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Book Name: Noah's Compass

Author: Anne Tyler

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Overall Rating: (4/5) View all reviews (total 53 reviews)

Starred Review. Like Tyler's previous protagonists, Liam Pennywell is a man of unexceptional talents, plain demeanor, modest means and curtailed ambition. At age 60, he's been fired from his teaching job at a second-rate private boys' school in Baltimore, a job below his academic training and original expectations. An unsentimental, noncontemplative survivor of two failed marriages and the emotionally detached father of three grown daughters, Liam is jolted into alarm after he's attacked in his apartment and loses all memory of the experience. His search to recover those lost hours leads him into an uneasy exploration of his disappointing life and into an unlikely new relationship with Eunice, a socially inept walking fashion disaster who is half his age. She is also spontaneous and enthusiastic, and Liam longs to cast off his inertia and embrace the joyous recklessness that he feels in her company. Tyler's gift is to make the reader empathize with this flawed but decent man, and to marvel at how this determinedly low-key, plainspoken novelist achieves miracles of insight and understanding.(Jan.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


In the mainstream of Tyler's work

by algo41 "algo41"

I am a big Tyler fan, "Digging to America" being the exception. This novel is in the mainstream of her work. I believe she could have found a more entertaining, and perhaps more concise introduction, i.e. the part of the story before the first conversation with Eunice. As in some other Tyler novels, the ending is not predictable, but satisfying. I particularly appreciated the sense in which Eunice did become Liam's "rememberer", by stimulating his own capacities. I think it realistic, and not uncommon, that in Xanthe's mind Liam terribly wronged her, while he thought he was acting in her best interest, and had no idea she thought otherwise (incidentally, I couldn't find any particular reason Tyler chose Xanthe as a name, other than it being Greek). I am not sure Tyler did as much with Liam's sister as she might have.

Look for these

by amania "bingereader"

One very minor thing I like about Anne Tyler's writing is the whimsical names she gives to places of business. In this one there is Lust for ____? for a home furnishing store? (can't find it again) She uses real names such as Giant(for a big food store in Baltimore) but made-up designations for smaller establishments. I especially remember "Rent a Back" in The Patchwork Planet.maybe because I wish I could find one of those here.

Pointless and redundant

by Anonymous

Ugh. That just about sums up how I feel about this book. I'm halfway through it and am still trying to connect with a character, plot, anything! Instead, I only feel a sense of dread in trying to continue reading this book. I'm very close to giving up on it.

Exploring the Heart of a Lonely, But Satisfied, Soul

by Antoinette Klein

Anne Tyler fans will cheer the creation of Liam Pennywell, a sixty-year-old school teacher forced into early retirement and at loose ends with himself. Although he has three daughters, two previous marriages, and one friend, he is emotionally disconnected from them and life in general. But Liam is not an unhappy person. Quite the opposite. He is rather content. He has neither sofa nor fireplace and doesn't feel the need for either. He has, as he himself tells us, an okay place to live, a book to read, and is solvent and healthy. And it is through him that Anne Tyler, in her seemingly simple but always complex way, delves into a wide range of human emotions and interactions.The reader follows Liam through his daily life: his relationship with Eunice, his babysitting hours with grandson Jonah, and a dinner with his friend Bundy. With wisdom and gentle humor, Tyler explores a man coming to terms with the last part of his life, finding his tiny bit of excitement and making moral judgments. Like the Biblical Noah, Liam needs no compass because he isn't going anywhere. He is merely trying to stay afloat. This is a wistful, poignant look at an ordinary life and will undoubtedly evoke some extraordinary emotions.

Not one of her best

by Aquinas "summa"

I have read most of Tyler's novels and have great affection for her work, the way she captures america family life and the eccentric characthers which she describes so beautifully. Having thoroughly enjoyed "Digging to America", which I read recently, I found this particular novel a bit of a let down. I think it was because the novel seemed kind of thin after "Digging to America", which had a lot of themes running through it - inculturation, adoption, cancer and death, love in late life and it had such a marvellous (albeit indecisive) ending.I finished this novel feeling not much really - I did not really feel for the characthers. I think the weakness of the novel lay in its over-exclusive focus on "Liam", who really was not all that interesting a characther. He was somewhat typical for a Tyler novel, a person really not inhabiting his own life. I found the love affair with Eunice hard to beleive - their commonality seemed to be oddness and the fact they were both "losers" (a word I do not particularly like). Her function in the novel was to be his "rememberer" and I liked that element.All in all, whilst I love reading Tyler, this was not one of her best and would recommend instead "Digging to America" or "Patchwork planet".

The fragile beauty of life

by A. T. A. Oliveira "A. T. A. Oliveira"

