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on May 11, 2015
This was one of the most unusual stories I've ever read. It's melancholy, well-written, and I found it very compelling. If you enjoy reading and are looking for something different, I highly recommend "The Unnamed."
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on March 25, 2015
I am sorry, however, I am not attracted to books such as this. I cannot evaluate it - I don't think I would even like or enjoy the author who wrote it.
I do not think I have ever put that down about any book before, though I have occasionally had the thought and feeling. It won't even be salvaged by reading his other books (which I bought at the same time I purchased this one, to my regret), as they are in the same style of prose - written by a superior feeling human being. I do not want to go on, as the writer did not set out to offend me, he just wrote a book which affected me in that manner. So I will say no more - just that I hope you enjoy the book and he communicates with you better than he did with me. Have a good day.
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I wish the "star" system was a little more precise. Stars for the writing skill. Stars for plot, characters, stars for overall quality, stars if it's a "feel good" book or an "unsettling" book…I wish they had stars for all of that. Because in terms of writing skill and ability, it's a five-star book. In terms of story, it's a three-star. In terms of "feel good" it warrants three-stars from me, subjectively. When I say "feel good" I don't mean 'happy ending,' either. I mean it in terms of ending satisfaction. I also mean it in terms of how eager I was to resume reading after I had put the book down. I don't like dreading the return to a book because it's just so bleak it makes me feel…well, bummed out.

So yeah. That's me. Books can be dark or without happy endings, but still leave you feeling uplifted and satisfied at the end. I didn't feel sad after the end of this book, however, since Ferris pulls some redeeming threads through it. Mostly I felt relieved when I finished—for myself and the poor, tortured characters within it. And reading it—because I tend to seriously empathize with characters—was sort of torturous.

Tim Farnsworth is a successful attorney in New York who has an illness that is unnamed, unidentified in any medical documentation anywhere. His illness? He must walk. An urge takes over his body and he must walk. Whatever he's doing, wherever he is, he has to walk.

Throughout the book there is a pervasive theme about whether or not his condition is medical or psychological. This, to me, is extremely uninformed. Psychological/mental conditions are medical. Period. They just present behaviorally rather than in the mechanics of the body. Tim could no more stop walking than a person can eradicate cancer cells from their body.

So the fact that this "question" was a main theme really bothered me. His condition was medical, and had Ferris accepted this, or at the very least had an informed medical professional in the book actually inform Tim of this, it would have changed the book into something that goes deeper than that non-question, and turned it into an exploration of how people deal with a chronic illness that has absolutely no known origin, treatment options or precedent, and how it impacts their lives. Now THAT would have been believable and interesting, rather than this silly miscomprehension of basically a NON-conflict: "Is it physical or mental?"

This question of physical versus mental powers all of Tim's actions, and had he just known/accepted that it was a medical condition, it would have still offered plenty of conflict and tension for the story.

His long-suffering wife, Jane had some very interesting conflicts of her own going on. I wish Ferris had explored those more. The conflict of a caregiver to a chronically ill person. Let's just say we've established he has a physical, medical condition. Take out the ambiguity of whether or not he's in control—he's not. Now we look at Jane's ambivalence, her struggle to know and conceive her place in their relationship and in the world in general as a wife-cum-caregiver/woman and parent. Now THAT would have been a fantastic thing to have explored further. But it gets a brief light shined on it, then dropped.

Ferris did well in portraying the daughter, a neglected child, as all children are with a chronically ill parent to a degree, and how she was forced into the care-giver role which had an interesting and positive impact on her.

I hate to say it, but this could have been a fantastic love story. Ferris actually dips his toes into that place, but only briefly, and it was the most poignant and harrowing parts of the book for me—completely redeemed so much of it for me. And he could have stayed with that, run with that and left the ending exactly how it was, but with a satisfaction that goes way beyond what the current book gave me. And I'm not sappy for love stories, folks. But this could have been a stellar one.

