Friday, May 21, 2010

The Unnamed - Joshua Ferris (audio)


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




19 comments:

Melody said...

Having read a few mixed reviews of this book, I think I'd give this book a pass, at least for the moment.

Hope you've a great weekend ahead, Sandy! :)

farmlanebooks said...

I didn't like Then We Came to the End, so this book has never appealed to me. It is good to know that it isn't wowing people like you - I don't think I'll pick it up.

JoAnn said...

I need to start listening to audiobooks again... have been without one for the last month or so, and I miss them!

Julie P. said...

Great review. I've been waiting to hear how you liked it! It was a dark book, although I loved his writing style. I think I most enjoyed that it made me think!

caite said...

since I exist in a state of confusion, I am not sure I need any more.
Not sure this one sounds like my cuppa tea.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I'm with Caite on this one, I think!

Kathy said...

I've not read this book, but as I read your review I couldn't help but think it sounds like a more depressing version of The Time Traveler's Wife (perhaps based on a more realistic premise).

bermudaonion said...

I think I enjoyed it more than you did, but I can certainly understand your reaction. I listened to the audio too and at first, I thought I was going to hate Ferris's reading, but I grew to love it.

Jo-Jo said...

I really enjoyed this audiobook, but it took awhile for it to click with me. This is one of those that I really appreciated more after writing my review.

Zibilee said...

I really want to read this one and have been reading great things about it. It sounds like you may have had a bit of a disconnect with it due to the darkness, but I am glad that you got the chance to listen to it!!

Alyce said...

I've been putting off reading We Need to Talk About Kevin for that very reason. At first I saw so many rave reviews I thought it was a must read. Then I read some that talked about the darker aspect, so I'm back on the fence about reading it. And now I'm in the same place with this book too. I'll have to consider them both a bit more before I decide.

Bobbie said...

Hello! Your blog was featured at Friday Bloggy Happenings here:
http://tilwereadagain.blogspot.com/2010/05/book-bloggy-happenings-1.html

Frances said...

"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..."

That is a very thoughtful observation, and one that certainly does not apply to just you. Some sort of conditioning that has been visited upon us to only reside comfortably in happy, well-lit spots. Is it an American thing? A female thing? Not a clue but you sure have me thinking.

This book is in my queue and i can't wait to get to it.

Jenners said...

I have this to read because I've seen so many people reading it and loving it. I'm guessing it isn't really a feel good book though!

Lynne said...

I gave this a 3 out of 5. I don't know what it was for me...the idea of a man with a walking disease struck me as odd and I couldn't get past that. I started reading We Need to Talk About Kevin and couldn't finish. "Dark" is a perfect description of both books.

Literary Feline said...

I am still undecided about whether I want to read this one or not. Some days I'm sure I do and other days, I have my doubts. It does sound like an interesting read so I probably will eventually get to it.

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

I'm putting this one on my "perhaps" list. I hate missing out on a book other people loved, but the description makes me wonder if I might dislike it. Hmmmm.

Alice Teh said...

This one pique my interest. I think I will read it. The story is pretty interesting.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

It definitely explored dark places, but I loved it. Maybe I liked how it stayed with me so long after listening to it, that the characters and questions about them (and what I might do when faced with such a difficulty in my relationships) kept hitting me unexpectedly over several weeks.

I haven't yet read (or listened to) AND THEN WE CAME TO THE END.