by Joshua Ferris
This is Ferris' second novel; his first was titled Then We Came to the End, which I haven't read but heard it was funny. This one is about a man named Tim Farnsworth, who has a disorder which causes him to suddenly stop what he's doing and walk. He walks until he's tired and then he falls asleep wherever he is. His wife Jane and his daughter Becka try to be supportive and understanding, as do his co-workers and boss at the law firm where he is an attorney. A doctor is unable to come up with a diagnosis. For many years his wife is goes on loving him and tries to maintain a normal family life. She ties him to his bed so he doesn't wander off. They deal with the unnamed disorder until it tears them apart.
What a strange book. In the beginning I thought it was very odd. Reminded me of Forrest Gump or something. This man (Tim) just gets up and starts walking and can't stop? What?! And then I thought it was quirky and cute and lovely, and I felt sorry for him, and I loved how his wife supported him and how loyal she was, and how she would just pick him up from far away places because he had walked for miles and miles without stopping. When he called her and said, "pick me up," she simply asked where he was and said she'd be right there. If he didn't know, she asked for clues, for signs he saw around him. When she found him, she took him home and loved him, and her loyalty and their relationship was beautiful.
For a while Tim was normal and went about his job as an attorney. I liked the story at that point. Then he became a bit odd and slightly dysfunctional, and occasionally the urge to walk came over him and his wife picked him up from wherever he was, and I still liked the story. But in the middle of the book he became completely schizophrenic, which is where it kind of lost me. He walked and walked for a long time and spoke incoherently to the "other", and it's at this point that I became uninterested. I got bored and didn't care anymore. I wanted the walking to end and for him to find a solution or a diagnosis or for something different to happen. I won't tell you the end, and it took a while to get there, but something finally did happen.
The writing was a little sing-songy sometimes and hard to follow. I had to really concentrate while reading. He used many words that are new to me: etiolated, eponymous, equipoise, bivouacking, terrigenous, odious, obdurate, inimitable, insensate, carapace, phantasmagoria.
So those are my thoughts, as scrambled as they are. I liked some parts of it, and the story will definitely stay with me because it was so strange, but I didn't love it. In one part of the book there were blackbirds falling out of the sky and in another, Tim's toes were frozen from hypothermia and fell off into his socks, and he picked them out and threw them away. It was just really "out there"!
Do I Recommend?
Hmmm, I think some people - serious readers - will like and appreciate the interesting writing style. The story, however, was bizarre, and I don't think casual readers who are looking for an easy, enjoyable read will like this.
Did anyone else read this book? I'd love to know what you thought!
I'll be having a giveaway for this book next week, so be sure to come back for details.