Tim Farnsworth has an incredibly average, comfortable life in the suburbs. He is a successful lawyer with a beautiful wife, Jane, who still loves him. They have a daughter, Becka, who is a typical teenager but deep down loves her parents and has a decent relationship with them both. Unfortunately, Tim suffers from an unnamed illness that causes him to walk uncontrollably, for days at a time, until he passes out somewhere and Jane has to come pick him up, take him home, only to discover him gone, out walking, again the next morning. And on and on. And as Tim relapses several times, as he goes to various doctors, none of whom can figure out the cause of his walking, Tim and Jane’s marriage is tested beyond the bounds of their worst nightmares.
The story behind my reading of The Unnamed will tell you the power of book blogs. I would NEVER have picked this up if it weren’t for all the rave reviews I saw. The premise did not intrigue me, I’ll be honest. But when I saw Trish’s review (who gave it 100 out of 100, something she almost NEVER does) and then Rebecca’s review (who generally has taste similar to my own), I knew I had to read it. I saw it on audio at my library and couldn’t resist. I’m here to tell you that The Unnamed is really, really good. I don’t know if I would go so far as to say that it will be my favorite book of 2010, but it is really a fabulous book.
As has already been said about this book, it is more about the relationship between Tim and Jane than anything else. It is about the realities of a marriage built upon real, honest love, and about how far that love can really go when faced with a trial such as Tim’s disease. Jane quite literally will go to the ends of the earth for Tim, she will pick him up anywhere in the country he ends up walking to, not only because she loves him but also because she made a vow on their wedding day and that vow means something to her. She also has her moments of weakness, of course. She has times when she behaves very selfishly and isn’t there for him, physically or emotionally, when she is needed most. And although Tim loves her very much, he behaves selfishly in a lot of ways as well. Despite the overwhelming evidence that his disorder is psychological, Tim is beyond convinced that there is a physical cause for his walking. Despite the fact that late in the book anti-psychotic drugs help alleviate his symptoms, he never once considers the possibility that there could be a psychological reason for his walks. This failure to see what could be really going on causes both him and Jane years of pain and anguish. But it is clear that he really loves Jane, and would do anything physically possible to care for her, too, as the entire last third of the book illustrate painfully.
If you are looking for answers in The Unnamed, you will have to look elsewhere, as Ferris rarely provides them. What he provides instead is a quiet examination of a man’s struggles and a truly inspiring love story. The beauty of the love between Jane and Tim cannot be explained, it has to be experienced. I love that Ferris didn’t wrap it up in a tight little package at the end, he let things end in a realistic way, and allowed the reader to draw his/her own conclusions about the cause of Tim’s disorder. The last quarter of the book left me breathless and when I finished it I felt like I ran a marathon, it took such an emotional toll on me.
The Unnamed is a book that begs to be savored, to be read slowly, to be experienced. However, it is so darn good that I challenge you to read it slowly – you will want to fly through it just like I did. I highly recommend The Unnamed. It is also a book that begs to be discussed – with that said, what are your thoughts on this book?