Monday, November 7, 2016
Book Review: I'm Thinking of Ending Things
5 Stars - Highly Recommended / The Next Best Audio Book - What are you waiting for?
Length: 5 hours, 22 minutes
Narrator: Candace Thaxton
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio
Released: June 2016
Holy crap was that a nerve-wracking read! I'm surprised I didn't revert back to nail-biting as I listened to this book on my daily commute back and forth to work. I don't usually do well with high tension wtf-ery but wow, this thing. This fucking thing! I am throwing all the stars at it.
You guys trust me, right? How often do I steer you towards bad books? So when I say you have to download a copy of I'm Thinking of Ending Things in audio right the fuck now, you'll drop whatever you're doing and purchase it, right?
Don't be like me. Don't wait for this book to find you on its own. If it wasn't for this Bustle magazine article, I may never have picked it up. Somehow, the love/hate buzz that surrounded this debut novel passed me by, though if I'm being honest, that was probably a good thing because I have a tendency to stay away from the super-hyped-up books, cause, you know, nothing ruins a potentially good book faster than everyone friggen talking about it all night and all day.
In my case, though, the timing of that article and my stumbling across it was everything. Not just because the hype was long gone, but also because I had been holding on to an audible credit, not sure what to spend it on, and then, here comes Bustle Magazine boasting kick ass creepy audio books and I was like "ok, yeah, I like the sound of this", and holy hell you guys, this thing just sucked me right the fuck in.
The narrator, who is one of the most deliciously unreliable narrators I've met in a looooong time, is also so ridiculously relatable that I want to punch her in the face and then immediate kiss it and make it all better. Things start off innocuously enough. She and Jake are taking a road trip out to meet his parents. He's taking their relationship to the next level. She's thinking about ending things. And you might be thinking 'ugh, this is gonna suck' only it doesn't because the thoughts that run through her head on their way out there are fanfuckingtastic - she's thinking reasonable shit like 'maybe meeting his parents will change my mind' and 'it'll be nice to see where Jake grew up' and 'thinking of ending things takes the pressure off' and then she starts thinking about more existential shit like what it would feel like to get inside someones head, to truly know what they are thinking and have full access to their thoughts. She wonders if being alone is the only way someone can truly know themselves. Because when you're with someone, it's impossible to know their thoughts. And it's the thoughts that count. Thoughts are reality. And I remember thinking, man, that's the kind of crap I used to obsess myself with when I was younger. How you could really never know what someone was thinking because what they're really thinking, they would never say aloud. And I remember how desperately I wished I could get into people's head, so it was me thinking their thoughts, and how crazy intimate that would be. Even if it was just to see yourself the way other people see you. Even if it was just to know, without a doubt, how other people really thought of you. Or if they thought of you at all.
The conversation in the car is typical of a fairly new couple on a long drive down country roads. They feel each other out. She asks some questions, Jake does his best to answer them. They share stories. It starts to snow. And then they arrive at his parents' farm. It's old and secluded. His parents are a little... off. And Jake's demeanor begins to change. There are old photos on the wall that feel... familiar to her. But that doesn't make any sense. And when Jake disappears for a bit, the dad tries to convince our narrator to stay the night. He says he'll make coffee. The mom gives her a present, tells her she's not ready to open it yet. It's a folded piece of paper. She tells her she's good for Jake, that she's happy he has her. That he needs her.
After dinner, they hop back into the car and start to head home. The roads are getting bad, and Jake pulls into a Dairy Queen so they can grab something sweet and there's a weird interaction between our narrator and one of the girls behind the counter. The girl says she's worried. That she's scared for her. And even though shit had been getting weird for a little while now, that was some really creepy shit right there. It was like that girl behind the counter knew our narrator, but our narrator has never been out in the country before, never been out to this Dairy Queen, there's no way they could know each. When they get back in the car, she asks Jake about the girl. He's oblivious. And he's also freaking out about the lemonade they just bought, melting and sweating into his cup holders, so he detours them down a back road towards an empty high school out in the middle of nowhere, where he plans to throw them out.
From here, the whole thing goes to hell, in a terrifyingly good way. The story quickly begins to unravel. We become aware of our heart beating in our chest at the same moment our narrator notices hers. We panic and begin to sweat. We worry. Our breathing comes more rapidly as we start to follow the breadcrumbs Iain Reid has cleverly laid out before us, but let's be honest, we were already following them. We might not have noticed, not exactly, but we knew something was not quite right. We'd been trying to work it out for ourselves. We were just waiting for... what? What are we waiting for? What are YOU waiting for? What are you WAITING for???
Kudos to Simon and Schuster for their choice of audiobook narrator. Candace Thaxton did a fabulous job infusing Iain's words with just the right amount of tension. It's an unsettling read. Completely unnerving. She brought the book to life in a way I may have missed, had I been reading the words off the page myself.
I'm Thinking of Ending Things is a twisted, mental mindfuck of a novel. It's the sort of book you'll want to read again, backwards, to revisit the finer details, this time with eyes wide open.
I haven't re-read it yet, but I imagine it will be much like that photo of the glossy legs that was making its rounds this past week. Have you seen them? The shiny legs? Once you know what makes them look that way, you can never see the picture the same way again.
Ditto for this novel.