Iain Reid’s “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” – Book Review

Originally posted on March 10th, 2018

This unsettling journey leaves quite a few lingering questions in this psychological, philosophical, thriller. I initially came across I’m Thinking of Ending Things, by Lain Reid, through a horror podcast, Shock Waves Podcast, by Blumhouse. The novel’s title lends itself to a variety of interpretations. My immediate take, and perhaps the most obvious, was the ending of a relationship. This personal resolve of “ending things” is the central plot, initiated by our unnamed narrator, as the reader may refer to as the “girlfriend”. The opening paragraph outlines her intentions with ending things, stating “It lingers. It dominates. There’s not much I can do about it. Trust me.”

I'm Thinking of Ending Things (2020) movie posters

I found myself in a leery state of mind as I read the novel. With an unreliable narrator (told in the first-person), the “girlfriend” not only keeps others, as well as readers, in the dark, and she is not entirely honest with herself as well. I’m Thinking of Ending Things takes readers on a road trip with our narrator and her boyfriend, Jake, through rural American country roads with the intent of meeting his parents. The further we advance along this trip, the more we learn of the narrator’s terrifying past.

“Sometimes a thought is closer to truth, to reality, than an action. You can say anything, you can do anything, but you can’t fake a thought.” 

The narrative is told in threefold; the present time in which we examine the current state of all characters in the plot, the past which explores terrifying events throughout the narrator’s life, and finally, minor portions of dialogue describing a mysterious murder scene are scattered throughout the story. Reid’s use of dialogue really made this an enjoyable read. As the novel delves into several themes of philosophy and the human psyche, I found it easy to follow even in the midst of so much information. As the mysteries of the novel begin to unfold, the lingering question of why things should come to an end is never quite answered. 

“Just tell your story. Pretty much all memory is fiction and heavily edited. So just keep going.” 

My natural inclination to resolve the ending well before the last page led me to several avenues. Although I won’t spoil it for anyone (yet), Reid’s novel kept me engaged up until the very end; regardless of whether or not I’d figured it out beforehand. The surrealism adds to the mysterious quality of I’m Thinking of Ending Things. In a way, it reminds me of The Twilight Zone

*Minor Spoiler Ahead*At the story’s conclusion, we are still left with lingering questions, as noted earlier. Plagued with several red herrings, the novel never quite reaches full circle on a few issues; rather they seem to be conveniently swept “under the rug” as the conclusion unfolds. Although I very much enjoyed this book, keep in mind, it may require a second read-through. The novel is thought-provoking and original, but it carries a hint of James Mangold’s 2003 film, Identity. That’s not a bad thing. It merely puts things into perspective once the denouement draws to a close. I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a read I’d recommend due to its ability to engage, captivate, frighten, and most important, Reid is such a gifted writer. His use of stream-of-consciousness kept me inside the narrator’s head; I knew what she knew, and found myself surprised when she was. I hope you find this work to be as satisfying as I have. Thanks for reading.

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