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

Welcome back Buzz Book Club readers! I'm really loving (and relating to!) my June selection, Then We Came to the End. Author Joshua Ferris' observations about working life in America are so sharp, and I'm really impressed with his ability to capture the essence of this world that most of us know so well. I'm finding it equal parts devastating and hilarious, which makes for a read I hate to put down.

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 from the start of chapter three until the completion of the section titled "You Don't Know What's In my Heart." (Stop before you read the chapter titled "The Thing to Do and the Place to Be" — that will be part of the following assignment.) We'll chat about this second section a week from today, Friday, June 13.

To discuss the first section of Then We Came to the End (in which we read from the start of the book until the end of chapter two of the section titled "You Don't Know What's In my Heart"),


  1. First of all, how are you taking to the first person plural narration of the story (otherwise known as the "we" voice)? Do you find it at all jarring? Or did it make sense to you right off the bat? Have been at all preoccupied with trying to figure out who is, or is not, part of the “we”? Or do you think that’s utterly beside the point?
  2. Already, there is so much to relate to in this book. I found this passage captured a certain mindset I'm certainly familiar with: "We believed that downturns had been rendered obsolete by the ingenious technology of the new economy. We thought ourselves immune from things like plant closings in Iowa and Nebraska, where remote Americans struggled against falling-in roofs and credit card debt." What about you? What passages so far nailed the way your office works or the way you view your job?
  3. The book has a lot of obvious similarities to other office-related literature, film, etc. (The Office and Douglas Coupland books come to mind for me), but one thing that stands out is that the characters actually do like their jobs, at least sometimes. The “we” narrator reminds us in the midst of stories of corporate power trips and sushi rolls on walls that most of the time, the work is fulfilling and they’re happy to put in long hours to get something done. Is that a more accurate representation of work in the 21st century than the paper-pushing drudgery of something like The Office? Which work situation do you relate to more — or is yours somewhere in between?
  4. It's probably fair to describe Tom Mota as "disturbed," but regardless, I can't help but crack up at his crazy antics. He's just so ridiculous! Which characters so far are you really enjoying, and why?
Girrly007 Girrly007 9 years
Benny is my favorite charecter so far. The scenario with the chair and the "buckshelves" was hysterical! I'm still a little behind in the reading assignment, but I hope to catch up this week :)
freegracefrom freegracefrom 9 years
1. I think the use of the first person plural narrative is genius! I have to admit though that for the first few pages, I kept expecting the narrator to step out and introduce himself. In a way, it's a little jarring. Normally when you read first person, you expect to form a relationship with the narrator but this approaches forces us to stay at arm's length. 2. I've found SO much to relate to in this book already as well! He really nailed the atmosphere of a typical 9-to-5 office. We get excited [in my office] about surprise bagels in the morning.. I'm the "Karen Woo" of the office in the sense that I compulsively need to visit every new restaurant before anyone else... the company branded polo that we wear only once and never again... the ten-fifteen smokers break... even down to my company recently laying off a few people with the question lingering in the air of when the next layoffs will be. The similarities are eerie. The opening paragraph hooked me in right away with this too: "Most of us liked most everyone, a few of us hated specific individuals, one or two people loved everyone and everything. Those who loved everyone were unanimously reviled." So true! All in all, the dreary pointlessness, the irritation, the depression and sometimes desperation, the petty gossip... I can completely relate. 3. I guess I missed that they liked their jobs really. I feel like they are all looking for more, but have just accepted their place here without really understanding why. I actually hate the work I do, but sometimes when the "going gets tough", the people in my office will all band together splendidly in that grand old tradition of teamwork. I like the feeling of accomplishment, even if it's accomplishments in a job I hate. But fulfilling? No. 4. Characters I like.... hm. Tom is interesting. My office had a bit of a loose cannon prankster that apparently worked there long before my time and the people are still talking about him. I think the description of "Brizz" was one of my favorites.
beingtazim beingtazim 9 years
i requested this from the library but i don't think i'll get it in time. :(
Linda-McP Linda-McP 9 years
I, too, will be back to comment later but just wanted to say that as I'm reading, I notice that I'm smiling a great deal--not laugh out loud funny, but just totally enjoyable. The "we" voice is perfect for setting tone and for allowing us to be part of the office culture that he so ably captures. Great choice, Buzz!
freegracefrom freegracefrom 9 years
(I'm sorry! I haven't had a chance to get this book yet, but I will tomorrow and come back to this entry and catch up!) I couldn't tell where it was going and when it would end. Sounds a lot like my career. :wink:
hpl55 hpl55 9 years
I read this book last year. I enjoyed it, and was pleased overall when I was finished, but I couldn't stop wondering where the plot was. The character descriptions were so great, and you really felt like you got to know all of them, but it kind of dragged because I couldn't tell where it was going and when it would end.
Miss-Attitude Miss-Attitude 9 years
We just read this for my book club and I loved it! There were two girls in the group who thought it was too depressing, but I thought they were crazy. I think it's hysterical!
j2e1n9 j2e1n9 9 years
This book has been on my wish list for a little while now and I cant remember who or how it came to be there! I am trying to remember where I heard of it before... :?
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