I’m Thinking of Ending Things

By Dan Clendenin

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Iain Reid, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (New York: Scout Press, 2016), 210pp.

The first sentence of this psycho-thriller feels ominous: “I’m thinking of ending things.” The next few sentences even more so: the thought, says the unnamed narrator, sticks, lingers, and even “dominates” her thinking. End what? Why? End her life? A marriage? A job?

It turns out that the unnamed narrator is the new girl friend of Jake, and together they are driving to rural Canada to meet his parents. It’s icy winter. They’re alone. It’s isolated, so much so that there are few lights, road signs, or even radio stations. The conversation is by turns socially awkward and philosophically reflective, then the plot becomes creepy. There’s a Caller. Menacing memories from childhood. Jake’s strange parents. Snooping in a dank basement and an upstairs bedroom. A metallic taste in the mouth of the narrator, then a weird nosebleed, and dread all around. By the end of the book, we’re in a stream-of-consciousness horror story. Interspersed throughout this narrative is a separate, italicized description of a horrific crime.

In an interview with NPR, Iain Reid said that whereas his first two books were non-fiction and gave readers a sort of comfort, in his debut novel he “wanted to do something that for me was very different, and that was to unsettle a reader and make them uncomfortable.” Well, he did that. I was reminded of another famous road trip in an isolated geography, with a Misfit, that ended up badly: Flannery O’Connor’s 1953 “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”

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