Thursday, April 22, 2010

audio book review: The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris

The Unnamed
The backstory: Then We Came to the End, the first novel by Joshua Ferris, has been in my TBR pile since it came out. I immediately knew I wanted to read The Unnamed too, and I was thrilled when I won a contest for a copy of the audio book, I was thrilled. I saved it for my road trip to Providence, Rhode Island, and it was a wonderful road companion.

The basics: Tim Farnsworth, a lawyer, cannot stop walking.  No doctor can figure out what's causing this unnamed condition.

The verdict: Ferris uses a seemingly ridiculous medical condition (inability to stop walking?) to explore a marriage, a family, and our collective cynicism. To satisfy the naysayers and the characters themselves, Ferris explores every question I could muster about this bizarre condition. As a reader/listener, I was privy to the thoughts of Tim, his wife Jane, and their daughter, and the different reasons they each had for not discussing Tim's condition with others. In this world where drug and alcohol problems and mental disorders are increasingly met with supportive friends, families and employers, an unnamed condition doesn't have a place. No one knows anyone with this condition; it must not be real. What's causing it? Does it matter?

I'm both glad and sad I listened to this book on audio. Joshua Ferris read it, and it was wonderful to hear where he placed his emphasis and where he paused. At the same time, he's a wordsmith, and there were sentences I wanted to pause and swoon over. I don't listen to many books on audio, but this one was wonderful to listen to as I took the back roads, avoided the interstates and imagined Tim walking along beside me as I drove across New England. At the end of the novel, there's a conversation between Joshua Ferris and Reagan Arthur, the book's editor. The interview was one of my favorite parts of the listening experience. Overall: It's a masterful combination of character, perception, marriage, knowledge and understanding.

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Pages: 320 
Publication date: January 18, 2010
Source: I won a copy in a contest

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  1. I felt the same way about this book and also really enjoyed the author interview at the end. I recently listened to another good audiobook: On Chesil Beach (I'm certain you're familiar with it) which was read by the author and followed by a really wonderful interview. These are the first books I've listened to and I feel pretty lucky that I liked them both :)

  2. I just started the audio version of this today and I am hooked! Have you considered joining The Reagan Arthur Books Challenge? It's perpetual, so there's no set number of books to read and no time limit.

  3. I have been wanting to read this book and keep stalling for some strange reason. Loved that you loved it! Great review.

  4. Interesting. This is the first time I've wanted to read this book. Thanks for the review!

  5. I am not sure this is a book I would pick up on my own. However, it seems to have gotten rave reviews, so I plan on reading it soon.

  6. I was rather surprised by how much I enjoyed this book; I definitely want to read his debut novel now. And how funny, given Tim's condition, that you would have the audio version as a "road companion".

  7. I read this, as opposed to reading the audio version, and you're right, I did find myself rereading some of his beautiful lines.


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