While thrillers, horror stories and “scary books” have never been my first choices when selecting a new book off the shelf of a bookstore or the library, I’ve surprised myself in the last few months by choosing to read a number of novels that fall within the horror genre. The Fireman by Joe Hill, Nothing Gold Can Stay by Ron Rash, and Amanda Coe’s What They Do In The Dark are three books I’ve read recently with slight or major frightful elements, and while they all gave me different degrees of nightmares, I enjoyed them immensely. The first blurb on the inner flap of the book jacket that is used to describe Iain Reid’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things is: “You will be scared. But you won’t know why…” So naturally, I started reading with a sense of dread which continued throughout the novel. Again, I challenged my previously held belief that thrillers or horror novels are not for me, because I will be thinking about this novel and recommending it until the end of time.
The story begins with our female narrator telling us she’s thinking of ending things with her boyfriend, Jake. They are embarking on a trip to visit his parents (she’s meeting them for the first time), and throughout the philosophical reflections and memories she always comes back to her thoughts about ending things with him. Iain Reid upholds the fear factor with a mysterious character named “the Caller,” who is stalking our narrator. She never tells anyone about this stalker, who calls her incessantly with one message:
There’s only one question to resolve. I’m scared. I feel a little crazy. I’m not lucid. The assumptions are right. I can feel my fear growing. Now is the time for the answer. Just one question. One question to answer.
In conjunction with this mystery are minute chapters in between the storyline, which foreshadow a tragedy, seemingly involving our characters. As the story progresses, you will probably find yourself changing your mind over and over about which characters play which part in the tragedy, because Reid does an excellent job of keeping his story straight while weaving us through a labyrinth filled with fear and discomfort.
I don’t want to say any more about the specific story, because this novel is too genius to be ruined by spoilers of any kind. Your psychological state will change many times as the story itself and the characters change and unravel; I suggest reading this book at home or in a secluded space with plenty of your personal comforts surrounding you. Read it in one day, over a weekend, or if you’re brave enough, into the night. Take note of each word, each thought, and each setting, because once you read I’m Thinking of Ending Things once, you will never be able to read it in the exact same way. I’m getting goosebumps all over again just writing about it.
Read. This. Book. Then talk to me about it. I convinced a friend of mine to read it all at once after I completed it, and the angst I felt as she got closer to the end was similar to how I felt reading it myself. This book is all I want to talk about, really, so leave your comments below or send me an email with your thoughts.
How do we know when something is menacing? What cues us that something is not innocent? Instinct always trumps reason.
Happy (or frightful) reading, friends!