Book Review: The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris


The Unnamed
Joshua Ferris
I know the book world is divided on this, but I LOVED Joshua Ferris’ first novel Then We Came to the End. I thought it was a wonderful mash up of Austen, Trollope, and “The Office”. And it has, in my humble opinion, one of the best opening lines of all time: “We were fractious and overpaid.”

Well, Ferris’ sophomore novel The Unnamed, is nothing like Then We Came to the End, but it is still a really fantastic book. Some professional reviewers have dinged him because the two books are so dissimilar in style. But I think professional reviewers, as a rule, suck. I prefer the uninformed ramblings (like mine) of people (and blogs) I trust.

The Unnamed tells the story of Tim Farnsworth, a successful lawyer in Manhattan who has an unusual malady that defies diagnosis. His unnamed affliction compels him to walk (and walk and walk). We aren’t talking about a nice stroll through Central Park on his lunch hour kind of walking, but the kind that takes him across bridges to other boroughs, across state lines, through all kinds of weather and with the inability to stop until his body/mind decides it/they is/are ready to stop.

This is a compelling, kind of fast read that had me tearing up from time to time. His condition seems totally implausible in most ways, but the emotion, fear, and uncertainty that it illustrates feels very plausible and frightening. And it is somewhat of a paean to unconditional love, although a kind of sweetly sad paean (is that possible?).

I enjoyed reading it, and it made me love my husband a little more than I already do.

18 thoughts on “Book Review: The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris

  1. Ti March 3, 2010 / 7:21 pm

    My book group passed on this one when we picked our books for this year but I'm sure I will read it on my own.

    The book trailer intrigued me even though it's gotten some mixed reviews.


  2. Mrs. B. March 3, 2010 / 7:27 pm

    Sounds wonderful! I've seen this book around and I'll definitely have a closer look now. I've been wondering what to read next. In spite of my large TBR pile, I'd love to go to a bookstore soon and just buy something.


  3. Diane March 3, 2010 / 8:02 pm

    I hope to read this one soon. The reviews really do seem mixed.


  4. everybookandcranny March 3, 2010 / 10:02 pm

    I haven't read any Joshua Ferris but I've seen this book pop up on blogs more and more lately. Your description of his other novel as a mash-up of Austen, Trollope, and “The Office” make that one sound especially intriguing.

    I also steer clear of professional reviews. Most of them are too sterile and lack authenticity.


  5. Thomas at My Porch March 3, 2010 / 10:43 pm

    Ti: Don't listen to the reviews. They may have something oh so literary to say, but they miss the fact that it is a good read.

    Mrs B: I almost never buy new books these days (well except for Persephone and stuff life that) but I kind of went out of my way to buy this one.

    Diane: Young, handsome author…reviewer sour grapes.

    Every Book and Cranny: His first novel is really enjoyable (although most everyone I know in real life didn't like it).


  6. JoAnn March 4, 2010 / 7:56 am

    I'm not at all familiar with this author… where have I been? Time to do some investigating.


  7. Vintage Reading March 4, 2010 / 7:48 pm

    I loved the first Joshua Ferris, too – especially the guy who was obsessed with the film industry. I've been wondering about his second novel and your review has made me want to read it.


  8. Thomas at My Porch March 5, 2010 / 9:12 am

    JoAnn: I was kind of in the same boat. His first novel was a bestseller and a National Book Award Finalist, but I did't notice it until long after it was in paperback. And even then I only knew about it because someone brought it to book club.


  9. Thomas at My Porch March 5, 2010 / 9:14 am

    Vintage Reading: Well they are two very different books that is for sure. It is quite unusual for me to do a re-read, but I think I want to re-read Then We Came to the End.


  10. Kathleen March 5, 2010 / 5:13 pm

    Sorry, did you say The Office? I'm sold!


  11. Molly March 6, 2010 / 10:40 am

    What a Refreshing Review!!

    I think this is a book that I would enjoy, but alas I must keep it on the TBR list a bit longer since I have quite a bit of required reading to do over the next several months.


  12. Thomas at My Porch March 6, 2010 / 1:38 pm

    Kathleen: Which Office character do you think would read Trollope?

    Molly: By the time you are done with your Oxford course, this one will be out in paperback or in used bookstores…


  13. Kathleen March 6, 2010 / 4:22 pm

    I could see Angela from the Office (US version of the show) being drawn to Trollope for the Victorian settings but also some of the strong, female characters. What do you think?


  14. booksslicedanddiced March 6, 2010 / 9:06 pm

    I just saw this book at my local bookstore and wasn't sure if it would be wonderful or completely bizarre. Thanks so much for the great review; now I'll pick it up with confidence!


  15. Thomas at My Porch March 7, 2010 / 8:52 am

    Kathleen: I think you may be right, but Angela is such a contrarian, I wonder if there would be something that would turn her off. I know that Kelly would be all about the Twilight series.

    Books Sliced and Diced: I paid full, hardback price for it–which I almost never do.


  16. Kathleen March 9, 2010 / 5:45 pm

    Oh my goodness…I laughed out loud at the thought of Kelly reading the Twilight series…you are so right!


  17. Thomas at My Porch March 11, 2010 / 12:37 am

    Kathleen: It kind of gives me an idea for a post about what books I think various television characters might be reading…


  18. Kathleen March 11, 2010 / 8:26 pm

    I think your idea about doing a post on TV characters and the books they might read is a brilliant one!


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