It seems something magic. Or something mysterious. But how does Anne Tyler do it? Book after book, character after character she manages to amaze us. She manages to build an absorbing narrative with interesting characters. Is there a trick? Probably not. The straight answer is: she is interested in human nature, and this is a subject that never fails to grab one's attention.But starting with a good subject is not enough. Of course she has abounding talent to turn an ordinary life into a relevant novel. Tyler finds the beauty behind the everyday and transforms it into a comment that triggers thinking and mirrors our lives. She is a writer we read for the pleasure of narrative. Don't look for an intricate plot in her novels (thank God!), or pictures to enhance the story (some writers seem to lack the narrative power so they need images to help them), or cool characters (in her stories they are not fancy art dealers, fancy drug dealers, fancy stars, fancy riders, fancy professor, or fancy anything - they are regular people). Read her for that old pleasure of being told a story.In her latest "Noah's compass", Tyler deals with memory and loss. Her main character was knocked unconscious and can't remember this event. A nice girl comes along and changes his days and perception of life. It is a story Tyler herself has told some times, but still she is capable of making us read page after page. The protagonist, Liam, and his interest, Eunice, do resemble Macon and Muriel, from "The Accidental Tourist" - but, then again, the writer brings something new to her reader. After all, decades have passed since that novel was published.After his incident, people check Liam's brain by asking him what the year it is - and they ask it a lot! "Half of the time I don't know what year it is anyhow [...] unless I take a minute to think. The years have started flying past so fast that I can't keep track. You'll see that for yourself, by and by", he tells his youngest daughter, Kitty. This tone of melancholic, regret and, at the same time, oblivion is what guides the protagonist throughout the narrative. He is not an unsympathetic character, but, he is, neither, a person you love at first sight."We live such tangled, fraught lives, he thought, but in the end we die all like other animals and we are buried in the ground and after a few more years we might as well not have existed". This gives the idea that "Noah's Compass" is a sad story, and it wouldn't be wrong. But it is a novel that celebrates life in full, but, in order to do so, it must remind the reader that life is as fragile as beautiful.

Another Tyler Triumph

by A. T. Sharpe "Sharpie"

I love Anne Tyler. She is my favorite writer, hands down. She does her magic again with Liam Pennywell. He is another quirky, lost soul who never quite got his life together. I really liked this book; the story captured me and I couldn't wait to find out how things turn out for Liam. Ms. Tyler really has a way of making you care about and relate to her characters.If this is your first Anne Tyler book, please be sure to go back and read The Accidental Tourist. It's my all time Tyler favorite!


by Avid Mystery Reader

I live in Baltimore so Anne Tyler's novels resonnant with me; however, this one just left me asking "what was the point?" I love the quirky characters that are in her novels and this one was no different but the story just did not take me anywhere. I kept waiting for something important to happen beyond Liam waking up in the hospital with part of his memory gone. I was waiting for that "aha" moment somewhere in the novel, but it just never came. The love relationship with Eunice within the story was also a disappointment, it went nowhere either. In fact it has somewhat of a pathetic quality (and maybe that was the point of it).Her novel Breathing Lessons was so good ( it won a Pulitzer Prize) and although I know one can't write a novel like that every single time, I did expect more. I actually think I was more disappointed because I had this on my "wish list" for quite a while and finally decided that I really just wanted to read it and had waited long enough. I know that Ms. Tyler writes about many of the "everyday events" in her character's lives but this was just too mundane. Although I felt somewhat sorry for the main character, the character was one in which events and circumstances just did not seem to go well with him, the writing was that way too. Maybe there is a lesson in that observation as well but then again, maybe not.


by Bearette24

This was a bittersweet book about a 60-year-old man, Liam, who has just lost his job at a private school and moved into a smaller apartment. He wakes up in a hospital bed only to learn that an assailant knocked him out the night before; he has no memory of the event. He visits a neurologist and meets a "rememberer," hired by another older man. He becomes entangled with the rememberer, Eunice, with unexpected consequences. I thought this book was powerful and compelling, with memorable and real characters. I would have ended it more positively, but I can't quarrel with it as a work of art.

Not her best

by betc2

3 1/2*. I've been a fan of Ann Tyler for years, but she has done better. Still, this is an amusing and highly readable book. I kept waiting for Noah to show up, and it looks like he was missed by others as well. I liked the ending, as it brought Liam's character full circle from where he started. Even at 60, he could change and grow. The Amazon review sums it up very well. I can't add anything or improve it.

loved this book

by book lover

I don't understand the negative reviews. I loved this book, was drawn in from the start and eager to keep reading all the way to the end. Tyler has so many wonderful insights in to character and a modulated, almost deadpan way of putting them into the character's words, it's a joy to read her. It's not a "nailbiter" kind of book, but I was so involved in the characters that it moved swiftly for me.

Anne Tyler's subtle comedic talents are in full force here

by Bookreporter

At age 60, after being abruptly laid off from his job as a teacher, Liam Pennywell moves into a smaller apartment and decides to settle in to the final chapter of his life. As he snuggles into his bed on the night of his move, he reflects on the sameness of his upcoming routine days...and is content at the thought of those unchanging times. When he awakens, however, he is in a hospital bed. His head and hand are bandaged, and both ache. No matter how hard he tries, all he can remember is getting into bed in his new apartment and preparing to drift off to sleep.Liam's oldest daughter, Xanthe, informs him that he was injured while fighting off an intruder. Xanthe is militant and outspoken, claiming Liam brought it all on himself by allowing Damien, his daughter Kitty's boyfriend, to help him move in. She insists that Damien is a drug addict who was casing Liam's new home during the move and then returned at night to mug him. Liam does not believe Xanthe's accusations. He does know, however, that he urgently needs to retrieve his memory of what happened to him that night even if the remembrance is unpleasant.The fact that he cannot remember the encounter with his assailant nibbles away at him. He doesn't even know how he acted during such a significant event, although his hand injury seems to indicate that he struggled with the intruder. Even though Liam is generally an easy-going believer in letting the past go, he cannot stop dwelling on his missing memories.Liam's ruminations on his attack lead him to re-evaluate his life. For example: How, after being married twice and having three daughters, has he ended up essentially alone? Why was he so passive when he was laid off from his job instead of fighting to remain employed? All at once, he feels like he has lost confidence in himself. And he continues to obsess over not remembering his assault.Since he has a very tenuous connection with a neurosurgeon having once tutored his son, Liam manages to wheedle his way in to see the doctor. In the waiting room, he encounters an elderly wealthy man named Ishmael Cope. Cope is accompanied by a woman he has hired to be his memory; the assistant murmurs names and other hints into Cope's ear as he needs them. Liam is fascinated by the hired memory and becomes fixated on the "rememberer," believing that somehow he can learn something life-changing from Cope's assistant.As Liam's physical injuries heal, his boredom and loneliness prey on him. He feels as if he is just waiting to die. The dullness of his life, compounded with his obsession over Cope's memory assistant, leads him to take a risk that is out of character for Liam --- one that will change how he feels about his life forever.Liam is an endearing character whose messiness, disorganization and lack of focus make him a uniquely heart-tugging everyman. Anne Tyler's subtle comedic talents are in full force here, complete with hilarious details and conversations, as are her understated observations on the abilities of humans to transform their lives. Reading NOAH'S COMPASS is the very definition of pure pleasure. The only problem: Should a reader gulp down the entire story in one giddy night, or parcel it out in lovely delicate nibbles? Highest recommendation.--- Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon

