im-thinking-of-ending-things-9781501126925_lgI’m Thinking of Ending Things
Iain Reid
Simon & Schuster
June 7, 2016
Reviewed by Josh Black

“My story is not like a movie, I’ll say. It’s not heart-stopping or intense or bloodcurdling or graphic or violent. No jump scares. To me, these qualities aren’t usually scary. Something that disorients, that unsettles what’s taken for granted, something that disturbs and disrupts reality –  that’s scary.”

I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Iain Reid’s debut novel, is a hard one to categorize and a harder one to talk about without giving away too much. It’s a novel of ideas, but a dark and propulsive one, the kind of story that drags you further and further in until it’s too late to look away.

It begins with a woman and her boyfriend Jake as he’s driving her to his childhood home to introduce her to his parents. It’s a big step in the relationship, but we quickly learn that the woman is thinking of ending things. The whole book reads like a puzzle, the pieces of which are revealed in a number of increasingly unsettling conversations the couple have. These lengthy passages delve into the nature of identity, the fallibility of memory, the merits of solitude versus companionship, thought versus action, and the nature of fear. It seems like a lot to pack in to such a brief book (it’s a scant 226 pages), but all of the pieces fit remarkably well. By the end everything makes sense, and it’s the kind of book that warrants a reread.

Between the probing questions, the sense of unease, and the off-kilter nature of the dialogue, the novel is consistently distressing. In their description, the publisher compares it to books by Jose Saramago, Lionel Shriver, and Michel Faber. To me, it read like what an episode of The Twilight Zone might be like if written by T.M. Wright. There’s a vaguely supernatural air about it, while at the same time it lays bare some of the most natural, if concealed, thoughts a person might have.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a highly impressive debut. It’s not for everyone, granted, but for anyone looking for a story that’s as perplexing and thought-provoking as it is chilling. It’s a must-read.

About Josh Black

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