I'm Thinking of Ending Things: A Novel

I'm Thinking of Ending Things: A Novel

by Iain Reid


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501126949
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Publication date: 03/21/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 33,511
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Iain Reid is the author of two critically acclaimed, award-winning books of nonfiction. His internationally bestselling debut novel, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, has been published in more than twenty countries. Oscar-winner Charlie Kaufman is writing and directing a film based on the novel, which Reid will co-produce. His second novel, Foe, was an instant bestseller and feature film rights have been acquired by Anonymous Content, with Reid set to executive produce. Follow him on Twitter @Reid_Iain.

Read an Excerpt

I’m Thinking of Ending Things
I’m thinking of ending things.

Once this thought arrives, it stays. It sticks. It lingers. It dominates. There’s not much I can do about it. Trust me. It doesn’t go away. It’s there whether I like it or not. It’s there when I eat. When I go to bed. It’s there when I sleep. It’s there when I wake up. It’s always there. Always.

I haven’t been thinking about it for long. The idea is new. But it feels old at the same time. When did it start? What if this thought wasn’t conceived by me but planted in my mind, predeveloped? Is an unspoken idea unoriginal? Maybe I’ve actually known all along. Maybe this is how it was always going to end.

Jake once said, “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.”

You can’t fake a thought. And this is what I’m thinking.

It worries me. It really does. Maybe I should have known how it was going to end for us. Maybe the end was written right from the beginning.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for I’m Thinking of Ending Things includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Iain Reid. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


As I’m Thinking of Ending Things begins, Jake and his girlfriend are driving to meet his parents on their secluded farm, but things aren’t what they seem. For one thing, as the girlfriend’s narration begins, she announces that she’s “thinking of ending things,” leaving the reader to wonder why she is making the visit in the first place. The visit itself is unsettling to say the least, and when Jake makes an unexpected detour, leaving her stranded, what comes next is a twisted mix of palpable tension, psychological frailty, and sheer terror.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a stunning debut that examines the fragility of the psyche and the limitations of solitude. With tension building to an astonishing ending, it’s a book you won’t soon forget.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Discuss the significance of the title. Why does Reid choose to call his novel I’m Thinking of Ending Things?

2. Who is the “Caller”? Describe the calls he makes to the girlfriend. How do these calls help to further the plot? Why doesn’t the girlfriend tell Jake about the caller? Do you agree with her decision to keep the calls secret? Why or why not?

3. Why is the “Girlfriend” unnamed throughout the novel? What were your original impressions of her? When you finished reading I’m Thinking of Ending Things, did your feelings about her change? If so, in what ways and why?

4. There are conversations between strangers interspersed through the girlfriend’s narration. What’s the effect of including these conversations in the novel? How do they help you understand the story? Who do you think is speaking during these conversations?

5. Were you surprised by the ending of I’m Thinking of Ending Things? If so, were there any parts you found particularly shocking? What were they?

6. The girlfriend says, “I think a lot of what we learn about others isn’t what they tell us. It’s what we observe” (p. 29). Do you agree? What do you learn about Jake and the girlfriend by seeing their interactions with Jake’s parents? Are there other examples in I’m Thinking of Ending Things where the actions of a character tell you something about him or her? Discuss them with your book club.

7. When the girlfriend asks Jake if he thinks “secrets are inherently unfair, or bad or immoral in a relationship,” his answer is, “I don’t know. It would depend on the secret” (p. 30). What do you think? Are there circumstances where keeping a secret from your significant other is permissible? What are they? What secrets do Jake and the girlfriend keep from each other?

8. Jake describes himself as a “cruciverbalist” to the girlfriend when they first meet. Does his description give you any insight into his personality? If so, what does it tell you about Jake? What, if any, puzzles exist in the book that Jake attempts to solve? Is he successful?

9. Describe Jake’s parents’ farm. Was it what you expected? When Jake takes the girlfriend on a tour of the farm, she sees a chilling sight outside. How does this sight affect the girlfriend? Compare her reaction to seeing this sight to her reaction to Jake’s story about how his father had to put the pigs on the farm down. Why do you think Jake tells her about the pigs?

10. In describing the events at the school, an unnamed speaker says, “This isn’t about us” (p. 89). Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

11. While she is trapped in the school, the girlfriend says that “before tonight, when anyone asked me about the scariest thing that happened to me, I told them the same story. I told them about Ms. Veal. Most people I tell don’t find this story scary” (p. 172). Why does the girlfriend think the incident with Ms. Veal was scary? Did you find it frightening? If so, why?

