The Unnamed [Book Review]

Title: The Unnamed
Author: Joshua Ferris
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
ISBN: 0316034010
Pages: 310
Year: 2010
Publisher: Little, Brown (Reagan Arthur Books)
Source: Dunedin Public Library
Rating: 5/5

Plot summary (from publisher):

He was going to lose the house and everything in it. The rare pleasure of a bath, the copper pots hanging above the kitchen island, his family—again he would lose his family. He stood inside the house and took stock. Everything in it had been taken for granted. How had that happened again? He had promised himself not to take anything for granted and now he couldn’t recall the moment that promise had given way to the everyday.

Tim Farnsworth is a handsome, healthy man, aging with the grace of a matinee idol. His wife, Jane, still loves him, and for all its quiet trials, their marriage is still stronger than most. Despite long hours at the office, he remains passionate about his work, and his partnership at a prestigious Manhattan law firm means that the work he does is important. And even as his daughter, Becka, retreats behind her guitar, her dreadlocks, and her puppy fat, he offers her every one of a father’s honest lies about her being the most beautiful girl in the world.

He loves his wife, his family, his work, his home. He loves his kitchen. And then one day he stands up and walks out. And keeps walking.

The Unnamed is a dazzling novel about a marriage and a family and the unseen forces of nature and desire that seem to threaten them both. It is the heartbreaking story of a life taken for granted and what happens when that life is abruptly and irrevocably taken away.

Other Books I’ve Read By Author: None

Why I Picked Up This Book:Everybody on the planet was talking about it and I didn’t want to be left out.

My thoughts:

Wow. Where to start. This book was simply amazing. The Unnamed is the love story of a couple touched by illness. Tim suffers from a condition that causes him to walk – just get up and walk out the door and only stop when he’s miles from where he meant to be and too tired to do anything but fall asleep on whatever piece of ground he finds himself. Jane is left in a constant state of worry and aimless driving looking for him. No doctor has been able to diagnosis his condition or treat it. Months of suffering is followed by long periods of remission. The lack of a name and the unannounced relapses make the condition almost unbearable for the main characters. The battle between love and illness threads its way through the pages of The Unnamed.

The story is unique yet common. Much of it could be replaced with the story of anyone who has suffered from a serious and debilitating disease. The anger, the denial, the hopelessness, the hope. Those feelings are not unique to Tim and Jane. Yet Ferris takes that common understanding we all have and twists our hearts even more with the unknown element of Tim’s condition. I was often reminded of The Time Traveler’s Wife: husband suffering from an unknown and strange condition, wife left home worrying, their love too strong for even the condition to wear down. This story was very different, but I found myself making the comparison now and then.

I loved some of the little touches – Tim and Becka bonding over Buffy after years of being strangers, Tim and Jane calling each other “banana” (oh, when she says it in the hospital – almost broke my heart), the regurgitation of famous legal opinions at the depth of Tim’s struggles (the nerdy lawyer in me rears its head).

In the end, it was Jane’s and Becka’s stories that stuck with me. Jane suffering alongside Tim, trying to live her life, eventually falling on her own hard times and no longer being able to be the rock of the family. Becka trying to find herself yet forced to grow up when her parents can no longer handle the situation. The love for her father despite the varying degrees of absence from her life.

In short, this book was wonderful. Please go read it.

Memorable Passage:

“They stared into the essential mystery of each other, but felt passing between them in those moments of silence the recognition of that more impossible mystery – their togetherness, the agreement each made that they would withstand the wayward directions they had taken and, despite the inviolable separateness, still remain.” 170

Will I Read This Author Again?: Already mentally planning when I’m going to read Then We Came to The End

Buy It: The Unnamed; Powell’s; Book Depository

Other Reviews:

New Additions to TBR

Some books that I added to my ever-growing TBR list this week:

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris
Recommended by: Everyone – this book has been the talk of the week
Genesis by Bernard Beckett
Recommended by: Beth Fish Reads (+ everyone – if people weren’t talking about The Unnamed this week, they were talking about Genesis.
Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford
Recommended by: Booking Mama
Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough
Recommended by: Presenting Lenore and Shweta’s Book Journal

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
Recommended by: A Striped Armchair