Joshua Ferris is a gifted author. His ability to enrapture my attention for the entirety of the novel is mark enough of that talent, but to also have me think about life, love, and the existence of the soul while in the midst of a conversation about Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a glimpse into the realm of sincere artistry.
Did I like the book? “Yes,” is the short answer. The long answer is that this is one of those books that you read and can never “unread” in how you look at the subjects of mental illness, true despair, distribution of wealth, and philanthropy for humanity. Between the various guesses I made as to what sort of disorder would cause Tim Farnsworth to walk until his body gave out, to how he could simultaneously devalue and super-value his marriage and family to the point of forsaking his own life. This book was very deep and somehow managed to keep my attention for short spurts and long reading sessions. I have not read anything else by Joshua Ferris, but I think I will have to check out his other work, having read this one.
The story centers around Tim Farnsworth, who is a successful lawyer in New York, and his wife Jane and his college age daughter Becca. The story starts with Tim already in a long struggle to name and dominate a disorder that is unidentified. His disorder interrupts at random and causes Tim to walk with absolute intensity along an undetermined route. Jane eventually receives a call hours later and miles away from home to come and pick up Tim from random places. What follows is a story of a man who tries, fails, and tries again to bring order to the chaos and sense to the insanity of his life, the disorder, and reasons behind both.
Ferris sometimes ventured into the land of too many analogies as we are all prone to do, but his scenery work was what hooked me. I can see the mountain valley landscape and gas station parking lot as well as I could know what Tim’s house smelled like and how fast the car was driving. That ability to engage my mind’s eye is not found with every author, and I appreciated Ferris’ ability to enrapture my imagination.
This is a book that is recommended for 18+. I especially enjoyed it because it brings in the dynamic of marriage that you can only understand if you have been there. I do not recommend it to teenage readers for the heavy subject matter, a lot of loss and tragedy, but also because there are things that this family deals with that a teenager has not probably even thought about yet and may find utterly confusing. That being said, it was a wonderful ride and I look forward to perusing the rest of Joshua Ferris’s literary catalogue.
The opinions expressed in this review are those of the author. The author was provided with a complimentary review copy of the book.
Chris Weber is a school liaison. He and his wife make their home in Azle, TX.