Greg Zimmerman's Reviews > The Unnamed

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris
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's review
Mar 12, 2011

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Read in February, 2010

Joshua Ferris' The Unnamed isn't exactly a cheery book. It's practically a polar opposite from Ferris' first novel, a literary version of the movie Office Space titled Then We Came To The End — a National Book Award finalist that had readers rolling.

The Unnamed, however, will have no one rolling in the aisles. Essentially, the novel explores the limits of "in sickness and in health" in a marriage. Tim is a successful New York lawyer who has an unexplained, "unnamed" condition whereby his body forces him to stop whatever he's doing and just walk...walk until he gets tired, curls up and falls asleep. Then, he calls his wife Jane to come pick him up at the gas station or side-of-the-road rest stop or beauty salon (in one memorable case) where he's collapsed.

The condition goes in and out of remission, and the resulting hope-despair cycle wreaks absolute havoc on Tim and Jane's marriage. Jane turns to the bottle to cope and escape, proving she's just as vulnerable as he is. Their marriage is a perfect example of co-dependence — until conditions spin out of control. The book was solid, but certainly not great, and not as good as Then We Came To The End. Even so, it's clearly the product of an immensely talented writer with a brilliant imagination.

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