I'm Thinking of Ending Things - Iain Reid - Book Review ★★★★★


Your average brilliant-minded genius just got that much more wacko.


Synopsis
A man and his girlfriend are on a long drive through a desolate countryside, going to meet the man’s parents. The man’s name is Jake and the girlfriend’s name is ... wait, we never really came across the name, did we? Isn’t that already something spooky right there? Nah. I’m just being paranoid. 
Moving on - they have these random almost-philosophical, sometimes-scientific discussions until they get to his parent’s house. Once there, things are just a little off-kilter, but nothing alarming. I mean, how many people can genuinely say that their parents are not weird sometimes? 
Once they depart, after a quick detour to Dairy Queen they take another, not-so-detour to Jake’s high school where the girlfriend gets abandoned, Jake disappears into thin air and there’s a creepy guy on the loose ...

Setting
I’ll be honest, I knew how the story was going to end even before I started reading it. So I braced myself for some emotional punch-up. And not sure if it was my foreknowledge, but there’s a pervading sense of sadness from the opening of the book.
The story opens with the title itself. “I’m thinking of ending things.” This seems like a bizarre thought to have, especially since you are going to meet your boyfriend’s parents. This occasion usually heralds wedding bells - a joyous occasion for anyone involved. The girlfriend doesn’t really have a good enough reason to say so either way. She just feels that way.
A large part of the story takes place inside a car where a lot of the discussion takes place. And even though the story also takes place in a ramshackle farmhouse, a Dairy Queen, and a desolate high school - each location has a strong sense of loneliness to it. The road they are driving on has no traffic and no light either - which sounds terrifying. These settings go really well with the story as it unfolds.

Characters
The characters in this book are few but memorable.
The nameless heroine for example sounds like a sweet girl for a large part of the book, though her recurring desire to ‘end thing’ gets annoying. You almost have it all, you feel like telling her sternly, why are you thinking of throwing it all away? 
And Jake, even though he is clearly a super shy guy, you can tell he is also a good bloke.
It’s when the parent’s come into the picture things get odd. They act odd and talk odd, and it’s a relief when the main characters leave the farm to go back home.
There’s also a faceless character called the Caller who is apparently harassing the heroine with incessant phone calls. And when he unexpectedly turns up on the scene, it’s when the actual story actually begins.

Conflict
For the majority of the book - there is no obvious threat. The story seems like a very generic boy-taking-girl-home-to-meet-his-parents kind of story.
But it’s the dialogues that hold the clue to the story’s conflict from the start of the book. They are very innocuous and kind of boring most of the time. But they start abruptly and with no context.
When you meet the parents, you think ‘ahh this is going to be the REAL conflict’ - and then it’s not.
The conflict starts - and in my belief, the actual story - at the high school, where they stop for some God-forsaken reason.
Here, Iain Reid pulls together the threads of the story, almost seamlessly, to deliver the type of central conflict, which will be a major spoiler if I reveal it.

Positives
Iain Reid’s writing style is flawless. It’s effortlessly easy to read, but you can tell that it wasn’t written and published overnight and that it has been lovingly tended to. The narrative is light and breezy and easily pulls you into any moment of the story as if it is actually happening to you. Which either way is a very good representation of how we, as a reader, can be as susceptible as someone who is suffering from debilitating depression and that we aren’t really that special or different from the next human being. 
I also love how the clues to the genuine conflict hide in very obvious but overlook able places.

Negatives
Reading it for the first time is a bit of a chore. 
For a psychological horror, a major portion of the book seems unnecessary and frankly boring.
But is it really a negative though? Because when the ultimate horror is revealed, all the things that I thought were boring suddenly seem that much more poignant.

Conclusion
The book is a study of existentialism. It asks the universal question - what is the purpose of life?
It’s something anyone can go through at any time in their life. You don’t have to be going through a mid-life crisis to ask that question. I am only thirty-two years old, but I remember trying to piece together the same puzzle when I had been waaaay younger. 
The book, being a horror, doesn’t really answer that question, but it makes you appreciate the positive things in your life, however meager they might be. It has encouraged me to tread more lightly, be more thoughtful, and accept that life does not have to be a whirlwind of adventure to be a good one. 
Other readers would surely have different thoughts since the book is very open to interpretations.
It matched my expectations in terms of horror, with a strong sense of foreboding looming overhead from the start of the book and an off-kilter vibe I normally associate with the New Weird genre. Fans of Jeff Van Der Meer’s Annihilation will have nothing to complain about if they read it.
It’s not a big book, but it’s a punch in the gut, especially since I knew how things were going to end. 
And yup, that’s a pun right there. 

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