Rebecca called it "heartbreaking, bleak and surprisingly beautiful". I think she also considered throwing her undergarments at the author out of adoration. Swapna said that it "captured her imagination". The Bookmarks magazine listed it as the number one most-reviewed book in December 2009 and January 2010. (As usual, I am behind the curve.) It seemed like something I shouldn't deny myself.
The plot is curious, unique. Tim Farnsworth is a successful lawyer, with a wife and daughter, and a normal life. Until "it" struck him down. "It" being an unexplainable force causing him to walk, continuously, until he collapses with exhaustion. It comes without warning, drawing him into the elements unprepared, unable to stop for food or rest. Even when he is strapped down, his body movies and convulses. It can happen every other day for months or years, then will go into remission. After a battery of tests, no physical explanation can be found. Tim and his family lives under the burden of a debilitating illness that cannot garner sympathy or understanding from their friends because they cannot put a name to it.
And debilitating it is. Tim's daughter is collateral damage, always a secondary priority. His wife lives her life trying to find Tim, worrying about where he will wake up (in a ditch? in an alley, with a homeless man trying to rape him? in a hair salon in the 'hood?) and whether he will survive the next episode. Tim's erratic behavior causes him to lose his partnership, friends, fingers and toes, and his family. His wife is driven to alcoholism, and ultimately Tim attempts to spare her from her misery by leaving her and living a life of a wandering homeless man.
At it's heart, this is the story of a marriage, faced with obstacles most of us will never know. The prose is very internal, exploring the waxing and waning desire to conquer, to understand, to give in and give up, the need to be a member of productive society, the fear of taking more than you can give from the ones you love.
The prose is beautiful and unassuming, and very easy to listen to. In this case, Ferris was the narrator, and while he wasn't the most dynamic narrator I've ever experienced, he performed well. He comes across as personable as I believe him to be in real life, based on interviews I've read. I believe if Rebecca would have listened to the audio, it would have been the deciding factor to part with those undergarments.
All of this being said, I am still not sure how I feel about the book. I finished it feeling melancholy and confused...not confused about the plot or the ending...that was pretty definitive. But confused about whether I really liked the book. I think I did, but had to wade through the muck to get there. This was very similar to my reaction to We Need to Talk About Kevin. Perhaps my next personal goal should be to find peace within myself to more fully enjoy well-written books that tramp around in dark places...
3.5 out of 5 stars