EXCERPT: In the sixty-first year of his life, Liam Pennywell lost his job.
It wasn’t such a good job, anyhow. He’d been teaching fifth-grade in a second-rate private boys’ school. Fifth-grade wasn’t even what he’d been trained for. Teaching wasn’t what he’d been trained for. His degree was in philosophy. Oh, don’t ask! Things seemed to have taken a downward turn a long, long time ago, and perhaps it was just as well that he’d seen the last of St Dyfrig’s dusty, scuffed corridors and those interminable after school meetings and the reams of niggling paperwork.
In fact, this might be a sign. It could be just the nudge he needed to push him on to the next stage – the final stage, the summing-up stage. The stage where he sat in his rocking-chair and reflected on what it all meant, in the end.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: From the incomparable Anne Tyler, a wise, gently humorous, and deeply compassionate novel about a schoolteacher, who has been forced to retire at sixty-one, coming to terms with the final phase of his life.
Liam Pennywell, who set out to be a philosopher and ended up teaching fifth grade, never much liked the job at that run-down private school, so early retirement doesn’t bother him. But he is troubled by his inability to remember anything about the first night that he moved into his new, spare, and efficient condominium on the outskirts of Baltimore. All he knows when he wakes up the next day in the hospital is that his head is sore and bandaged.
His effort to recover the moments of his life that have been stolen from him leads him on an unexpected detour. What he needs is someone who can do the remembering for him. What he gets is well, something quite different.
We all know a Liam. In fact, there may be a little of Liam in each of us. Which is why Anne Tyler’s lovely novel resonates so deeply.
MY THOUGHTS: This was my first Anne Tyler. I went into it with great expectations, and came out of it depressed. Somewhere in the second half of this book, there is a passage about misery that summed up my feelings about Noah’s Compass very well. Unfortunately, I forgot to mark it. It is a miserable book. I must have missed the gentle humor. . .
The man is only sixty-one, for goodness sake! He is morose, has basically cut all ties with his family, he has poor self-esteem and nothing to look forward to. Whose fault is that? His own. He is capable of making a life for himself. He chooses not to. I wanted to tell him to get a grip, to grab life with both hands. . .
Not a recommendation from me. 😩😩.5
THE AUTHOR: Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated at nineteen from Duke University and went on to do graduate work in Russian studies at Columbia University. She has published 20 novels, her debut novel being If Morning Ever Comes in (1964). Her eleventh novel, Breathing Lessons , was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler, narrated by Arthur Morey and published by Random House Audio via OverDrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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