Book Critique - The Unnamed
Stars: 2.5/ 5
Recommendation: The existential journey is evoking, but the other parts that come with it become insignificant at times or make the reader lost in the ramblings of the author and his characters. Yet it managed to leave a lingering taste at the back of my tongue. Pick it up at your own risk, but I neither enjoyed it nor felt satisfied with it despite the lingering feeling.
The Unnamed is the second book by American writer Joshua Ferris, published in January of 2010. The plot basically revolves around the lives of Tim Farnsworth, his wife Jane and daughter Becka. It is set in New York City.
Tim Farnsworth is a successful lawyer living in New York City with his wife Jane and teenaged daughter Rebecca "Becka". His life is in blissful mode only for one little thing, his urge to keep walking and keep on going. Despite the numerous treatments and advices he takes from various doctors, modes of medicines and psychiatrists, his urges don’t reduce. Joshua continues the rest of the book in showing how someone with a disease with no cure and name copes, how their family faces the challenges and how ultimately in the end everyone are affected.
Joshua Ferris is best known for his debut novel Then We Came to the End which was published in 2007. However, this is the first time I am reading his book. Again this book was loaned to me by a friend, who had actually loved it; the very friend who had given the book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Since I had liked that, I went with her review of this book as well.
Joshua divided this book into parts - Part I "The Feet, Mechanical" gives the reader glimpses into Tim's life and his family along with the subject in question, Part II "The Hour of Lead" almost puts the reader in a lull and then suddenly the author springs up the turning point, Part III "First Chill, Then Stupor" created a lot of confusion in me as a reader and finally Part IV "Then The Letting Go" provides a closure to the entire Farnsworth family.
The first three parts had chapter numbers which was easy for me as a reader cause I could target a certain number of chapters before I close the book for that day or night. However the last part did not have any chapter numbers and it went on like a long page of characters. And that made it difficult for me to find a stop point in the book to close for that day or night.
Joshua's first book had received rave reviews and I believe it is suggested as a good read. I am sure he has written that well. However, I was lost in this book, especially in Part II and Part III. The plot moved back and forth so much in Part II that sometimes it became hard for me to keep track of if the characters were in present or past. And in Part III Joshua has his character Tim go on episodes of rambling, some made little to no sense, throwing the reader off the track. I almost had no recollection of what went on in a few pages, cause I was so much bored that my mind tuned those out.
That is never good from a reader's perspective. The author should always try to keep the reader engaged, even if it is just ramblings. This is where I felt most that Joshua failed in this book.
Joshua's character Jane talks about how much she likes reading a paper holding it while smelling the fresh printed ink and that the physical touch gives her a containment of the world. I necessarily not have the same feeling but I do echo her sentiment of physically touching a book to read as opposed to using the e-book versions.
Author Joshua has taken a really brave topic of how a family copes when one of the family member is going through a life-threatening ordeal. He goes one step up by making that ordeal so difficult that it is literally unnamed and unknown to anyone in this world except to Tim and his family. I applaud the author's attempt to bring in the perspective of the family while dealing with it.
It however showed a journey of Tim who wanted to find a reason for a situation, but it ended without any result for Tim. I wonder, what Joshua had in his mind when he had the reader literally and figuratively walk with Tim all his life, when in the end he doesn’t give a closure. I felt that between Tim and Jane, the person who bore the consequences the most was their daughter Becka. It did evoke a lot of empathy in the reader's mind for her.
Like I said, I am not into reading such kind of fiction. However, I would have perhaps liked it if it had given a proper closure, avoided those ramblings that bored the reader at times or had them lost, and if there was an answer to the why; maybe there is none in many cases of such illnesses. However with neither of them in the book, I can say that this wasn't a pleasant or satisfactory read for me. Never the less it left me reeling for hours after I put the book down. However, it could be for someone else. So, pick it up at your own risk.
1) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:
a) Tim Farnsworth has a total of four episodes in the plot where he keeps on walking and walking and walking. Yet on Pg. 296, Joshua describes the apartment that Tim and Jane live in as the apartment that they had lived between his second and third reoccurrence of the walking episodes. Instead if you read the second part of the book, this is the apartment that they live in between his third and fourth, final, occurrence of the walking episodes. Joshua mis-represented it here.