The Bookshelf: The Unnamed

the unnamed review

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris, is a book I’ve always struggled to get into.  The premise – a lawyer suffering from an unknown disease which, at any time and in any place, could suddenly force him to begin walking –  is one that really interests me.  Somehow though, when put into words on a page, the idea couldn’t hold my interest.  This month though, I promised myself that I’d finally finish the book; and to a point, I enjoyed it.

As I mentioned, The Unnamed is a book about Tim – a lawyer who is married with a teenage daughter, and who is suffering from a disease which no doctor, psychiatrist, or scientist has ever heard of or is able to explain.  At any time and in any place, for reasons unexplained, he is suddenly forced to his feet and compelled to walk great distances and with no control over his body or the direction he is taking. For years, his wife and daughter wait for the call so that they can go find him and bring him home.  But after a third remission which only leads to his suffering from the disease yet again, Tim keeps walking and walking until he is further away from home than he has ever been.

The premise, as I mentioned, is one which really interests me.  Unfortunately, I had trouble enjoying the way it was written, as Ferris takes nearly half the book before he gets to the primary storyline – Tim leaving his family behind. Besides that, I found trouble feeling like I knew the characters. While Ferris wrote Tim’s anger, depression, and surroundings beautifully, I never felt as though I knew Tim or, for that matter, his wife and daughter. Something in the language Ferris used distanced the reader from his characters, despite lovely details like a petname which Tim and his wife had for one another – banana.

In all, the storyline was meaningful and thought-provoking. There were several times where I stopped just to think about the situation Ferris’s characters were in.  The scene’s Ferris set were beautifully written, and while I couldn’t connect fully with the characters, I could fully imagine the pain and heartbreak Tim was feeling; I was angry on his behalf, at the sheer fact of not knowing more than at anything else.

Overall, I wouldn’t call The Unnamed a must read, but it was an enjoyable book with a thought-provoking story and idea behind it; and once I was enmeshed in the storyline, the book was an easy one to finish.