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Noah's Compass Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 5, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Like Tyler's previous protagonists, Liam Pennywell is a man of unexceptional talents, plain demeanor, modest means and curtailed ambition. At age 60, he's been fired from his teaching job at a second-rate private boys' school in Baltimore, a job below his academic training and original expectations. An unsentimental, noncontemplative survivor of two failed marriages and the emotionally detached father of three grown daughters, Liam is jolted into alarm after he's attacked in his apartment and loses all memory of the experience. His search to recover those lost hours leads him into an uneasy exploration of his disappointing life and into an unlikely new relationship with Eunice, a socially inept walking fashion disaster who is half his age. She is also spontaneous and enthusiastic, and Liam longs to cast off his inertia and embrace the joyous recklessness that he feels in her company. Tyler's gift is to make the reader empathize with this flawed but decent man, and to marvel at how this determinedly low-key, plainspoken novelist achieves miracles of insight and understanding. (Jan.)
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Praise for Anne Tyler’s Noah’s Compass
“Everyone loves Anne Tyler . . . and her 18th novel will doubtless supply another reason.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Noah’s Compass is immensely readable. It displays many of Tyler’s finest qualities: her sharp observation of humanity, her wry comedy; the luminous accuracy of her descriptions . . . Hers is a fine-grained art, whose comedy could easily coarsen into the self-consciously quirky. If it does not, this is because her surprises are rooted in character: it is human nature that she evidently finds infinitely fascinating and surprising, with its constantly unforeseeable capacity for change . . . [A] novel by Anne Tyler is cause for celebration.”
—Caroline Moore, The Sunday Telegraph
“Tyler reveals, with unobtrusive mastery, the disconcerting patchwork of comedy and pathos that marks all our lives.”
—Michael Dirda, The Wall Street Journal
“Dazzling . . . A beautifully subtle book, an elegant contemplation of what it means to be happy.”
—Elizabeth Day, The Observer, UK
“Fired from his job, Liam Pennywell moves into a small apartment and wakes up the next morning in the hospital with head injuries he can’t explain. What turns out to have been an attack by a thief leads to unexpected grace, as Liam is forced to engage more deeply with his family and with a woman who finds him irresistible.”
—Helen W. Mallon, Philadelphia Inquirer
Top customer reviews
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An excerpt from p 108 describes Liam's feelings for the unconventional Eunice:
He experienced a kind of rush to his head. He had not felt this strongly in years. "Good Lord, you're the diametrical opposite of a failure! If only you knew how you seem from outside, so efficient and discreet!"
Liam learns much about himself through Eunice and a crossroads in the plot allows him to test his honor and make a decision about the rest of his life.
As a LONG-time reader of Anne Tyler's novels (I first read Breathing Lessons in 1990), I think this latest ranks among her best and most poignant. It does not move at a hectic pace, but it is full of tiny laugh-out-loud and smile moments, moments of pure satisfaction, and moments of utter wistfulness. Tragic concepts laced with dry, wordsmith-ish and trivial hilarity all make up this typically Tyler tale. And her gift for portraying human nature (and relationships) laconically but with pinpoint accuracy is just as evident in this story as in any other of her recent novels.
The only thing that disappointed me slightly was that the teen dialogue and references seemed a tiny bit dated (and cliché), and the four- to five-year old Jonah somehow seemed to speak and behave just a bit beyond his years. Or maybe I just don't know a little kid like Jonah.
Overall a very enjoyable and easy read.