Last month, my Book Club chose ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ by Iain Reid. It… was… well… odd is the best I can come up with at the moment. Here’s the basics from Goodreads:
I’m thinking of ending things. Once this thought arrives, it stays. It sticks. It lingers. It’s always there. Always. Jake once said, “Sometimes a thought is closer to truth, to reality, than an action. You can say anything, you can do anything, but you can’t fake a thought.”
And here’s what I’m thinking: I don’t want to be here.
In this deeply suspenseful and irresistibly unnerving debut novel, a man and his girlfriend are on their way to a secluded farm. When the two take an unexpected detour, she is left stranded in a deserted high school, wondering if there is any escape at all. What follows is a twisted unraveling that will haunt you long after the last page is turned.
In this smart, suspenseful, and intense literary thriller, debut novelist Iain Reid explores the depths of the human psyche, questioning consciousness, free will, the value of relationships, fear, and the limitations of solitude. Reminiscent of Jose Saramago’s early work, Michel Faber’s cult classic Under the Skin, and Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is an edgy, haunting debut. Tense, gripping, and atmospheric, this novel pulls you in from the very first page and never lets you go.
Okay, so honestly, I’m not entirely sure where to start. It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve finished ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ and I’m still wondering, “What The Hell did I read?!” It’s not that the writing is bad particularly, it’s actually pretty decent all things considered, but my problem is with the plot. It rambled on and on and ON throughout the full 224 pages with seemingly no direction. Then it just… ended. Boom! Done. No more pages. I kept looking at the back like, surely there’s more. But nope.
We experience this novel mainly through the thoughts of a young, college-aged woman. Emphasis on THOUGHTS! I would guess as much as 70% of the book is reading her personal musings. She thinks about this, thinks about that, reminisces about something else. There’s very little action for the majority of the book which is something I can’t stand. Long, internal soliloquies have always annoyed the crap out of me and that’s basically all this book is when boiled down. They’re in a car, then at Jake’s parents having dinner, and end up at an abandoned school on their way back home. The whole book takes place over less than a 12 hour (insanely boring!) period.
It didn’t dawn on me until one of my Book Club mates pointed out that we are never given a name for the Narrator. We just know that it’s a woman. The Reader learns the name of her boyfriend, Jake, and his family but that’s it. Only fleeting glimpses are done into her home life before college and even then no names are ever said. Really, it’s almost as if there’s this big gap between when she is little and when she meets Jake. One could argue that that isn’t relevant but if that’s the case, why get into Jake’s history.
Truthfully, I didn’t particularly care for the Narrator. She was wishy washy on everything and I thought she was doing Jake a disservice by agreeing to go home and meet his parents when she’s thinking of breaking up with him. Of the two, I liked Jake better. I felt like the author took the time to flush out his character a lot more than the female Narrator. He’s a little weird, but at least he made sense to me. I suppose, when you get to the end and learn why she’s never given a name, it explains more about why Mr. Reid wrote her that way. However, it also brings into question other events that occurred between her and Jake (like the make-out scene in the car) that just confirmed my “WTF?!” thought process.
The book was touted as a suspense and was supposed to be scary. I’d agree with the suspense part but not in a heart-racing, mystery kind of way. I was as much drawn to finish it because I have this habit of finishing every book I start, no matter how long it takes me or how horrible the book, as I was to figuring what was the point of the novel. (Yeah, I failed on figuring out the point, Mr. Reid.) Also, I didn’t find it the least bit scary. Maybe it’s all those Stephen King books I read as a kid… Anyway, I feel like the author was trying to make it scary by placing little excerpts between chapters; snippets of conversation where we can surmise that a murder has taken place. Unfortunately, Mr. Reid didn’t do a very good job showing us how it related to the main plot. Personally, I walked away from those sections with all the attention paid to a commercial break in between a somewhat interesting tv show. The incessant phone calls irritated me more than scared me too. After the first few, I would’ve called the phone company and had the line blocked. I kept waiting for the “scary” and just didn’t deliver for me.
I won’t give away the ending, only say that the last few sentences can sum it up way better than I’ve managed to so far… “Yes. You should read it. But maybe start at the end. Then circle back. First, though, I think you better sit down.”
Bottom line, it was a weird book. I didn’t find it scary at all. The only part that was slightly interesting was what you learned about the characters at the end. But like I said, even that raised more questions and upped the strange (read: gross) factor a few notches when you remembered what they did together. Ultimately, I gave it 2 stars on my Goodreads page because it wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t good either in my opinion. Unless you like weird, I wouldn’t recommend spending the money on it.