Saturday, August 23, 2014

Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler

After the Women's Club book sale at Lakeside Chautauqua a few weeks ago, I tucked the bag of books under the wicker on the porch. Yesterday while waiting for our guests, I poked around in the bag and found Anne Tyler's Noah's Compass. I didn't remember buying it, but there it was. Although I'm in the middle of two other novels, this one has been holding my interest.

“At 61, Liam has lost his job “teaching fifth grade in a second-rate private boys’ school,” an embarrassment he accepts with the informed stoicism of someone who completed all but his dissertation for a doctorate in philosophy. Now he can settle into retirement in a smaller, cheaper apartment on the outskirts of Baltimore, the city Tyler owns as a novelist, so faithfully does she return to its setting. But before Liam has spent even one night in what he expects will be his “final dwelling place,” a would-be burglar comes through the back door Liam failed to lock.

The next thing Liam knows, he’s in a hospital bed, his head bandaged, with no idea of how he came to be there. The burglar may not have made off with any of Liam’s material possessions, but he hit him hard enough to obliterate a few hours’ worth of his memory, and it is this loss — rather than that of a teaching position he didn’t much like — that serves as a catalyst for all that follows. Neither his ex-wife nor his three daughters, who consider Liam so obtuse they call him Mr. Magoo, understand his growing fixation on retrieving what he can’t remember, especially as it was, presumably, traumatic. But as Liam understands it, “his true self had gone away from him and had a crucial experience without him and failed to come back afterward.”” NYT review

Joann gives it 5 stars: “I love the way Tyler takes everyday happenings and makes the reader realize that nothing is really insignificant, that everything has meaning or value.While reading the book, you hardly realize the layers of character development that she has woven into the story. Her observations of the human condition are always so on-target, but she never makes judgments about what she sees.”

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