12. The girlfriend tells Jake, “I’m glad we don’t know everything. . . . Questions are good. They’re better than answers” (p. 35). Why does the girlfriend feel this way? Do you agree with her? Explain your answer. Are there any questions that the girlfriend should have asked as she was getting to know Jake? What would you have asked?

13. Describe the basement in Jake’s parents’ house. Why does Jake tell the girlfriend that there is nothing in the basement? What does she find? When the girlfriend is in the basement, she remembers having a conversation with Jake where he told her, “We depend on symbols for meaning” (p. 107). What do you think makes her think of this particular conversation while she is in the basement? Are there any recurring symbols in I’m Thinking of Ending Things? Discuss them with your book club.

14. The girlfriend asks Jake, “How do we know when a relationship becomes real?” (p. 69). Discuss Jake’s answer. What do you think it takes for a relationship to be “real”? Do you consider the relationship between Jake and the girlfriend to be a real one? Why or why not?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. During the first month of their relationship, Jake gives the girlfriend a copy of The Loser by Thomas Bernhard. Read The Loser and discuss it with your book club. Do you see any parallels between The Loser and I’m Thinking of Ending Things? What are they?

2. When the girlfriend meets Jake’s parents, she says “seeing someone with their parents is a tangible reminder that we’re all composites” (p. 96). How are you a composite of the people who raise you? Do you see any of your parents’ traits in you? Describe them to your book club. If you have children, are there any qualities that you hope to pass down to them?

3. Jake tells the girlfriend that, as a child, when he had trouble sleeping due to stomachaches caused by worry, “My mom would make what she called ‘kids tea,’ which was pretty much all milk and sugar, and we’d sit and talk” (p. 64). How might this have been helpful to Jake as a child? Did you have any rituals that you took comfort in growing up? What were they?

4. Iain Reid has written works of nonfiction, including a critically acclaimed memoir called One Bird’s Choice, which won the CBC Bookie Award for Best Nonfiction Book of the Year. Read his other works and discuss them with your book club. Did you see any similarities between Reid’s works of fiction and nonfiction? Which book did you prefer and why?

A Conversation with Iain Reid

Early on in the novel, the girlfriend asks, “How do we know when something is menacing? What cues us that something is not innocent? Instinct always trumps reason” (p. 17). Throughout I’m Thinking of Ending Things, you do a wonderful job of creating a sense of tension, causing the reader to abandon reason. How were you able to create such a palpable sense of menace? Were there any scenes that were particularly difficult to write?

I think not knowing can often feel more unsettling than knowing. When something is fully determined and present, even if it’s menacing, it can become less distressing than something uncertain. Concealment and haze can simultaneously entice and threaten.

You’ve written award winning nonfiction. Was the experience of writing a novel different? How so? Did you feel added pressure since your previous works were so well received?

I never felt any pressure. I just wanted to try writing something very different from my first two books, and not just in form, but style and content. My two previous books were both about real events, mostly pleasant events, and real people in my life. I found, unexpectedly, writing this story felt even more personal than writing nonfiction. Writing fiction is also more difficult for me, which was part of the appeal.

Your piece in The New Yorker about selling a book, http://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/you-sold-your-book-please-sign-this-contract, is hilarious. What inspired you to write this piece? What was the experience of selling your debut novel really like?

It’s thrilling, of course, when a publisher takes notice, and wants to publish your book, but after the release I found there was plenty of humour in the juxtaposition between that initial excitement of finding a publisher and the reality of publishing a book.

The experience of selling my debut novel has been positive and interesting. I finished the first draft before submitting it to any publishers, and there was never any guarantee I’d be able to find one. The submission process can be nerve-wracking, particularly, it seemed to me, because I’m an unknown writer from rural Canada. It’s not like there was a line-up of publishers waiting to read it. There’s plenty of self-doubt, and a wide range of encouraging and discouraging feedback. You just hope it will eventually find its way into the right hands. For me, luckily, it did.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? Is there anything you wish you knew before writing your debut novel?

As I’m writing this I know it isn’t original and likely isn’t going to be overly helpful, but I would say try and read a lot and read widely. And if you’re lucky to have them, listen to your editors.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things has drawn comparisons to Under the Skin, Gone Girl, and Jose Saramago’s early works. Were there different books, authors, or locales that inspired you while you were writing? Can you tell us about them?

I admire those authors and books, and Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin is another novel. The first time I finished it I started it again immediately. Like Michel Faber’s, I’d never read anything like Shriver’s book before. That’s a thrilling feeling as a reader.