Northeast gothic

by Cynthia "Andante Cantabile"

Liam lives a quiet life. He's been a teacher for most of his life at private schools though he's been heading down the status scale from his first teaching job to his second. His first wife commits suicide when their daughter is a toddler. He never quite understands why she died; she just seemed to fade away. His second wife is a practical, no nonsense kind of woman who seems to be exactly what he and his daughter need. She gives him two more daughters and for awhile they hobble along together. Ever since he lost his burning passion along with his first love Liam's kind of been just surviving, keeping his dreams and hopes in to a minimum. He's skilled at fading into the background and swaying with life's currents so that when he's laid off at the age of 60 he doesn't protest but quietly downsizes to a smaller, cheaper apartment but then, his first night there, he's attacked by an unknown assailant and wakes up in the hospital with no memory of the attack though he has a bad bash on the head and an equally ugly defensive wound to his right palm.He's used to dealing with his loneliness but dreads being alone and hurt especially without the structure his job gave to his life. Change is coming though. One by one his ex-wife and three daughters reluctantly rally around him, Kitty, his youngest at 17, even moves in with him that summer. Even more surprisingly Liam meets a woman and falls in love with her. Life has a way of being messy and his was no exception. Along the way he comes to some conclusions and new insights into himself, his loved ones and life in general.Tyler always comes up with quirky characters but she's skilled enough not to make the caricatures. They almost have a southern feel to them though usually her settings are in the US Northeast as is this one. I've followed Tyler's career for several decades and always enjoy her.

I Love Anne Tyler!

by Della

If she called up right now and asked to come stay in my guest room, I would not hesitate to say a resounding, "Yes!"I wouldn't feel I had to clean, cook, buy new sheets or rearrange my schedule. Instead, I would relax, knowing that she would see all my flaws as lovable quirks and all my bad tempered moments as evidence of my humanity. She should be required reading for all of us so that we could see one another with greater understanding and tolerance.Self-improvement aside, her books are just plain fun to read. Here's a pre-school group at nap time: "They conked out at once, exhausted from the passions of the morning." That's the sort of Tylerism that quickly becomes a household phrase in our family.

Why it's called NOAH'S COMPASS--and why it doesn't matter

by Derek Jager

A few odd things about this book.First of all, the main character, Liam, is only 61 years old, but he acts like he is 80 and seem so out of touch with "life" that he's probably one of the weakest characters Tyler's ever created. There's really "nothing there" -- he has no emotion, no sense of self and so we care little about him.He has 3 daughters, one of which is an angry religious fundamentalist. And for no reason, other then the one scene where her son has a coloring book.The title refers to a scene with Liam and his grandson who is coloring a Bible coloring book of Noah's ark. "Noah's compass" is an observation the main character gives when the grandson asks how Noah directed the ark. There was no sail, etc--Noah's "compass" were the waves that moved the ark around. Like Liam, he is an ark that it tossed about by the waves of life.In addition to the daughters, he has an ex-wife (he is also a widow) and each of the characters literally come and go into his life/this story. And for no reason whatsoever.The premise of the book--which is dropped for some reason--is that Liam goes to sleep in bed and wakes up in a hospital. At some point, a burgler broke into his home and Laim was beaten unconscious. And he can't remember what happened.And no one seems to really care about his loss of memory--also, it symbolizes his loss of a memorable life. But about half way through, this whole theme is dropped--like it never happens.Liam begins a half-hearted, painfully dull romance with a woman that goes no where. His daughters and ex-wife reappear. One friend comes to dinner.Things fall apart with some of these relationships. He visits his father and stepmother.And then the book is over. It's just painfully void of a "point" because Liam never changes--never grows--and a novel is about conflict and growth and it simply doesn't happen here.Tyler's last book, the dreadful DIGGING TO AMERICA, started out with some real "energy" in the writing and characters, but lost steam early on and I ended up skimming the last 200 pages.NOAH is an "easy" read but it's pointless. Not sure why she wrote this since characters are her strength.Like the title, this book simply bobs along, going nowhere, until it ends.

