The Unnamed

Monday, March 22, 2010

Title: The Unnamed
Author: Joshua Ferris
Pages: 310
Release Date: January 18, 2010
Publisher: Reagan Arthur (Little, Brown & Company)

I'm torn about this book. There were things I really liked about it, but there were also things I didn't like. But I felt like I'm supposed to like it. Most of the reviews I've read exclaim its greatness. My husband also read it and really enjoyed it. And I'll admit my mixed emotions might be related to the high expectations I had for this book.

Let me start off by saying the author, Joshua Ferris, has a talent for putting words together. The Unnamed would be a great book to read slowly just to savor the writing. In The Unnamed Tim Farnsworth, husband, father, and attorney, is afflicted with a rare disorder in which he is overcome by his body taking control of itself and walking for miles on end. Tim has no control over the walking, yet still suffers the natural consequences of such endurances including exhaustion. Most of the uncontrollable walks are followed by deep sleeps wherever he may stop. Tim's wife, Jane, is ever dedicated to him and will pick him up anywhere at any time. This book was, in many ways, a reflection on marriage and its obstacles. Jane's obstacle is a large and very frustrating one, but so are many other more typical ones. Ferris shows the reader what an authentic marriage is and how something like this can affect a great couple in love like Tim and Jane. Some parts illustratee the love the couple has for each other despite the mundanities of married life. I love this following quote because of the way it does exactly that.

Later that day at an early lunch they taked about what had transpired since breakfast, which was nothing, really, but they still talked as if they hadn't seen each other in a while. They had lived another half a day and that time had gone by without incident and they were together again, and this alone made them talkative. (pg. 168, nook)

Tim also has a daughter (who is young at the start of the book). The book goes somewhat into how her relationship is affected by her father's strange disorder. We see how she struggles with what she considers the absence of her father in her life as well as with wondering if her father is even making this up. Meanwhile, Tim struggles with trying to convince the medical community that this is, indeed, a medical issue and not a mental health one.

Here is a quote where Tim is talking about how the walking sensation overcomes him and is separate from his mine.

His mind was intact, his mind was unimpeachable. If he could not gain dominion over his body, that was not "his" doing. Not an occult possession but a hijacking of some obscure order of the body, the frightened soul inside the runaway train of mindless matter, peering out from the conductor's car in horror. That was him. That was her husband. She reached out in the darkness and touched his breathing body. (pg. 26, nook)

And here's another quote about the cycles that place in a marriage.

Was she up for this? She lay in bed under the covers, her breath visible in the slant moonlight. Really up for it? The long matrimonial haul was accomplished in cycles. One cycle of bad breath, one cycle of renewed desire, athird cycle of breakdown and small avoidances, still another of plays and dinners that spurred a conversation between them late at night that reminded her of their like minds and the pleasure they took in each other's talk. And then back to hating him for not taking out the garbage on Wednesday. (pg. 23, nook)

The first two sections of the book focused on Tim's iwith his wife and daughter and how this was affected by his walking. It also was comedic but sad in the way it affected him at work. The latter sections of the book focused more on Tim's inner thoughts. As with the rest of it, the author's writing was put together so well. I felt like reading this book was a lesson in writing. But at the same time, I got sort of bored with that part. So while I flew through the beginning, I had more difficulty with the latter part. But I have also read other reviews that loved this introspection. In speaking to my husband about this book, he seemed to really enjoy it because of how *authentic* he thought the characters and relationships were. He was also able to relate to the frustrations of the main character. While I've certainly never heard of anything like this disorder, it can easily be alternated with other lesser difficulties and still have the same affect in a person's life and family.

If for no other reason, read this book so you can learn what great writing is or see how characters should be fleshed out in a book. Or read it because it may become a modern classic. (I just feel like it might). Or at the least it will win a lot of awards, and you'll want to know what this book about the man who can't stop walking is. I will say that I worried I would get bored reading about a man who is walking. But that in itself is not the focus of The Unnamed. In fact, those parts are actually pretty comical. So, yes, my feelings are mixed, but I still think this book should be read, and I'm glad I did.

Other Reviews

Michelle at My Books. My Life.
Trish at Hey Lady Whatcha Readin
Heather at Book Addiction
Deb at Bookmagic


dArLyN said...

Great review! I have it on my bookshelf but so little time.It's pity isnt it?

Mary said...

I'm listening to the audiobook version right now - read by Joshua Ferris. I have to say that I really like the book and it's due mostly because of Ferris' reading. He does a fantastic job, as he should, right? I don't normally listen to books but I won this in a blog giveaway. I would definitely listen to more unabridged novels.

Mary said...

I meant to check the follow up email box so I could come back and read your review. I just skimmed it now.

nomadreader said...

I've read mixed reviews too, but most of them have been raves. I'm definitely curious enough to read it, but it's always nice to have a more temperate opinion to help keep my expectations from getting too high. Thanks

Juju at Tales of said...

Random thought: This cover matches your blog :)

Q: Who did your blog layout/background?

Jenny said...

dArLyn -- yes I completely understand, lol!

Mary -- I can imagine the audio book would be good. Looking forward to the review.

nomadreader -- haha, well maybe bringing your hopes back down will make it better for you. I actually do still think it's worth the read though!

Juju -- haha, that's right! I didn't even notice! My husband actually designed my background and header!

Zibilee said...

I have been so on the fence about this book! I have read so many great reviews of it, but underneath it all I fear that I may have trouble connecting with the story it tells. I like that you mention that the writing is beautiful, because this may just push me over the edge into reading this book. Yours was a wonderful and honest review, and it gave me a lot to think about. Thank you!

Mel (He Followed Me Home) said...

Love your review.I was torn whether or not to read this one, the premise grabbed my attention right away but it just seemed so sad. It sounds like Joshua is a great writer though so I may give it a shot.

Jenny said...

Zibilee -- haha, well I'm glad it made you think about it. It's strange b/c my thoughts are mixed about it but I do think it's worth reading, haha.

Mel -- I do think it's worth it just for that!

softdrink said...

It took me awhile to get into this one, but I was hooked by the second part. I never did care for the characters, though.

bermudaonion said...

I'm going to listen to the audio version of this and I'm really looking forward to it. Since you enjoyed this so much, you should consider joining the Reagan Arthur Book Challenge - it's a no pressure challenge!

Jenny said...

softdrink -- that's funny, I'm the opposite... I enjoyed the first half but not the second half so much LOL!

bermudaonion -- I've been thinking about joining that challenge!

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