Disclosure: I bought this book of my own accord. The following review may contain affiliate links.
Title: I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Author: Iain Reid
Release Date: October 19, 2016
Genres: Horror, psychological horror, thriller
Star Rating: 4/5
Her boyfriend is attractive, attentive, and intelligent; he can make a conversation about anything feel fresh and interesting. So why does the long, snowy drive to Jake’s childhood home feel so foreboding? And why can’t she tell him about the confusing and intrusive calls and voicemails that only happen when he’s around?
I’m Thinking of Ending Things has an upcoming film adaptation, written and directed by Charlie Kaufman (writer of Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Being John Malkovich). It’s a smart move for Netflix to attach such a talented screenwriter to this project, because while its imagery is striking in moments, the roots of its ever-present oppressive atmosphere are in the internal dialogue of the unnamed main character. This has classically been the problem with adapting Stephen King novels to the screen; the thoughts of a character, and what they choose not to do, are much harder to portray onscreen. Despite feeling ambivalent about the future of their relationship, she repeatedly thinks about her scintillating conversations with Jake leading up to the trip, and the ability to talk with him for hours is what attracts her to him. But paradoxically, what frightens her about the trip, and inspires dread in the reader, are the things she can’t bring herself to talk about.
I’ve often seen I’m Thinking of Ending Things summarized as an account of a conversation between a young woman and her boyfriend during a car ride—but many of the horrific moments in it come from an inability to communicate. The heart of the book is the pain, paralysis, and helplessness of not being able to ask for help, or clarification, or struggling to carry on a conversation without context. Understanding the plot requires a bit of logical examination of hints and discussions throughout the novel, but reflecting on what it means for its characters creates an emotional gravitas and empathy that’s hard to stop thinking about.
There are a few events and details that seem to be included just to provide a bit more of a creepy atmosphere, and that don’t seem to fit the puzzle of the book’s plot. Despite that, I read the entire novel in one sitting, and enjoyed even parts that other readers found confusing. For those who find thought experiments boring and pretentious, or who dislike having questions after finishing a book, wait for the film or skip this. However, for readers who like a challenge while reading, or enjoy mystery-steeped horror/thrillers like House of Leaves or Gone Girl, this book is an experience that rewards a close reading and reflection afterward.
Content warnings: animal death, stalking, self-harm.
Reviews of horror, nonfiction, and other genres from a life-long lover of books.