Tyler "cracks the sky"

by Donald E. Gilliland

This book will appeal to those readers who have enjoyed Anne Tyler's previous novels, nearly all of them delightful treasures, but I don't think this is the best one with which to start your Anne Tyler journey. I thought the ending to this one sort of fizzled out, but besides that slight regret, I liked this one a lot. It's full of the usual quirky characters and awkward situations that endear readers to Tyler's books. In one of the early chapters of this book, Liam a man in his 60s, is in the hospital, recuperating from a concussion. When his ex-wife drops by to visit, it prompts Liam to recall the days when they were a young couple. Although his wife had a "stodgy school-librarian job," Liam remembers that she had a fondness for rock music and "used to dance like a woman possessed, pumping the air with her soft white fists and sending her bobby pins flying in every direction.""Do you still like Crack the Sky?" Liam asked her."What?" she said. "Oh, mercy, I haven't listened to Crack the Sky in ages! I'm sixty-two years old. Put your clothes on, will you?"Now hold that thought. Why do people comments like that? As if getting older, or "growing up," somehow disqualifies a person from listening to music, especially the music of their youth. Why should getting older stop you from listening to music of any kind? Many people still watch football and baseball games when they are "senior citizens", and that's not considered odd, so what's the big deal about continuing to be a fan of rock music as you age? That's an absurd notion!That diatribe aside, I got a kick out of seeing Crack the Sky mentioned in Anne Tyler's novel. It makes me wonder if Anne Tyler herself was/is a Crack the Sky fan herself. Crack the Sky was immensely popular in the Baltimore area, which is where most of Tyler's novels are set, so it wouldn't be a complete shock if that was the case. Okay, I've gone on about Crack the Sky far too much, and it only merits a single sentence in this novel, but that's just another one of those wonderfully quirky aspects to Tyler's novels that I can't resist. She is a fantastic novelist.

Second Chances

by Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!"

"They meet with darkness in the daytime,And grope at noontime as in the night." -- Job 5:14For such a gentle book, it certainly includes some unexpectedly powerful plot pushes. The metaphor of a pond's surface on a quiet days occurs to me as I contemplate the life that Liam Pennywell has led in the years just before the events of this book begin. Anne Tyler does a nice job of showing that there can be lost depths even in apparent tranquility.Pennywell seems to be headed for a quiet fade into solitary retirement when an unexpected job loss causes him to move in an attempt to cut living costs. With that move comes the kind of life-shaking change that causes the world to look a lot different. He asks a new question: What have I been missing? The answer turns out to be quite a lot. In the course of exploring those blank pages, he ultimately must address the question of what's right and what's wrong.With a life that's now like a stone dropped into his old pond, powerful ripples stretch out around him that provide new, more satisfying connections and trajectories.In the end, readers are left with a sense that life's not over until it's over . . . and to look around for what they have been missing.The story works well, the characters are interesting, but ultimately not much happens. Many readers will find the character development to be too little and not compelling enough to make the book stirring.It's a pleasant read that would work well for a book club that likes to discuss the choices that the leading characters make in straightforward novels.

Another enjoyable book by Anne Tyler

by Fuzzy Lizard

"Noah's Compass" is pretty much like Anne Tyler's previous books. An easy to read story with lovable, flawed, offbeat characters.Even though Anne Tyler uses the same formula for most of her books, she keeps it fresh.If you are an Anne Tyler fan like I am, you will enjoy this book. If you've never read anything by Anne Tyler, read this and you may just become a fan.


by Gail Cooke

Following a Pulitzer Prize for BREATHING LESSONS and accolades from every newspaper, journal, and reviewer imaginable for other works what further praise could be heaped upon the unparalleled Anne Tyler? She has captured readers once again with a story of ordinary people, their hopes, joys, regrets, and fears. Ordinary people, yes, but intriguing to us because Tyler presents them with such discernment, kindness, wisdom and humor.At 61 years of age Liam Pennywell lost his job. For him it wasn't much of a job anyway; he had a degree in philosophy. But, he had been teaching fifth grade in a second tier boy's school, and Noah accepted his unexpected unemployment stoically thinking, "This might be a sign. It could just be the nudge he needed to push him on to the next stage - the final stage, ....... The stage where he sat in his rocking chair and reflected upon what it all meant, in the end."That was exactly what he intended to do but first he had to move into less expensive living quarters - a modest condominium on the rim of Baltimore. Unfortunately, that rocking chair would have to wait because on his first night in his new home someone broke in, assaulted him, and the next thing Noah knew he awoke in a hospital bed unable to remember what had happened and why he was there.The lost few hours soon mean everything to him,; he becomes obsessed with remembering that time period. To him, "The distressing thing about losing a memory was that it felt like losing control." And, Noah does want things to be in control whether it is being bothered by mismatched dining chairs in a coffee shop or his grandson, Jonah, ignoring the lines in a coloring book.Noah is a rather isolated individual with few friends, a sister of whom he's not particularly fond, twice married (once widowed and once divorced), and the father of three daughters he doesn't see very often. Nonetheless, when he is released from the hospital all rally about to help (or hinder) in various ways. In addition, he meets Eunice, a 38-year-old plump, rather frumpy woman given to wearing "balloony" trousers and heavy sandals. She serves as what might be called a "rememberer" for a very wealthy man who is suffering from dimentia. Noah believes that perhaps Eunice is precisely what he needs.As Noah continues to pursue his quest for those lost hours we learn more about his earlier life, and see his daughters in greater depth. Tyler is a genius with spare prose and attention to telling detail whether it be a torn belt loop or long, flexible fingers "ending in nailbitten nubbins - lemur fingers." Every detail paints a broader picture of the character described. NOAH'S COMPASS is a rare beauty of a book - enjoy!- Gail Cooke