I don’t live in a big city, and I wrote a lot of this book at the farm where I grew up. The remote setting, the solitude, the quiet it had (and still has) an influence on what, and how, I write.

Did you have any favorite moments in the book? What are they?

No, I don’t think I have any specific favorite moments in the book. I enjoy the challenge of writing dialogue, so the car ride to the farm was an interesting section to write and revise.

Did you know how the girlfriend’s story would end when you began writing? Can you tell us about your writing process?

I didn’t know exactly how her story would end, but I had a strong sense. I like to start with an idea or concept or premise that interests me, and that I want to know more about, something I’ll be able to think about for a couple years. From there I avoid an outline. I prefer to have an understanding of the people in the story, but an imprecise plan of how it will all develop and evolve. And then I can start writing and find out. It’s good to be surprised along the way.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things ends with reading instructions. If you could give your readers instructions about how to read your novel, what would they be? Why did you choose to end with a directive?

I would feel bad (and overbearing) instructing a reader how they should read this novel, or any novel for that matter. It’s their book now, so that’s up to them. But I suppose, for me, I always get more from a book if I read it in a quiet place, in long, uninterrupted stretches. I would be happy to hear that a reader read this novel in one or two sittings.

What would you like your readers to take away from I’m Thinking of Ending Things? What compelled you to write it?

I think one of the most appealing payoffs of fiction is that each reader gets to react and interpret the story in their own way. While writing this story I thought a lot about people in my life, family and friends, and how it’s these relationships, more than anything, that provide meaning and richness to existence. That’s been a takeaway for me. I think one of the reasons I wrote this story is because I enjoy questions, and this book is about questions.

Are you working on anything now? Can you tell us about it?

Yes, I’m working on a new novel. Sadly, it’s still early days, and not much to tell yet. So instead of saying anything about it, maybe I can just use this space to thank those who’ve taken the time to read this book. I appreciate it. Thank you.

