Book Review

BookSpotlight: I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

Synopsis in under 100: Short-story psychological thriller/horror about suicide. The main character either suffers from DID or schizophrenia, the narrative being told from someone within the main character, Jake, as well as outside of him. Then (they) kill (themselves). A lot of loose ends and not everything is explained, so if you’re into that, this one’s for you.

Review: Admittedly, I picked up I’m Thinking of Ending Things because I was considering the same not long ago. I was prepared for a long, dramatic diatribe about self-worth and duty to others, with the main protagonist clinging to the mortal coil for one of a handful of motives s/he discovered “life was worth living for.” What I wasn’t expecting was a creepy horror novel. I hardly read thrillers and I’ve maybe only once read horror intentionally (Frankenstein). This novella was definitely a shock.

There’s something eerie and reassuring about the relationship between Jake and the unnamed girlfriend. The way she describes being attracted to him – first falling for his intellect, his humor, then his physical. It’s me, and my ability to identify with her added a creep factor.

I will admit this was a well paced novel that took up more of my thoughts than I assumed it would. It’s not a surface novel; details are included for a reason, even if those reasons aren’t satisfyingly explained. To me, an overthinking, anxiety-driven POS, the unanswered questions got to me. +2 creep factor.

I kept thinking about this novel while I was away from it. Reid got into my head and my own imagination forced me into the suspense of the not knowing. +3 creep factor. I can hear Khalid “Congratulations, you played yourself,” but all I can say is “Bravo, Reid.” The writer did exactly what he intended with this psychological thriller.

I don’t know if I should admit this out lout (I have no pride, who cares), but I read this in two days because 1. It’s a good read, 2. I can’t leave cliff hangers alone, and 3. I needed the creep factor to go away. Again: Bravo, Reid.

The fact the woman goes unnamed is something like an illusion. With “I” being the main character of the majority of stories I tend to read, this time as a reader I didn’t notice it for a while. I took “I” for granted, defined it for myself without prompting from the narrative, and was lulled into a false sense of comfortable familiar. On a totally separate, but definitely related, gender biased note, I thought “I” was male until several pages in. When “I” was definitely determined to be female, the text showed me that I genuinely didn’t know who “I” was. It was unsettling, to say the least. Something so innate as identity; somehow we’re suddenly sat with a stranger.

A littler further into the novel, I suspected “I” was probably destined to go unnamed the whole novel. Settling into this assumption, it underscored the notion that Jake had no idea who he was, either. Immediately, the entire narrative became suspect.

Revealing my suspicions to be true, there is a moment in the dialogue in which “I” and “my” turn into “us,” “we,” and “our.” It’s a blatant change in the narrative for the reader’s benefit as much as it is to describe the mental battle contained within the main character. An absolute breaking point of the character and the height of suspense for the reader. Utter madness (no offense).

I’m not certain if Jake suffers from DID or schizophrenia, but I’m leaning more towards DID. For the DID argument, it would explain why “I” doesn’t remember whole episodes or details from her past. It’s clear Jake’s last moment alive there is a single body, but with two perspectives.

One may make an argument for schitzophrenia. Moments the narrator seems to be alone, she’s haunted by a man in a window, hearing voices on the phone, a car disappearing, the Dairy Queen scene.

Either or both may fit the bill. The narrator is completely unreliable and that caused me more unease than the actual plot. Focusing on the internal struggle for Jake to grapple his surroundings is a chilling story altogether. The pacing feels natural, allowing the reader to come to the dawning, terrifying conclusion alongside the main character; another connection that is goosebump inducing.

Actual sidenote: there’s a sex scene “I” reflects on at one point… looking back on it now is kinda awkward.

Favorite Quotes:

“Vulnerability makes us lose our ability to think straight.”

“Seeing someone with their parents is a tangible reminder that we’re all composites.”

“It seems to me, maybe for the first time, that there are varying degrees of dead.”

“In the end, we can’t deny who we are, who we were, where we’ve been. Who we want to be doesn’t matter when there’s no way to get there.”

“What can we do when there’s no one else? When we’ve tried to sustain fully on our own? What do we do when we’re always alone? When there’s no one else, ever? What does life mean then? Does it mean anything? What is a day then? A week? A year? A lifetime? What is a lifetime? It all means something else. We have to try another way, another option. The only other option. It’s not that we can’t accept and acknowledge love, and empathy, not that we can’t experience it. But with whom? When there is no one? So we come back to the decision, the question. It’s the same one. In the end, it’s up to us all. What do we decide to do? Continue or not. Go on? Or?”

“Book that’s been made into a movie or tv show” square

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