terrific character study

by Harriet Klausner

In Baltimore Liam Pennywell thought he would be the great twentieth and twenty-first century philosopher rather than a fifth grade school teacher at St. Dyfrig. However, to be an accomplished muse takes ambition and hard work; two traits that Liam lacks as his two former wives and his three estrange daughters would testify. He is taken aback when the second-rate private school retires him though he just turned sixty one.He comes home bewildered only to wake up the next day in a hospital with no recall of the assault in his apartment. Liam needs to know what happened during the lost hours so he begins a quest. He meets thirtyish Eunice, whose élan for life is opposite of his dark world view. Somehow she encourages him to be all he can be; although he insists that is not much he vows to try to shake off his lethargy with reckless abandonment.This is a terrific character study that avoids clichés so the audience roots for Liam to regain what he once had and lost after years of what he perceived were kidney shots from those who he loved. The story line is leisurely and meandering with no great nirvana as Liam tries with Eunice encouraging him. Anne Tyler is at her best with this super tale of a man kicked to the curb and the young woman who insists That's Life (Sinatra) as "Some people get their kicks stompin' on your dreams" while others will encourage you to "get back in the race".Harriet Klausner

Liam In Love

by H. F. Corbin "Foster Corbin"

Liam Pennywell, at 60, has just lost his job as a fifth-grade teacher in a "second-rate" private boys' school. A philosophy major-- surely the second most useless degree on earth after English-- his career has spiralled downward from college philosophy instructor to history teacher, then fifth-grade teacher. In his love-life, he goes from his first wife, a "water maiden," to a woman no one would notice in a crowd to someone whose own parents see her as a loser. That first wife, the mother of his oldest child Xanthe, committed suicide 32 years ago. "If she were to see him now, she would think, who is that old man?" He and his second wife Barbara, two years his senior, are the parents of two daughters, Louise, a Christian fundamentalist who attends Book of Life Tabernacle, and seventeen-year-old Kitty, who was their child born late in their lives to save their marriage but did not.Now Liam is downsizing, moving to a smaller apartment. "What reason would he have to move again? No new prospects were likely for him. He had gotten married, had children--and now he was winding down." Just like the Old Testament character Noah, he needs no compass because he isn't going anywhere. His life sounds all too familiar. And like the characters in the novel A WALK IN THE SPRING RAIN and the movie by the same title, nothing new would ever happen to him again. Then he is confronted with the possibility of a new love.Tyler does here what no living American writer I can think of does any better with the possible exception of Reynolds Price, she creates the most ordinary but complex character and convinces you to completely care about him. NOAH'S COMPASS is in the solid tradition of this writer's previous novels. Someone often has a slightly off center occupation as in THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST and A PATCHWORK PLANET. In this instance it's a "hired rememberer." Tyler's other earmarks are here: the novel is set in Baltimore, there are no villains, no tsunamis, and the conflict is domestic. As the writer has aged, so has her protagonist, however.Ms. Taylor asks a hard question: do we have the right to harm others in order to have what Liam's father calls "our share of happiness"? The novel is about love late in life and family relationships and ultimately acceptance of the life you have lived. "And Liam really wanted nothing. He had an okay place to live, a good enough job, a book to read, a chicken in the oven. He was solvent, if not rich, and healthy."Finally there is Ms. Taylor's disarmingly transparent language that is always so effective. Liam's two page description of his new love (portions of it repeated here) are apt examples and remind us of the joy of first being in love: "He found her fascinating and funny and complex. She was a perpetual astonishment. He studied her like a language.For instance: She was chronically late everywhere, but she fanatasized that she could outwit herself by keeping her watch set ten minutes ahead.She acted completely besotted whenever she met a small dog.Direct sunlight made her sneeze.Among her most deep-seated fears were spiders, West Nile disease and choral recitals. (She suffered from the morbid conviction that she might suddenly jump up and start singing along with the soloist.)"NOAH's COMPASS is a welcome addition to Ms. Tyler's other fine novels.

Another good one by Anne Tyler

by Holly "Book addict"

If you are looking for a massive tome, you need to look elsewhere. If you are looking for a huge book with life lessons written all over it, you need to look elsewhere. If you are looking for a well-written book that examines a life in a value-neutral way - you can stop here.Anne Tyler doesn't write books that smack you over the head. She writes subtle novels that gently unfold in a way that you don't realize how good they are until you look back upon then. As with her other novels, this one examines the life of a person in transition and looks back at the events/decisions leading to their current situation. Liam Pennywell is 60 years old and has been let go from his fifth grade teaching position at a private school. There are only enough students to support one classroom so when the two rooms are consolidated, Liam is the one to go. The teaching position he held was not what he had hoped for when getting his degree in philosophy but that is where circumstances had landed him. Due to the downsizing at his job, he also downsizes his living arrangements - moves to a small, one-bedroom apartment and jettisons many of his material goods, including his couch (who is going to sit with him anyway?). There were parts of this novel that reminded me of "Ladder of Years" by this same author as she deals with folks evaluating their lives and casting off the old. A younger woman comes into his life who adds some spice to his otherwise dreary days and his ex-wife and three daughters play prominent roles in helping the reader discover just who Liam truly is. One of my favorite things about Anne Tyler's writing is she describes rather than judges. The characters are drawn in such a way that we care about them, see their strengths and weaknesses and are allowed to draw our own conclusions of how we feel about them. She never dictates our response to their stories - love that!While not the very best Anne Tyler book I have ever read, it was still very good and her mastery of the language and phrasing makes it well worth reading. It is 277 pages, but the type is fairly large and the margins large as well. I am not a fast reader, but I started the novel in the morning and finished that same evening.One of the best contemporary authors out there and she delivers again !