I missed Ferris's acerbic wit in this book, where his other books were riddled with it. But I'm not sorry I read this book. I just would have done it (as in written it) differently. I think he took the easy way out by making the "label" of the condition more important than the essence and impact of the condition on the characters. A missed opportunity, from where I sit. But I am still eagerly awaiting the next Josh Ferris novel because his writing is tight, superb and skilled. Unnamed is a very humane, compassionate book, but left me wanting more than just an ability to "name" it.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2015
I bought this book, because the Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote a very favorable review for it. They sure steered me wrong. I didn't like anything about the book. I kept reading it, thinking it would get better, but it didn't. I didn't see anything particularly good about the writing style. Nothing about the book made me want to keep reading.
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on October 11, 2014
Good book. good idea. Perhaps a bit repetitive at times.
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What would you do if your spouse had an undiagnosable, untreatable medical condition? One that came and went unpredictably? One that when it came, made a complete shambles of both your lives?

What would you do if you were the spouse—stay together? Rescue that person, take midnight phone calls, spend endless amounts of money on an ever-growing list of specialists?

What would you do if you were the one with the condition—try everything, beyond hope? Will yourself to battle it on your own? Leave to set your spouse free?

These are the questions The Unnamed presents to the reader—questions that take the more familiar scenario of a loved one with a terminal illness, and pushes it to the very extreme of moral obligations and human decency—yet set within the quotidian confines of contemporary American life. It’s a fascinating and sobering premise, which Ferriss unfolds with a gripping and convincing narrative.

The Unnamed would be worth reading for its premise and pacing alone, but what seals the deal is the deliciously inventive description along the way. A homeless man’s sneakers have “gone brandless with grime.” A streetside kebab wrap “hot as ore in his hand.” A “cluster of exiled smokers” hovers around the entrance to a building. We imagine the “dismal fluorescent brutality” of a chain restaurant, the “national color of insomnia and transience.” It's what you ask of all great writing: giving you new eyes for old things.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2014
This is Joshua Ferris' second novel. I read his first, then third, then this one. One would normally expect to make some sweeping statement about what you will find in a Joshua Ferris novel, but they are three completely different books, with different styles, themes, gravity and intensity. I'm presuming Mr. Ferris has a larger bag of tricks which will be revealed on his own terms.

That said, there are a few themes you can find amongst the collected works:

1. Identity. In "Then We Came to the End," the group identity of a typical workplace actually narrates the novel. In "To Rise Again...," the narrator explores his own identity at length only after it was stolen. In "The Unnamed," our protagonist fights an internal war for control of his identity - mind vs. body, intellect vs. carnality.

2. Isolation. An interlude in "Then We Came..." left the group narration to explore the desparate isolation of a cancer patient facing her uncertain fate. "To Rise Again" has its protagonist continually looking in from the outside, forever searching for the inclusion that eludes him. In "The Unnamed," our protagonists Tim and Jane find themselves forced into isolation in spite of, and sometimes because of, their everlasting devotion to each other.

Ferris weaves a tale of desperation and determination. I can honestly say I've never wished for a protagonist's death as much as I did throughout this book - as a mercy. His torments were almost unbearable to share.

Some reviews here bemoan the lack of a catch-all conclusion, but it's consistent with the theme of the book. Take the opportunities to benefit from the insights and experiences presented to you, and make your own peace.
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on August 2, 2014
Interesting writing but a bit frustrating, unsatisfying ending...compulsive behaviors undiagnosed for years? Kinda unbelievable!
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on July 31, 2014
In the Unnamed, Joshua Ferris shows promise as a writer, but that is all. While the middle-aged married with children population might relate to the overall theme of alienation (for the stay at home caretaker) and/or work obsession (for the career oriented), the story is scattered and the meaning of life and religious rants are often long and dearth of purpose. At the novel's conclusion, he avoids tying the loose ends to the more interesting sub-plots. Many questions are not answered. Much like a so-so marriage, this book could leave you unsatisfied. Some endurance athletes might like the description of sleep and satisfaction after maximum physical exertion, but all the above details still apply. The story jumps around too much, many details are skipped, and the end is somewhat of a let down. If you want to read a Joshua Ferris novel, read To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. The gap between his promise as a writer and the finished project is much narrower. To Rise Again is a much better novel.
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on July 28, 2014
While the book held my attention throughout the read, I kept waiting for something meaningful to happen. There really wasn't a big conclusion. By the end, I was ready to move on.
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