Some books you love right away; they become instant classics, and you immediately know you will recommend it to anyone in your path.
But there are other books, too, books that grow on you in an odd way. Books that leave you going “Well what am I supposed to do with that?” but are brought to your mind a day, week, month later. They make you think, make you see the world a little differently, and while you maybe resented this at first, you come to love it.
Joshua Ferris’ novel The Unnamed, for me, fits this description perfectly. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it after I’d finished; even halfway through it, I wasn’t sure if I loved it or hated it. Yet I kept picking it off my nightstand and reading just a few more pages.
Tim Farnsworth has his life together. He has a loving wife, Jane, who is faithful and understanding in even the most difficult of circumstances. Family, work, home–everything is solid, secure. But one day? He walks out.
I mean, literally. He literally walks away from his life. His body, seemingly an entity of its own, every so often decides that staying in one place isn’t acceptable. So he walks–despite cold winters, despite the security left behind, despite the risk. He just…walks.
I realize this sounds a bit, well, weird, and it is. But the questions this book brings up are incredible. What’s the difference between the soul and body? Is there any? Why do they rage against one another? Are there unseen forces that can still tear a relationship apart? When is it time to fight, to be content, or to move on? It’s an exploration that can be applied to those dealing with illness–mental or physical–or, honestly, anyone who has an occasional existential moment.
Like I said–and I offer this as a full disclosure–I didn’t much like the book at first. And I don’t agree with 100% of what it contains. But the mark of a good novel, I think, is when it makes you see the world (and yourself) in a different light. And The Unnamed does this better than any book I’ve read before.
Thanks for reading! -Autumn