A story of Liam Pennywell who is 60ish and has been downsized from his teaching job at a private school. He is on his own and moves to a new apartment (downsizing his life, too). He is attacked in his bed the first night there and ends up in the hospital. He goes on a quest to regain the memory of the events of that night. Along the way he meets Eunice. His children (3 girls) pop in and out of his life. Never did understand the title.

Simplify, simplify

by J. Ang

Anne Tyler has written many gems in her prolific career, but this is not one of her best novels. It's hard to pin down at first blush why this should be so. All the ingredients of her winning formula are still very much intact.For instance, Tyler still wields her strength in creating memorable characters who are ordinary yet quirky and precariously poised on the fringe of society, trying to balance the opposing desire for freedom and intimacy. That is very much apparent in her protagonist Liam, a sixty year-old newly-axed teacher, who discovers that he has merely been a spectator in his own life.Tyler's treatment of Liam, who sure isn't perfect in his failed marriages and distant relationship with his three daughters, is nonetheless sympathetic (as she has consistently been with all her protagonists).There are also various turning points and surprise moments in the story, but somehow, the plot and characters that appear are becoming all too familiar. For instance, Liam's motto to 'simplify, simplify' was also the theme (in almost exact phrasing) of an earlier novel, 'Earthly Possessions'. Liam's love interest, Eunice, resembles another key "school-marmish" character in 'Patchwork Planet' a tad too closely for me. After a while, I felt like I was watching a police line-up of characters from her previous novels.That said, this review should not put off new readers of Tyler, as she still paints quite an accurate and moving picture of family and humanity.

Pretty thin stuff (3.5*s)

by J. Grattan

With Anne Tyler, the reader knows beforehand that he or she will get a close look at families, usually large and multi-generational. They've generally withstood the tests of time managing to stay connected in some manner, but it is the quirkiness, the awkwardness, the stumbling, the misunderstandings, and the naiveté that the author subtly exposes about her characters and their interactions that make her novels so interesting. The subject matter is invariably simply the stuff of everyday life - no catastrophes to distort her view that normalcy itself has some rough spots.This time around, sixty-year-old Liam Pennywell has been downsized from his job as a fifth grade teacher at a private academy. Divorced, with three daughters - two grown, one a senior in high school, he takes the economical move of moving into a small apartment with no idea of what he is going to do. But the story soon receives a jolt when Liam wakes up in a hospital hooked to any number of machines with a large bandage around his head. Apparently he has been mugged that first night in the apartment; most disturbing to him is that he remembers absolutely nothing about it.Given his usual passivity, the reader is surprised when Liam decides to contact a neurologist, whose son he tutored over twenty years prior, concerning his lack of memory of his incident. In the process of being quickly dismissed, he learns that an elderly gentleman in the waiting room is being accompanied by a "rememberer." That notion so intrigues Liam that he launches into an investigation of the concept including tracking down the parties. But that atypical bit of initiative is not indicative of a significant change in his placid nature.The book essentially consists of Liam recovering from his mugging episode, his daughters and ex-wife both hovering over and admonishing him, and also without hesitation imposing on his free time for odd jobs, such as babysitting a grandson interested in a religious themed coloring book. More salient, it is Liam's sudden, strange attraction to a rather homely, persistent woman who he meets in the course of his investigation that must be resolved.Unfortunately, this book is rather thin stuff. It's hard to get too excited over a rather unremarkable character who is pretty disconnected from modernity and has little clue about where he is headed. Given that he was a philosophy major, Liam is not particularly reflective so he tells us little. Tyler fans will undoubtedly enjoy her sharp ear for the oddities of communications and her subtle observations of places and people.

Definitely NOT Tyler's best

by J. L. Rubenking

Liam Pennywell, recently let go from his teaching position at the age of 60, moves into a new apartment to contemplate 'retirement' (he is, after all, a PhD in Philosophy) but wakes up the very next day in the hospital, the victim of an assailant he can't remember. Liam has no memory of any awakening, any struggle, although he has a nasty head wound and a deep bite mark on his hand. As the parade of family listlessly wanders in - ex-wife Barbara and his daughters - we see that Liam is not connected to anyone deeply. The youngest daughter, Kitty, moves in to 'care' for Liam, but moreso because she likes the freedom with dad over the strict rules of mom and she can see her layabout boyfriend Damian (whom the eldest daughter suspects in the attack) more often.When Liam consults a neurologist about his incident memory loss - no one seems very concerned about it except Liam - he encounters a rich old man with a 'memory guide'; a woman who works for him in the capacity of always note taking and reminding him of where he is, who he's met, and so on. When Liam devises a way to meet the young woman, thinking he might need someone like her in his life, he gets more than he bargained for. Eunice, the younger (38) woman, seems to immediately latch on to Liam, at first just to help him put together a resume, but then gradually Liam realizes she is a date-able woman who is interested in him. They do begin to see each other, and a sort-of romance develops.The problem with this book is basic and runs throughout. Liam is BORING. His memories are dull and reveal him to be hopelessly detached from the world. He's like a dull washed out watercolor. Eunice barely sparks life into him. When the "big" secret about his newfound love is discovered, Liam can barely summon energy to deal with it. Why should the reader care? The rest of the characters are half-drawn, not very pleasant people. Like Liam. Cannot recommend this Tyler snoozefest.

