One of my favorite debut novels in recent years is And Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. It was a book that surprised with its ingenious writing style and modern-day tale that spoke directly to the realities of office life in the twenty-first century.
So you can imagine how excited I was to read Ferris's new book, The Unnamed. This book tells the story of a wealthy lawyer (Tim) who suffers from an undiagnosable condition that sometimes forces him to walk eldlessly, unable to stop until finally his body gives out and he falls into a deep sleep wherever he is at the end of his days-long walk. Dealing with the ramifications of his condition are his wife and daughter. They struggle to maintain their relationships as Tim leaves for days, weeks, even years on his uncontrollable walking excursions.
While this book is beautifully written, it certainly doesn't have the literary interest of And Then We Came to the End. And neither does The Unnamed have the mundane yet thoroughly engaging story; instead, it seems stuck in the mundane. I've heard some suggest that Tim is not a redeeming character but I thought he was quite honorable when he needed to be. I just thought he was boring.
And speaking of boring, the endless walking scenes grew monotonous fast. This is a short book that reads long, mainly due to the constant descriptions of unstoppable walking and the horrific effects it has on the body.
I had a hard time believing this book. It's hard to buy the medical condition. At one point Tim's daughter suggests that maybe her dad is crazy. And by the end of the book, I'm in her camp. Maybe Tim and the main character from Cormack McCarthy's book The Road should get together. They could take endless, painful, depressing walks together. I just hope they don't expect me to read about it. (No, I wasn't a big fan of The Road either, sorry Oprah.)
Here's where my book rating system gets a little difficult. Eventhough the writing is topnotch, (and I will absolutely read the next book from Joshua Ferris) I just can't recommend this book to friends. So I'm giving it my first ever Burn It rating. Sorry Joshua.