Noah’s Compass

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“Face it: I haven’t exactly covered myself with glory. I just don’t seem to have the hang of things somehow. It’s as if I’ve never been entirely present in my own life.”

If you are familiar with Anne Tyler’s wonderful books, you know they are peopled with eccentric characters who are somehow at odds with the world that most people know. She draws you into their sideways lives and makes you care about them. She uncovers their hurts and vulnerabilities, their missed opportunities and damaged relationships. But ultimately she demonstrates how love and joy and hope can emerge from the simplest and most ordinary circumstances.

Liam Pennywell is sixty-one years old and has just been “downsized” from his job as a teacher to fifth graders at a private boys’ school. He didn’t like his job very much anyway. It certainly wasn’t what he had set out to do with his life, so he sees this as an opportunity to turn a page; to begin a new chapter. He decides to simplify. He gets rid of most of his furniture, throws away his junk and leaves his old house in Baltimore to move to a new apartment building out in the county near the Beltway. The day of his move something happens that causes him to end up in the ER followed by several days in the hospital. He has no idea what happened to him, no memory of the experience, even after others tell him about it. His obsession to recover that memory leads him to new and interesting places; even to old memories that he didn’t know he had. As he looks back into his past at the failures and the disappointments in his life, he begins to see other things as well. It is a pleasure to take the journey with him as he rediscovers the joys of being connected to his past as well as to all the people and experiences that make up his present.

This book is typical Anne Tyler. I am always amazed at the feelings she can evoke through these quirky characters that inhabit her stories. At first glance they seem to be so different from people that I know, but before the book is finished I realize that she has painted a vivid picture of people and experiences and emotions that we all have had. Noah’s Compass is no exception and I think it is a real treat to read.

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