i feel like a fly on the wall with her books

by John-78

In Anne Tyler's latest fly on the wall gem we meet 60 year old divorcee Liam Pennywell. He has 3 daughters from two marriages, and he's just been let go from his schoolteacher job. The story starts with him moving into a smaller apartment to make ends meet. The very first night he gets mugged by a burglar and wakes up in the hospital for a short stay. This allows lots of interaction to happen with family members and an ex-wife as they monitor his recovery.Tyler's stories are always about family relations, but I thought the highlight of this novel was a new romance between Liam and a 38 year old woman he meets named Eunice. I love the way Anne Tyler writes romance into her stories, it's very provacative and classy. I really enjoyed this book as a whole, and recommend it to anyone who likes books about real normal people, living real normal lives. I can't wait for the next family in Baltimore to appear. 5 stars.

Maybe not Tyler's best, but still satisfying

by Julia Flyte

I should warn you at the outset that not a lot happens in this book. It's not a dramatic, plot driven story, but rather a gentle and almost meditative dissection of family relationships and everyday life. Liam is a 60 year old teacher who is forced into early retirement. To economize, he sheds many of his possessions and downsizes to a smaller apartment. The first night he's there, someone breaks in and assaults him. He suffers a head injury which causes some temporary memory loss, which he finds highly concerning. Despite his efforts at retreating from life, his ex-wife, three daughters and grandson frequently drop by and he gradually gets more involved in their lives. He also strikes up an unlikely relationship with Eunice, a woman some 20 years his junior.I love the way that Anne Tyler writes, the sense of silence and stillness that comes through and gets you seeing even the smallest things in new ways. The characters in her books are not always likable (and often have very silly names, although that wasn't such an issue this time around), but they are always real people. While I didn't like this novel as much as some of her others, I still found it very enjoyable. The ending did surprise me in that I expected more resolution, but in many ways it was perfect. The title of the book references a conversation with his grandson about Noah's ark, when Liam explains that Noah didn't need a compass (or other navigational equipment), because he wasn't trying to get anywhere, merely trying to stay afloat. Liam's obsession with memory becomes a reminder about the need to pay closer attention to the life that he still has to live.If you liked this book, I also recommendBrooklyn: A Novelby Colm Toibin.

41/2 stars, actually, another great work by Tyler

by Kiki

I love Anne Tyler, and Liam Pennywell is a protagonaist in the style of Macon Leary and Barnaby Gaitlin. Liam is an ever so steady, almost dull philosopher who has been teaching lieu of a "real" job in philosophy(?). Finances at the second rate private boys school where he teaches result in his lay off, and at his age, 62, Liam decides to go ahead and retire. He immediately downsizes to a smaller apartment on the other side of town. And he wakes up in a hospital the very next day with no recollection of why.Liam was attacked in the night and suffers a trauma to the head, causing him to lose his memory. Liam is very disturbed at this turn of events. How can you not remember something? though assured by the doctors and his ex-wife and daughters, he decides to pursue his own brand of help and goes to the father of a former student he tutored, a neurologist, who basically assures him all is well and that his problem is normal. But while waiting at the dr.'s office he sees a younger woman helping and older man "remember." And Liam decides that's what he needs , his own personal "rememberer"--enter Eunice.There are many charming moments in this novel. Liam's oldest daughter, Xanthe, tries a quote out on Liam while he is in the hospital, which he quickly corrects; "'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned top repeat it.' And it's George Santyana." Not Harry Truman, dear Xanthe--one of my personal favorite quotes and I loved Tyler's little play on it in this novel. Later, when Liam visits his father and stepmother (the woman whom his father left his mother for) she tries out her own version of this quote; "'You know what they say, she told him. 'Those who forget the past tend to regret the future.'" This completely stymies Liam, but it is the essence of the novel, the nugget of truth that Tyler is trying to convey with her story about nothing much. But Liam does seem to learn from his past, the important past that he can remember and now understand.Someone else in some of these reviews said Tyler is an author who writes about nothing much, and that is what I love about Tyler. She is like an Austen or Dickens--simple people living their quirky and oddly familiar lives. Don't we all know Liams and Xanthes and Barbaras and Eunice(or would that be Euni--hee hee)--people making mistakes and and trying to move forward through the time we are given here on earth and learning to deal with the hand of cards that Life/God whatever the larger power may be called, has dealt us. Tyler just so beautifully crafts the people doing it and the many moments make a beautiful story.

