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The Unnamed


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About the Author

Joshua Ferris's first novel, Then We Came to the End, has been translated into 24 languages. His fiction has appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, and Best American Voices. Ferris was chosen for the New Yorker's "20 Under 40" list of fiction writers in 2010. He lives in New York.


In Ferris's remarkable second novel (after Then We Came to the End), a life of privilege comes to ruin as a result of a strange and mysterious illness. Attorney Tim Farnsworth thought he had recovered from a disorder that compels him to walk to the point of exhaustion. But now his walking disease has returned and shows no sign of going into remission. His wife, Jane, supportive beyond measure, does everything she can to keep Tim safe during his walks, including making routine midnight trips to pick him up. As the disorder takes increasing control over their lives, however, the sacrifices they make for each other drive them further apart. Ferris manages to inject a bizarre whimsy into a devastatingly sad story, with each of Tim's outings revealing a new aspect of his marriage. The novel's circular aspects, with would-be happy endings spiraling back into chaos and then descending further, integrate Ferris's themes of family, sickness, and the uncertain division between body and mind into a vastly satisfying and original book. (Jan.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Ferris's title refers to an unidentifiable disease that compels protagonist Tim, with no warning, to walk compulsively, no matter the distance or time of day. His disease, which is unpredictable and has affected him for many years, keeps Tim's wife, Jane, and daughter, Becka, in a state of alert and constant anxiety. While much of the novel is about marriage, commitment, and family illness, readers are gradually taken into uncharted territory. It becomes apparent that Tim's disease is a metaphor for man's inherent lust to wander. The motivation for this lust is unclear, but that's what makes the novel interesting as it stimulates readers to formulate their own interpretation. Ferris (Then We Came to the End) is adept at characterization: Jane may be devoted to her ill husband, but she still has her weak moments, which make her character very human. Verdict Ferris is an intrepid writer-he doesn't provide a solution (there's no cure for Tim)-but he does explore all of the consequences. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/09.]-Victor Or, Surrey P.L. & North Vancouver City Lib., B.C. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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