How honest, this novel. And how brutal, how cruel, how unforgiving. Tim Farnsworth lives in a beautiful house in the suburbs with his wife and child, works in a top law firm, and earns enough money to support a lavish lifestyle. But he suffers from episodes that forces himself to walk. He gets up, he walks, and he cannot stop, no matter how much he wills it. What Tim suffers from is an undiagnosed condition with no precedent, so there is no cure. It doesn’t even have a name. He walks in the midst of a storm or a painful summer and on bloodied feet. He walks in winter with only a bathrobe and suffers from frostbite and feels his toe fall off and sees it crumble in his own hand. He calls his wife whenever the walk ends, and she picks him up. They call each other “banana” and they believe they are devoted to each other. Every now and then, however, she sees a perfectly healthy man in the grocery store or in the houses she shows as a real estate agent, and imagines a life she can create if she can only walk away. Every now and then, Tim thinks of suicide.
The writing is beautiful and the novel has its fine moments, but before long, it becomes redundant. Tim walks and returns, there are descriptions of places where he ends up, the suffering piles on top of one another. There is the intriguing question about the mind and the body – is the mind superior, is the mind and the soul one, or is the mind simply the brain, and therefore part of the body, part of the mechanism that makes us move and enslaves us? But then he just keeps on walking. His wife is dying, and he just keeps on walking, and the philosophical questions die away as his feet die away. I came to this book still with Ferris’s wit and humor in Then We Came To The End echoing in my ears, which was a mistake, because then the first page became a bit of a letdown. I knew from the first line that this was going to be a different journey.
If Ferris didn’t write with such a ferocious voice I would have stopped reading. There was a point in the book when I could have stopped reading, because it was frustrating and I was sure it was going nowhere because there was no more hope. But like Tim, I couldn’t stop, and I kept on reading, and I saw that there was no plot, really, just this intense exploration of a man’s despair. I was reminded of Synecdoche, New York, a film with no joy, a film featuring a man who grows old and watches the people he love die away. That’s why it hurt so much to watch that film, and to read this book – because it’s true, all of it is true, no matter how dark and disappointing. And what did I hope for anyway? There’s this man who can’t stop walking, and doesn’t know why he can’t stop walking, and the doctors don’t know why he can’t stop walking, and there is no cure in sight, and his wife is dying, so why was I hoping that in the end, he will find happiness?
I just wished Ferris gave the man a break.
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The Mighty Reading List!
Next: We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg
The Year of Fog
The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint
Notes on Extinction
The Spooky Art
on the side: Twisted 8 1/2, Storm of Swords, Scott Pilgrim, PSF V (last few stories!)