Tim Farnsworth is a successful lawyer with a seemingly happy life – an adoring wife, Jane, with whom he travels around the world, a teen daughter, Becka, and a lovely large house. But Tim hides a secret – he is sometimes afflicted with the compulsion to walk and stay walking until he passes out from exhaustion. During his previous episodes, he tried all manner of treatments, but no doctor knows what to do to help him. And now, it’s back.
Stylistically, the writing here matches the tone of the story – it flows so well yet is brutal and unsympathetic as it sweeps you along with its strong current. “This is real life,” it seems to say. “Real life is messy, it’s unfair, and it doesn’t wait around for you to pull yourself together.” If Ferris is hard on Tim – making him lose his career, his comforts, his fingers to frostbite, and eventually his mind – he’s just as hard on Jane and Becka, though he doesn’t give them near enough face time. Jane is portrayed as the kind of woman to stand by her man even when he doesn’t want her to, and frankly doesn’t deserve it. But she’s not a saint – she’s an alcoholic. Becka is grumpy and no amount of exercise or dieting can rid her of her considerable girth.
As if to really drive home his themes of hopelessness and pointlessness of life (I was reminded of Ecclesiastes 1:2-3), Ferris introduces a subplot concerning an innocent man accused of murder and lest the rest of world think it’s off the hook, bees seem to be dying in large swarms.
This is far from Ferris’ highly praised first novel THEN WE CAME TO AN END (which I reviewed here), so if nothing else, it shows he has range.
THE UNNAMED came out this month in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author’s website.