Anne Tyler — ‘Noah’s Compass’

I’ve got it. Noah’s Compass, the 18th novel by Anne Tyler, one of the great authors of my lifetime. It’s just out in hardback. I don’t buy many books anymore, but I need this one. I think it might be about me.

The dust jacket says Noah’s Compass is the story of Liam Pennywell, “A schoolteacher, who has been forced to retire at sixty-one, coming to terms with the final phase of his life.”  With a name like Liam Pennywell, you know right away he’s not an Alpha Male.

I don’t know which is worse, the lost job or the “final phase.” It sounds so . . .  so Final.

Noah’s Compass is “RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES,” as they say.

  • “Mostly Male Jobs Lost In Recession”
  • “Wives Make More Money”
  • “Men Need Not Apply”

The concluding paragraph on the dust jacket:  “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.” You bet we all know a man like Liam! (The writer of that dust jacket should be happy she gets a paycheck. She didn’t need to call the book about Liam’s final phase “lovely.”  Talk about twisting the knife!)

I, your 61-year-old, unemployed blogger, am going to do something I’ve never done before. I’m going to read  Anne Tyler’s new book, and I’m going to blog about it every day as I go along. (Do you think anyone would make a movie about that?  No?  That’s what I thought.)

I expect to find “quirky” characters in this book. Every reviewer who writes about Tyler calls her characters “quirky.”  Other than that, I expect my expectations to be “preconceived,”  and probably unfounded, as well. Ms. Tyler’s books rarely go where you think they’re going.

I hope to find an adjective better than “lovely” for  Noah’s Compass. “Rugged” or “Epic” or “Thrilling” or “Grand.” Anything but “lovely.”

I promise not to use too many direct quotes from Noah’s Compass, and I will try not to give away any surprise endings.

For the next three installments of my review of Noah’s Compass:

It’s worth reading all four parts, if I do say so myself. And it’s worth reading the whole book, too.

— John Hayden

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