Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!
Ever since it released on Netflix, my brother was trying to convince the whole family to watch I’m Thinking of Ending Things. My parents watched it beforehand, and I myself ended up watching it over Thanksgiving break. It’s certainly a bleak and depressing film, but I somehow was able to disconnect myself from that aspect; in that way, I could see it for the grimly poetic piece of art that it is. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that it was originally a book!
So of course, I put it on hold on my kindle. I finally got to read it last week, and I must say, what a complex gem of a novel!
Enjoy this week’s review!
After a short time dating, Jake is finally taking his girlfriend to visit his parents and childhood home. Unbeknownst to him, his girlfriend continues to have misgivings about the situation. As the road unfolds before them, the situation grows continually stranger, and she wonders if Jake–and the life he’s constructed–is real at all. One thing is for certain–she has to find a way back home.
TW/CW: suicide/suicidal thoughts, violence, blood, descriptions of animal death
I’m Thinking of Ending Things was one of those films that made me want to write a 17-page essay in my head minutes after watching it, and I’m glad to say that the source material was no exception! This novel is one that continually defies categorization, a beautifully absurd bundle of philosophical musings and gripping psychological horror.
I watched the movie a few months before reading the book (oops), and so I ended up imagining the characters, for the most part, as they were in the film. For the most part, the film stayed very true to the book; I recognized quite a few familiar elements as I went along, and the mood was very similar to that of the film. (However, I was a bit disappointed to see that Jessie Buckley’s iconic car poetry wasn’t originally in the book…) This is my first experience with Reid’s writing, and what stood out most for me is that he’s mastered how to deliver a consistent creeping sense of dread. Even though I knew the truth behind everything after seeing the movie, it was still chilling to watch everything slowly unravel.
Reid absolutely has a talent for building a story for our young couple, and then slowly but surely unraveling it before your eyes; a backstory is established, but with each detail that he throws in, you begin to suspect more and more that something is gravely amiss. That, pieced together from the posthumous police reports, makes for a piece that’s wonderfully intricate. Even going off the ending of the film, I still had an absolute blast trying to piece everything together and pick it apart again. In short: most everything you see in this novel is important, and then it isn’t. You’ll see what I mean.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is by all means a character-driven novel; the first third is almost entirely composed of past memories and Jake and his girlfriend discussing life, the universe & everything on the way to Jake’s parents’ house. In another novel, I might just think that these two were just vessels for the author’s thoughts, but no–there’s actually a fount of subjects that were quite profound. Many of them have stuck with me for a while afterwards. And both the message and the resolution of the book is quite bleak (as the title and the first line suggest), but for me, it was more the experience of piecing everything together that made reading this novel so memorable.
As for the ending…this is clearly the part that Charlie Kaufman took the most creative liberties with when making the film. It’s certainly a lot more horror-like than I expected, but it packs just as powerful of a punch. There’s no sugarcoating here–it’s raw, it’s bare, and it’s dark, but it wraps the book up in a twistedly perfect way. It left me feeling stunned in the best possible way.
All in all, a grim, psychological novel that’s like nothing I’ve ever read. 4.25 stars!
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a standalone, but Iain Reid is also the author of Foe and the nonfiction novels One Bird’s Choice and The Truth About Luck.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!