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"), read more.

  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?
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