I read Joshua Ferris’s debut novel, Then We Came To The End, after reading praise from the book by Nick Hornby, my favorite contemporary author. I really enjoyed that novel, and found its first-person-plural narrative to be an effective device for telling the story. Since I finished that one, I have been anxiously awaiting Ferris’s follow up novel, The Unnamed, which came out last month.
Fans of Ferris’s first novel will certainly find this novel to be very different. While Then We Came To The End was a workplace satire, The Unnamed is dark, as it deals with the mysterious affliction of a lawyer named Tim Farnsworth. Tim suffers from an unexplainable condition tha causes him to get up and walk… and just keep going and going until he collapses in exhaustion. This problem has doctors baffled, and causes incredible strain on his family and career.
Ferris effectively captures the struggle of the main character, who not only struggles with symptoms of the disease but with the lack of a diagnosis or explanation. Tim is not much different from Captain Ahab, in Moby Dick, obsessed with catching the white whale, or Dr. Frankenstein who obsesses over killing the monster he created. The disease is slowley destroying the comfortable life he worked hard for. and that struggle certainly leaves the reader as anxious for the answer as Tim Farnsworth is. In that sense, the book is a hard one to get through in the same way that such classics as Moby Dick and Frankenstein were hard to get through.
Fans of Ferris certainly should not be expecting the same kind of dark comedy they got from Then We Came To The End, Though different, The Unnamed still has the mark of Ferris which should be recogzinable to those familiar with his work.
The Unnamed is an enjoyable read, perhaps not as fun as his first novel, but worth reading whether you are a fan of Ferris or haven’t read him yet.