“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 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.”
My Thoughts: To say that I’m Thinking of Ending Things is one of the most unsettling books you will ever read may sound like hyperbole. Trust me when I say that it is the honest truth. Reading Mr. Reid’s debut novel gave me disturbing dreams in between bouts of fitful sleep. It made me hide under the covers and snuggle closer to my husband, as if he could protect me. It brought back childhood fears of something lurking under the bed, to the point where I could not sleep with my back facing the edge of the bed. It raised my heart rate and elevated my blood pressure. In general, it freaked me out.
The brilliance of I’m Thinking of Ending Things is that there is nothing in the book itself that should scare anyone. The story starts innocently enough. There are no creepy monsters hiding out in sewers or haunting dreams. There are no sociopaths on the rampage. There is no blood and gore. There are none of the hallmarks of true horror, and yet the story is terrifying.
It is terrifying in its slow build. Just like the falling snow, the hints that there is something not quite right about this trip to meet the parents are few at first but seen much more frequently as the trip progresses. None of the hints make sense, but they suffice in making the reader uncomfortable with the events as they unfold as they pile up.
It is terrifying in its lack of specificity. There are no names within the novel other than Jake’s. There are no place names other than a Dairy Queen. The entire novel is nondescript. This lack of defining features adds an eerie, timeless quality to the story, as if it could happen at any point in time. The lack of character definition creates the feeling that it could happen to anyone. The fact that there is nothing overtly scary about the story lends an ominous air to the few characters and bleak setting of the story.
It is terrifying in its philosophical complexity. The narrator’s internal and external dialogues are intense and complicated. They cover a wide swath of subject matter, but the particular focus is on relationships – why we enter them, why we end them, what we get out of them, and so forth. Within this focus, the narrator touches on the idea of solitude, free will, and a person’s subconscious mind. These discussions highlight Mr. Reid’s philosophical background, but more importantly, they add an air of unease to the already tense atmosphere.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is, thankfully, short, but there is so much tension and emotion built into each page that it feels much longer. It is a novel you will want to read quickly but cannot due to the way it makes you feel while reading. It is a novel that will keep you thinking about it for a long, long time. It is one of those rare reads that will change your expectations of a book because of what it delivers. It is one of the best books I have read in a long time.