"Noah's Compass"

Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler

At sixty-one years old Liam Pennywell is forced into early retirement when the private school where he is a teacher downsizes. He's not all that disappointed at the loss of the job because, divorced with grown daughters, he has no one else to support but himself. His savings and pension will allow him time to think over whether he needs or even wants to look for another position.

He does some downsizing of his own, moving into a smaller apartment and discarding anything that won't fit into his newer, more spartan existence. The first night in his new bedroom he falls asleep satisfied with himself and the direction his life is taking.

The next morning he wakes up in the hospital, with absolutely no memory of what happened to him. He's told he fought off an intruder who gained entrance through an unlocked patio door but he can't remember anything at all. Recovering those memories becomes his focus, as much as he can be said to focus on anything.

 His ex-wife, his sister and his daughters come and go in his life with all the usual family tensions. Then he meets Eunice who actually works as a "hired remember" for someone else and who Liam thinks will be able to help him. What he gets is far more than he bargained for.

I'm having some difficulty deciding if I liked this book or not. It was interesting enough, but when I got to the end I found myself asking - so what? I've had that experience with the occasional movie but never before with a book. I'm not sure what it means, maybe just that I'm not in a place to get anything from it. Books and movies say different things to a person at different times in your life.

The reviews for this book were great. USA Today said "Gracefully written tragicomedy...seasoned with poetic images [and] gentle humor." The Observer (UK) said "...an elegant contemplation of what it meant to be happy..." I feel bad that I didn't get more from it, but there you have it. You might love the characters and the story; I was unmoved.


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