I'm Thinking of Ending Things / Iain Reid
New York: Simon & Schuster, c2016.
I've read a couple of disturbing books recently, and this is one of them. It is creepy, with its rural, snowy, dark setting, and its uncertain narration. Who do you believe? Who is telling the truth?
It's tense, all the way through. From its slightly off-kilter opening...
I’m thinking of ending things. Once this thought arrives, it stays. It sticks. It lingers. It’s always there. Always.
...to its frankly nightmarish ending -- it is spooky.
So, what is it about? Jake has a new girlfriend whom he's taking home to meet the parents. She's not all that certain this is a good idea, especially since she's pretty sure she'll be breaking up with him soon anyhow. But she goes along.
The trip is awkward, with Jake acting a bit tense. And when they get to his parents' farm, they are also a bit odd. After driving all the way out there in the snow, just for dinner, they get in the car and head home -- they aren't staying overnight. And that's when things get really scary. Jake decides to stop at his old high school...and every teen film terror trope comes back to haunt their imaginations.
While this book ultimately was not to my tastes, I can appreciate how its brevity and quick pace will catch people more fond of psychological thrillers. It catches you with the first words and keeps getting more confusing and spooky (in a good way) with every following page. If you like to be unsure about what is actually happening, and to be required as a reader to trust that the author knows where he is going with the story, this is a good choice for you. Plus it is short enough that you can read it all in one go, not having to step out of the build-up at all.
I didn't like the ending at all; it relied on a concept that didn't work for me. But if you don't have this same reservation about it, you'll probably enjoy this heart-thumping read. Great for a hot summer day: it will give you chills.
Shari Lapeña's new novel The Couple Next Door is written in the same kind of choppy, non-flowery style, and has a similarly mismatched and distrustful couple. While they face different pressures than the couple in this book, the ending is also startling and unexpectedly violent.
Michel Faber's Under the Skin also features a lot of driving, this time with hitchhikers. And with just as much adrenaline-raising confusion and misdirection in the narrative. Why and what is happening? Another book that you have to run with and just hope it all makes sense in the end...