Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book Review: "Noah's Compass" by Anne Tyler

Sixty-one-year-old Liam Pennywell is at a bit of a crossroads. The lifelong teacher was just downsized out of a job, and he has downsized his apartment as well, moving into a smaller place in a less-savory neighborhood in Baltimore. On his first night in his new place, he goes to sleep...and wakes up in the hospital with stitches in his head and hand, apparently the victim of a burglarly gone awry. The problem is, Liam can't remember anything that happened that night after he went to sleep, a fact that causes him severe distress.

Anne Tyler's latest novel is the story of Liam's struggle to regain his memories of that night, and the struggle of his ex-wife and daughters to put up with the challenges of a perpetually-passive Liam. He comes into contact with a younger woman employed to help a wealthy executive with memory problems, and Liam hopes she will be his "rememberer" as well. But instead, she opens him up to the possibilities of a different life, one he isn't sure he can handle.

I've always enjoyed Tyler's books and the quirky characters she creates. But this book left me just as frustrated as Liam's ex-wife and daughters. Liam's passivity really detracted from my enjoyment of this book, as I found it very difficult to have any empathy for him. I guess for now, I'll need to content myself with some of Tyler's older books, like Saint Maybe or Breathing Lessons.

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