A review of I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid.
BY KEVIN LIU
“I’m thinking of ending things.” This is how Iain Reid’s latest novel introduces itself, and this statement is left to churn in the reader’s mind as they read the story. Although the premise of the story is linear for the most part, this drastically changes near the end, and even then, drastically is an understatement. We follow the perspective of an unnamed protagonist and her interactions with her boyfriend, Jake. The main selling point of I’m Thinking of Ending Things is that the story itself is written in such a clever way. Specifically, almost every detail in the book is put there for a reason (yes, even the fact that the protagonist is never given a name), and is strategically placed so that the reader understands the significance of the detail when they are meant to figure it out. The book slowly becomes a self-solving mystery and the reader is taken along for the ride.
With that being said, a large part of the first half of the novel is fairly slow, and not in terms of Reid’s prose, but the events that are happening. We get a lot of vague statements being made by both the protagonist and Jake, and although everything begins to make sense near the end, the trip there can be off-putting (for example, Jakes constant ponderings). Thankfully, the prose is written in a digestible manner, with a plethora of short and concise statements. Very rarely does an overly flowery description appear, and as I continued reading along the story, I found myself to be glad that this was the case, as it added to the creepiness of the story, and made it seem bleak, but I didn’t know why. This is a feeling that followed me throughout the story; a feeling of dread without knowing exactly why or how I was getting that feeling. There was something abnormal about the characters, and I could tell that this was intentional, and yet they still seemed like “normal” people.
When I got closer to the end of the novel was when I began to understand where this story received its subgenre of psychological horror. To put it lightly, things begin to get really weird. To the point where I was reading four pages filled with one repeating question. And it is at this moment that we begin to unravel all of the lingering questions that were given to us throughout the novel, and begin piecing together everything. It is also when the story is at its most emotionally-charged, and Reid avoids stating these emotions, choosing instead to just have little events happen, with the same short sentences, and this naturally breeds tension. We begin to understand just how important it was that Reid chose to stay away from flowery and descriptive statements. The events speak for themselves, and we find ourselves not needing the extra details, and perhaps not even wanting them.
One important thing to address in I’m Thinking of Ending Things is its predictability. Of course, the predictability of a piece or horror, or any genre for that matter, is (to an extent) subjective and dependent on the reader’s previous exposure to said genre. However, especially with the small excerpts of exchanged dialogue that was implemented before every chapter, the reader will be undoubtedly suspicious of the reliability of the narrator. Suspicions start to rise when it is revealed that Jake’s parents seem a bit strange—not too out of the ordinary, but enough to make a guest feel a little unsettled. With that said, it never becomes blatantly obvious. Rather, the reader is always left with a lingering suspicion that something happening is not really happening, and this may as well have been intentional, because the reader never knows for sure what the truth is. This is what makes the ending of the story so profound, and unexpected. The reader has a general sense of what is going to happen, but when all is revealed, and everything makes sense, the story truly becomes mind-blowing.
This could very well be seen as a negative aspect of the book, and perhaps the biggest negative point of all, which is that the most impactful part of the book, and arguably the only part that matters, is the conclusion. Reading I’m Thinking of Ending Things did not feel like reading a book where multiple subplots are occurring, and there were no exciting events or adventures in the middle of the book. This is because the book was never meant to be that kind of story. It was meant to be a story that made the reader consistently feel uneasy, and raise questions, and ultimately be what I feel is a story about closure. And it succeeds in that regard.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is definitely not for everybody. But with a fairly short page count of approximately two-hundred pages, and prose that practically anybody can breeze through, I would definitely recommended checking out this book. And for any readers that are geared towards psychological horror or even horror in general, I would say that I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a must-read.
So what are you waiting for?