Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler

If you are lucky, sometime during your life, you will meet that one person you belong with -- to have and to hold from that day forward. If you are very lucky you get to be with that person for a long time. If you are extremely lucky, that person is the last you ever need to meet.

Anne Tyler is one of my favorite authors, and I haven’t read anything by her in quite a while. She revels in relationships made and broken, found at the oddest times, in the oddest places and sometimes solidified and lost in a couple of weeks.

Liam Pennywell is nearly 61. He has a job he loves and does well, but it was not what he prepared himself to do. He drives a used Geo, and he lives alone. His ex-wife is a librarian, and he has an acceptably good relationship with her because of their three daughters. One day he meets Eunice Dunstead, who faintly reminds me of Muriel in an earlier Tyler novel, The Accidental Tourist. Liam and Eunice bond almost immediately, and Liam even says, “You’re the woman I love, and life is too short to go through it without you” (230).

Alas, life is not so simple, and numerous complications crowd in on Liam and his solitary life -- strangers, family, a job -- and Liam reflects on his life in great detail. On Christmas day, Liam visits with his daughters and grandchild, but later, he opts for solitude. Tyler writes,

“It didn’t bother Liam that he would be spending Christmas Day on his own. He had a new book about Socrates that he was longing to get on with, and he’d picked up a rotisserie chicken from the Giant the day before (275) …

Before he settled in with his book, he put the chicken in the oven on low and he exchanged his sneakers for slippers. Then he switched on the lamp beside his favorite armchair. He sat down and opened the book and laid Jonah’s bookmark on the table next to him. He leaned back against the cushions with a contented sigh. All he lacked was a fireplace, he thought.

But that was all right. He didn’t need a fireplace.

Socrates said … What was it he had said? Something about the fewer his wants, the closer he was to the gods. And Liam really wanted nothing.” (276)

This novels has such a warm, sweet flow to it, I could barely put it down. It is a wonderful story, wonderfully told. I like Liam. I like Anne Tyler -- a whole great big whopping lot of like -- for both of them. Five stars

--Chiron, 5/5/10

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