THE UNNAMED–JOSHUA FERRIS

Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2010: It’s back. With those words Tim and Jane Farnsworth reenter a nightmare they know so intimately it needs no other description. “It” may not be found among an insurance company’s diagnostic codes, but the Farnsworths, a couple made wealthy by Tim’s single-mindedly successful legal practice, know it too well: Tim’s compulsion, at any random moment of the day or night, to set out walking for hours at a time until he collapses in exhaustion. They’ve survived two bouts of this inexplicable illness, which began as mysteriously as they ended, and now, as Joshua Ferris’s second novel, The Unnamed, opens, they are beset by a third. Ferris’s first book, Then We Came to the End, was one of the freshest, most acclaimed fiction debuts of the decade, but he’s followed it not with an imitation or extension but with something thrillingly different. Like Tim possessed in one of his perambulatory vectors, Ferris follows his character’s condition as far as it leads him, far beyond where logic and loyalty usually take our lives, but always treats it with empathy, grace, and imagination. His language is as exact and poetic as his premise is fantastic, and by the story’s end you feel the title refers not only to his hero’s strange and solitary disease but also to those elemental but equally inexplicable forces that bind us together through the most difficult turns of our fated lives. –Tom Nissley

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In Ferris’s remarkable second novel (after Then We Came to the End), a life of privilege comes to ruin as a result of a strange and mysterious illness. Attorney Tim Farnsworth thought he had recovered from a disorder that compels him to walk to the point of exhaustion. But now his walking disease has returned and shows no sign of going into remission. His wife, Jane, supportive beyond measure, does everything she can to keep Tim safe during his walks, including making routine midnight trips to pick him up. As the disorder takes increasing control over their lives, however, the sacrifices they make for each other drive them further apart. Ferris manages to inject a bizarre whimsy into a devastatingly sad story, with each of Tim’s outings revealing a new aspect of his marriage. The novel’s circular aspects, with would-be happy endings spiraling back into chaos and then descending further, integrate Ferris’s themes of family, sickness, and the uncertain division between body and mind into a vastly satisfying and original book. (Jan.)
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