Noah's Compass; Anne Tyler
Call me a sucker for books about "sad-sacks" and the "under-dog", so imagine my delight when I read the first two paragraphs of Anne Tyler's new book: Noah's Compass.........
(Page 3... In the sixty-first year of his life, Liam Pennywell lost his job. It wasn't such a good job, anyhow. He'd been teaching fifth-grade in a second-rate private boy's school. Fifth grade wasn't even what he'd been trained for. TEACHING wasn't what he'd been trained for. His degree was in philosophy. Oh, but don't ask. Things seemed to have taken a downward turn a long, long time ago, and perhaps it was just as well that he had seen the last of St. Dufrig's dusty, scuffed corridors and those interminable after-school meetings and the reams of niggling paperwork.
In fact, this might be a sign. It could be just the nudge he needed to push him on to the next stage --the final stage, the summing up stage. The stage where he sat in his rocking chair and reflected on what it all meant, in the end."
So when circumstances bring Liam to the final chapter of his life, " short, stocky and out of shape" Liam, decides to scale down his possessions and move to a smaller place on the outskirts of Baltimore. The night of the move Liam goes to bed exhausted, and when he wakes up the next day, he is in the hospital with a sore and bandaged head. Liam has no memory as to what happened to him the night before, he only recalls going to bed the night before.
Unable to deal with the fact that he can't recall the incident that landed him in the hospital, he decides to see a Neurologist. While he is at the doctor's office he meets Eunice, a professional "rememberer", hired by a aged, wealthy man with Alzheimer's. Liam is so impressed, that he believes Eunice is the answer to helping him remember what happened to him. Eunice agrees to help Liam, but this story is not all doom and gloom, there is humor and comic relief to be had for the reader.It is, however, the head injury which occurs at the very beginning of this novel, that becomes somewhat of a catalyst for the story of Liam's life.
So the title Noah's Compass is significant; his "compass" being Liam's memories. Not just of how he got the head injury, but his memories of his life in general, which has been somewhat of a self-imposed amnesia, that helped him block out failures and disappointments in his life.
MY THOUGHTS - I LOVED this novel. Liam is a humble, unassuming sad-sack that tugged on my heart-strings but also made me laugh. Humorous, yet poignant, Anne Tyler has written a winner. A story about a quiet man, in the final stage of his life, who is searching for the meaning in the life he has lived. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - 5/5 stars
(Thanks go to Doubleday for sending me a final copy of this book for review)