago....
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