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I'm Thinking of Ending Things 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have no clue what I just read, very confusing even if you're really paying attention. I really enjoyed the story until the last 50-60 pages, then it totally lost me. Without putting any spoilers up here, it's hard to say much else about this novel. Perhaps I've just totally missed the point of this one, maybe I'll try to read it again to see what I've missed...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book took quite a while to get into. I considered abandoning it completely. I wish I had. There was about a 20 page period where it actually got good and I looked forward to what was coming next. Unfortunately, what came next was a horrible ending that made me regret wasting money, time, and energy reading this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought it would be better. It took a long time to get into it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like others reviewers have said book was slow going, just when it started picking up we were at the end and I was totally lost. Maybe I missed something. Would not recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was hard to put down. I started reading it one night before bed. The next thing I knew it was 3am!!!! Because ofbthe revelation at the end, I am re-reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not put this book down!
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
“I think there’s a perception that fear and terror and dread are fleeting. That they hit hard and fast when they do, but they don’t last. It’s not true. They don’t fade unless they’re replaced by some other feeling. Deep fear will stay and spread if it can. You can’t outrun or outsmart or subdue it. Untreated, it will only fester. Fear is a rash” I’m Thinking Of Ending Things is the first novel by Canadian author, Iain Reid. Jake is taking his new girlfriend to his parents’ remote farm. She’s not entirely sure this is a good idea: he’s a nice guy and she doesn’t really want him to think their relationship is quite so strong; she’s been thinking of ending things. Things at the farm are not what she really expected, although she’s a city girl, born and bred, so how would she know what’s normal? But Jake’s parents are a bit strange, and she’s glad when Jake doesn’t take them up on the offer to stay the night, even though it has begun to snow quite heavily. Despite his girlfriend’s anxiety about getting home, Jake insists on a detour. The main narrative is from the woman’s perspective; this is interspersed with some pages printed in italics that consist of conversations between unknown persons about a tragic event. It is apparent from the start that the woman is probably an unreliable narrator. Is her mental stability also in question? While some of it is sound, both her inner monologue and their conversations feature faulty logic and invalid reasoning. “Just tell your story. Pretty much all memory is fiction and heavily edited. So just keep going… A memory is its own thing each time it’s recalled. It’s not absolute. Stories based on actual events often share more with fiction than fact. Both fictions and memories are recalled and retold. They’re both forms of stories. Stories are the way we learn. Stories are how we understand each other. But reality happens only once” Reid skilfully constructs his story so that the tension builds to a dramatic climax that may annoy, anger or even confuse some readers. But the clues are there throughout, and the astute reader soon realises that all is not as it first appears. An original and thought-provoking debut.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book had me wondering exactly what was going on...in a good way. I couldn't put it down because I could tell there was a deeper, twisted story hidden underneath. I thought I had figured it out but boy was I shocked at the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like others wrote difficult to follow towards end and ending made no sense.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ending, don't get it!!!
Sandy5 5 months ago
After reading Foe, I immediately picked up this book by the same author. This book carried the same mysterious edgy vibe as Foe. I was immediately drawn in, flipping pages faster and faster until I finished the book earlier than I anticipated. When he took her home to his parents, I thought the book took a strange turn. After reading Foe, I felt an anticipation as I read this book. I wanted to see “everything,” as it transpired. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out this way. As I finished up with this book’s pages, I wanted to start from the beginning again as this book left me stunned. His novels seem to be having this effect on me which is a great thing. I need to check out his other novels and I know I will definitely reread these two novels in the future because I know I need more Iain Reid in my life.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Anonymous 10 months ago
So, there really wasn't a girl, or was there? Or a janitor, or was there? What about the mysterious caller, or the messages on "her" phone. Or the italicized commentaries. All very confusing. I could go back and try to figure it out but it's just not worth it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much, I immediately reread it to catch anything I may have missed. Highly recommended, if you love a plot twist!
Marla-Singer More than 1 year ago
its like you're in the books the whole time. uncomfortable because you know that something is coming, buy you dont know what.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Truly riveting and unique. I love this book.
hrbsu1990 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book. If you paid attention, you could see where it was headed. It makes for a fun second read. This idea has been done before, but rarely this well. Hint, it's basically two books in one.
HHMarie2015 More than 1 year ago
Although at times this was a *bit* hard to follow, I really enjoyed the ending. It caught me so off guard and I was kept on the edge of my seat until the very end (which came too fast, but only because I wanted the madness to keep going). It kind of felt like The Visit in novel form when they arrive at the farm and things range from being slightly off to having a red flag thrown in your face. Definitely had a hard time sleeping when I finished it...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book just went on and on and on with weird thoughts and weird behavior. Very unbelievable. I did not like it, and I did not finish it .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In his intriguing, suspenseful, and psychological probing first novel, Iain Reid gives notice that meaningful fiction is forthcoming from this especially talented Canadian author. The title undergoes a shift of emphasis as we read further into the book. We initially place concentration on the word “Ending” as we concentrate on motives for “ending things” and search for familiar fictional terrain relating to plot and characterization. But it isn’t long before we realize that the key word in the title is “Thinking,” for Reid encourages us to ponder not only the motivations and psychology of characters but also our own impressions and on a number of matters. Reid also forces or challenges us to deal with matters of psychological depth. This is not to say that the novel is devoid of tried and true fictional techniques and emphases. Here we find humor, suspense, relevance, believable dialogue, and compelling decisions and memorable behavior—yet all provided in fresh ways. Reid is excellent at matching his syntax to the desired pace of the action or thought. He cleverly employs short sentences and phrasing as devices to accelerate movement, trepidation, and panic. Even the use of repetition serves to reflect and emphasize meaning. Language here (syntax) is the means of sharing—quickly and pointedly sharing what is happening inside the narrator’s mind. There are no rest stops, no leisurely meandering through florid prose and sentence structure. But the short sentences, which often follow upon each other, do have a rhythm. It is a pounding, pulsating, cacophonous beat that keeps the reader off balance, though constantly moving. Rapidity in this modest-length novel provides an appropriate sense of helplessness and fear. The lens of the prose is restrictive—as it should be. There are no broad vistas to enjoy and feel distant from. All is tight, intimate, claustrophobic, isolated. “Small things connect us” (57) Hammering repetitive section near the book’s end (194-97) should not be skimmed over. Every repletion of the wording should be read—and within them is the heart of what the book has been about—helplessness, aggravation, vulnerability, lack of mutability, violence of thought. In many ways, this is a psychological suspense thriller, but the real fear comes when we realize that a mind which challenges, probes, and ponders without rest or release is a mind that escapes one’s control
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Buying this book is definitely worth it. It keeps you on the edge of your seat. Although Jake's nerdy episodes can be boring at times, I promise it is worth while. I started this book at 10pm and finished it at 12am. Although I was very tired, I just couldn't go to sleep without seeing what happened next. And the thing is, the whole book makes you think that, it's very hard to put down! Very very very thrilling and intense. Please read!!!!
jrwitty55 More than 1 year ago
Very disappointing. Struggled to make it to the end. Save your money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the creepiest books I've read in a long time. Very suspenseful, well written, and creepy. Did I mention it was creepy?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago