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Paperback The Unnamed Book

ISBN: 0316034002

ISBN13: 9780316034005

The Unnamed

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Book Overview

Tim Farnsworth walks. He walks out of meetings and out of bed. He walks in sweltering heat and numbing cold. He will walk without stopping until he falls asleep, wherever he is. This curious affliction has baffled medical experts around the globe--and come perilously close to ruining what should be a happy life. Tim has a loving family, a successful law career, and a beautiful suburban home, all of which he maintains spectacularly well until his feet...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A terrifying story, beautifully told. It sticks with you for days.

I'll start this recommendation with a recommendation: The fewer reviews of this book you read, the better. I wish I hadn't even read the basic premise, because as much as I loved this book, I wonder how must more engaging it would have been to start it knowing nothing. So if you're reading these reviews because you're on the fence, my advice is to either take the gamble and order it right away, or check it out at your local library. It's a small risk, and if you respond to the book the way I did, a big pay-off. It's hard not to resort to cliches. But this was, indeed, one of those books I couldn't put down. It was (here's another one) a page-turner. The story does, as some reviewers have pointed out, get repetitious, but it's a purposeful repetition. It adds another layer to sharing the perspective of the protagonist. I, for one, never felt that the repetition made the book boring, but instead, more of an empathy-sharing experience. So, to follow my own advice, I won't go into the plot. I'll just note that, as far as I'm concerned, this is a phenomenal literary work. One of my favorites of the past decade.

A Story About Life

In "Unnamed," author Joshua Ferris, author of "Then We Came to the End," creates a mysterious illness that affects Tim Farnsworth, a successful and prestigious attorney, causing him to cease whatever activity he is involved in and to begin walking. He walks until he finally drops from exhaustion and falls asleep no matter where he is at the time. He walks without regard to the weather or hazards to his personal safety. He is "missing in action" from his family for days or even weeks before his family hears from him. This mysterious illness obviously creates stress not only in his personal life, tearing apart his family, but jeopardizes his professional life as well. Tim seeks medical assistance from the leading medical professionals around the work, but they are unable to diagnose or treat his illness, further causing conflict in his life. Ferris does a great job showing the reader not only how devastating the illness is to Farnsworth, but how it emotionally wrecks Jane, his wife, and 17 year old daughter, Becka. The book is not only harrowing, but consuming as Tim and his family are taken to the breaking point by this illness. Can the family survive Tim's illness, and if so, how long? Ferris does a wonderful job creating well developed characters you will care about and root for. His mastery of dialogue is equally superb. "Unnamed" is a book about life and how we cope with life. It will cause you to think about it for a long time and examine your own life. The book will change your life; you will never forget the story. I read this book based upon Ferris' previous book, "Then We Came to the End," which I thoroughly enjoyed. This book was even better, if that is possible, and did not disappoint. I give this book 5 stars and highly recommend it, even if you never read Ferris' previous book.

I'm sad I read the best book of 2010 in January

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris is about Tim Farnsworth and his wife, Jane. Tim is a lawyer, and Jane is a real estate agent, and when the book opens, they're very successful and have a 17-year-old daughter. Tim has a strange disease that has re-emerged after being in remission for years. This disease that Tim has causes him to walk: to walk away from wherever he is, and walk until he's so exhausted that he lays down to sleep wherever he is. Tim walks and walks, and historically his walking has only lasted a few months, though one time it continued for a year. This time, though, how long will it last? How long can he survive being exposed to the elements, and how long can his marriage be considered a marriage as he takes off without warning and keeps his wife and daughter scared for his safety? On the surface this is about marriage and love, and how long either can last when put to the test by an unnamed, unknown factor. Something affecting Tim affected the whole family, as Jane observes, "But this misfortune was not his and his alone!" Tim also realizes that with a family, he's no longer an autonomous being: "He had to recognize that his sickness was not his alone." How often we think that our actions shouldn't or won't or can't affect others, but they do, particularly family members. Digging a little deeper, Tim's disease of having to walk could be representative of anything he desires to walk away from. He's a high powered attorney with lots of pressure to succeed. How much of that pressure can a person bear before they just want to walk away? And who of us haven't wanted to (at one time or another) walk away from our families? This is a haunting and beautiful story. I loved seeing the sacrifices that Tim and Jane made for each other, because it's in the hard times that those sacrifices actually mean something. I can't argue that The Unnamed isn't melancholy or sad, because it is. But I CAN argue that The Unnamed will make you wish all books were written so deftly.

Beautiful and terrifying

It seems clear that Joshua Ferris has a great talent as a writer; after reading this provocative and haunting novel, I am going to order his first book ("Then We Came to the End") and look forward to following his career in the future. In "The Unnamed," Ferris describes an illness that compels his protagonist (Tim Farnsworth, a wealthy and successful lawyer) to drop whatever he is doing at a specific moment and then walk to the point of desperate exhaustion. Not surprisingly this idiopathic condition (medical professionals remain unable to diagnose or effectively treat it) wreaks havoc on his family life, and ultimately reduces his existence to a war between two parts of his identity -- one of which represents the demands of his body, the other of which stands in for his mind or soul struggling for mastery over those demands. At times, it becomes unclear which voice has the upper hand, which represents "health" or the real Tim, which is even speaking. As the illness recurs, he wanders the countryside of many states and regions of the country, suffering frostbite that disfigures his hands and feet even as his inner self is increasingly disfigured by his madness. One reviewer here calls it a parable; I agree. I would like to challenge, however, a couple of the observations repeatedly made by reviewers here. First, I didn't find the plot to be so strikingly original. I'm not saying that Ferris isn't the first to think of it in this specific form. But it's a rather simple narrative starting point: What would happen if I gave my hero a compulsion simply to walk out of his life? Taken to its extreme, where might such a compulsion bring him? This is a question that, as we see in the book, ultimately strips away the incidentals of life and leaves us with basic issues of love and identity. By the way, there are plenty of works of literature that work similarly, ranging from Shakespeare's "King Lear," to Jean-Paul Sartre's "Nausea," to Anne Tyler's "Ladder of Years." Create a narrative premise that takes away all the superficial things in life that seem to matter; see what's left. Second, what that leaves us with -- as readers who become involved in Tim's mental combat -- is the sheer power of Ferris's prose to evoke that inner reality. Unlike some other readers here, I found that prose to be wonderful. No writer should try on this kind of minimalist narrative structure unless he wants to test his ability to create a language that is luminous, transparent, richly evocative both of desperate interior states and of the state of nature. Ferris meets this challenge. His prose is simple, amazing, and beautiful: "He would tell her anything, of course. Yes, of course he would tell her that he loved her and that the soul was vibrant and real and death only an interlude. His banana, how she had taken care of him. She had come to him in far-flung places no matter the time of day or night." I was moved and mesmerized by the writing. This book demands that the re

One of the best, intelligent novels I have read in a long time

Bravo, Joshua Ferris, for THE UNNAMED, one of the best, intelligent novels that I have read in a long time... and I have been a consummate bookworm for a very long time. THE UNNAMED is close to the top of my list of favorite modern American fiction. Here is a story of poignancy and emotion, of pity and fear, of alienation and madness; a story of family and sense of purpose. It is a story of marriage and commitment, of love and loyalty, of compassion and forgiveness, of acceptance and surrender. It is a story rich in tone with detailed and precise, descriptive language. It is metaphoric in manner with a compelling plot in which an unforgettable family and themes relevant to modern life appear. It is a meditation with perspective and depth which deserves to be read again and again. I will. I do not want to give too much of the plot away in my review because I think to do so would distract from its impact. However, I found the plot to be one that is very believable and highly identifiable, especially for those who might also suffer with a chronic illness which baffles the medical community, (say Lyme Disease for one good example), or for those who have experienced themselves or have lived with someone else's compulsive behavior. (Who has not an awareness of alcoholism or addictions to drugs, TV, cellphone, sex, stealing, lying, work, etc?) In THE UNNAMED the reader experiences Tim's compulsive walking and it is this bizzare, mysterious behavior upon which this compelling novel is built. It is a clever device Joshua Ferris uses to broach a variety of issues, from the forces of nature to the human condition, from wealth and privilege to indigence, from mysticism to nihilism. I was engrossed with this gripping story from its first paragraph on. The atmosphere is rich with detail and the reader is generously given perspective from its three well-developed characters ~ Tim, a dashing, intelligent, highly-driven, successful Manhattan attorney; Jane, Tim's beautiful, devoted but exasperated wife of 20 years; Becka, their overweight and alienated teenage daughter. I was easily able to be absorbed in these characters ~ to feel Tim's intense love for his family and his law practice, but also his work ethic and obsessive drive, his frustration and despair with his illness, his battle with his mind and the descent into madness. We feel Jane's loneliness and her slide into alcoholism; we feel Becka's teenage angst and sense of estrangement. As the world of psychosis overcomes Tim, we are given the two voices that battle within his mind, a battle between his mind and his soul ~ a conflict between human connection and detachment, awareness and oblivion, life and death. There are scenes which are cold and raw, yet others that are tender and sensitive. There is eroticism which is appropriate and never vulgar. Although the ending is not a happy one, it is a bittersweet and thought-provoking one which for me produced an intense and lasting effec
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