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I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

Reviewed by Timothy Niedermann

A woman’s ride to meet her boyfriend’s parents is a fraught affair no matter what the circumstances, but it is particularly so when she is thinking of ending the relationship.

Jake is her boyfriend’s name. He is working on a post-doctorate in chemistry. They have been seeing each other only about a month, and though she feels she has known him far longer than that, she has grown apprehensive. There is still a lot to learn about each other. And she herself has a secret: the Caller. First there was a series of missed calls on her cell phone. Then a slightly high, squeaky male voice left a rather odd message again and again. And now she thinks she has seen him peering into her window at night. But she hasn’t told Jake and isn’t sure why.

It’s winter, and the ride is long. She and Jake talk about many things to pass the time, but mostly about their relationship, and relationships they have had, and about what a relationship means. As darkness falls, she gets impatient for the trip to end. But they soon arrive at the isolated farmhouse where his parents live, and after Jake gives her a tour of the house, they have a pleasant dinner with his parents.

On the ride home, however, things get frightening, and what began as a suspenseful thriller starts to turn into something else. To add to the tension, from the beginning the narrative has been occasionally interrupted by a dialogue between two policemen discussing a murder investigation, in particular the victim.

This book has been praised as a fast-paced read, and so it is. But in a way it reads perhaps a bit too fast, for though its suspense is acute and indeed spine-tingling, there is an undercurrent throughout that rises to the surface at the end, changing the story so completely that the reader is absolutely stunned.

Author Iain Reid does not attempt (nor should he have) to neatly tie up all the loose strings that have been strewn about in the dialogue and in the narrator’s thoughts, but it is clear that the author was dropping fairly opaque hints about what was really going on with his characters. So, despite being short and fast, this book might require a second reading to make complete sense of it. And indeed, in the final conversation between the police officers, Reid seems to tell the reader to do exactly that.

Reid is an accomplished, talented writer, though this is only his first work of fiction. Plainly he has a lot on his mind and enjoys making the reader work a little to get at it. But don’t expect anything straightforward or simple from him in the future. That much is already clear.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is published by Simon & Schuster Canada.

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