Feature

Novel of the week: Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler

A blow on the head leaves Liam, a 60-year-old Baltimorean just pushed out of his job as a fifth-grade schoolteacher, with a gap in his memory that launches him on a gradual journey of self-discovery. 

(Knopf, $25.95)

We’ve met Anne Tyler’s latest protagonist before, said Kathryn Harrison in The New York Times. His name happens to be Liam, and he’s a 60-year-old Baltimorean just pushed out of his job as a fifth-grade schoolteacher. But like many of Tyler’s men, he’s “self-effacing to a fault” and “too confused and too impotent” to strike off in a new direction. Tyler can be counted on to give such characters a nudge, and she does, said Ron Charles in The Washington Post. In his first night in a downsized apartment, Liam is struck by an intruder, and the blow leaves a gap in his memory that launches him on a quiet, gradual journey toward the realization that “he’s not dead yet.” Even after he connects with a younger woman who develops a crush on him, though, Liam remains like Noah in the Bible, mostly just staying afloat. Tyler seems to be telling us that stasis is okay as long as it’s not a form of hiding. When Liam says, near the end, “I’ll be fine,” we believe him.

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