The Comfort Zone

by K. L. Cotugno

I've been reading Anne Tyler for about 30 years, and while her books go down easy, I find them to be rather tepid and the storylines over familiar. Yet I keep returning. And will continue to do so. As in her previous works, her protagonist is at a crossroads, but Liam's experience seems more an extended short story or incomplete character study. Tyler's books usually feature male central characters who are shaken from their existential lethargy by women unlike those they're used to, but these catalysts usually have something of the kook about them, something a bit off center, and it's a story she's told before. She does what she does very well, but the reader should know that it will be a comfortable experience if not particularly exciting, relevant, or illuminating.


by Laurel-Rain Snow "Rain" "Rainy Days"

Liam Pennywell is one of those quirky characters that compel us to root for him. Nothing in his life seems to be very special, and then when he loses a job he's held for many years, he doesn't even fight it. It's like he expects life to dish out nothing but disappointment.He moves into a downsized space, to accommodate his shrinking resources, but on the first night in the new home, something happens that turns his life upside down.Has he lost his direction now, as well as his job? Obsessing over the events only seems to isolate him further.But then he meets a strange young woman who intrigues him, and before he knows it, this unexpected detour changes everything for him.I love Anne Tyler's characters, and this one was so intriguing that I started and finished this book within the day. I think I enjoyed Liam as much as the characters inThe Accidental Tourist: A Novel (Ballantine Reader's Circle). They are flawed, unique, and sometimes frustrating individuals who totally capture our hearts.I am definitely givingNoah's Compassfive stars!

If only Chekov had greater influence

by Marcus Aurelius

Before you all start hating me for simply expressing my opinion (and that's all it is, my opinion), there were some stellar aspects of the novel: an interesting opening and a brilliant ending. The bulk of the book just read like a baffled writer's notes in dialog form. So many people come in and out of doors, I started to feel like I was trapped in a TV sitcom. Maybe it's because I just finished reading a great story by Jhumpa Lahiri, but I just wished that Tyler had the courage to conceive a great short story rather than a mediocre novel. All the basics are here; she just needs the will to do it.

Going Nowhere, Going Somewhere

by Mark Stevens

The title "Noah's Compass" almost gives it away. Noah (the one with the ark) wasn't going anywhere--at least in terms of a destination. And the main character in this book, Liam Pennywell, doesn't travel far, doesn't really even have much "oomph" in his life. He is a self-described "puddle of a man." If you want to spend time with an energetic main character, read another book.Pennywell, who spends the first chunk of the book working to recall any details from being attacked and beaten in his own home, realizes later that he has had amnesia "all along." He is a man who is looking for reasons to go on living and, therefore, not the life of the party. He embraces solitude. He has a "fondness for routine." He is settling into his new apartment and wondering if this will be his last stop--ever. Oddly, he feels a "mild stirring of curiosity."He wakes in the hospital, clueless about he got there, and realizes he doesn't know how he had acted during whatever event landed him under a doctor's care. "He couldn't say how he'd comported himself," he thinks. "He didn't know if he'd been calm, or terrified, or angry."The rest of the book is a re-awakening for Liam--and a decision whether to embrace something more than his core stoic self. There are ex-wives, daughters and a new relationship to contemplate.Every scene and every stretch of dialogue holds gritty, palpable tension. They ring true. They are deeply human. Scenes that might be rushed in other books are allowed to linger here, allowed to breathe. In these moments of Tyler Truth, no matter how untypical or awkward the scenes may be, is the stuff that keeps you turning the pages.Action-packed? Obviously, no. A thoughtful read? I vote yes.

Fall In Love With Tyler's Characters!

by Mary Lins

Noah didn't need a compass, a rudder or a sextant because he wasn't going anywhere; he just bobbed along trying to stay afloat. Liam Pennywell, the 60 year old narrator of Anne Tyler's latest novel, "Noah's Compass", has been getting by without a compass for years. Alone, unemployed, a little lonely, closed off, thinking his life is behind him, Liam has what we call a "life-changing experience". In fact, he has two of them; one is physical and the other metaphorically dangles in front of him his much needed "compass" ...if he'll only recognize it.To open an Anne Tyler novel is to open yourself to care about her characters and "Noah's Compass" is no different. I fell in love with Liam Pennywell and Eunice Dunstead, (a "rememberer"). Even Tyler's less loving characters are appealing through their all-too-human faults. Liam's stern older sister, his brisk ex-wife, and his three daughters, are all endearing in their own way. One never wishes evil on a Tyler character because they all reflect back something of ourselves. Her characters are familiar, archetypal and "Tyler-esque"; in all her novels we see people who are stumbling around in the dark. They don't even grope for their identities and their life purposes, those things just seem to fall upon them like odds and ends off an attic shelf.One quirky character (a redundant term in Anne Tyler's world!) misquotes: "Those that forget the past are doomed to regret the present." Eventually Liam does take some ownership of his past mistakes, but will he use the insight to change his present? Will Liam wake up from his malaise and start living a full life? Will he grab his last chance at love? Will his life change? Should it? Is contentment enough?The worst thing about a new Anne Tyler novel is the wait for the next one. In the meantime, I'll re-read "Noah's Compass" and several other of my favorite Tyler novels and I'll love them as much as I ever did, and glean new insights from each.

A Wise and Tender Book

by Mary Verdick "Mary Verdick "Another Time,...

At 61 Liam Pennywell isn't too upset when he loses his job teaching fifth grade at a second-rate private school. He moves to a smaller apartment to save money and goes to bed his first night there thinking he's pretty well adjusted--only to wake up in the hospital. He has no idea how he got there or what has happened to him and his efforts to remember are the basis of this book. Liam, a kind and decent man who is very low-key, thinks back to his two marriages, his three children, his early life and his friends and in the process meets an unusual younger woman, who may or may not change his life. A sweet, lovely book that explores questions many of us may be struggling to find answers to.

The Perpetual Outsider

by Mr. August "Literature lover"

Once again, Anne Tyler vaults us into her plot with a turning point in the main character's life. Liam Pennywell, nearly 61 years old but seemingly like an old codger, was downsized from his elementary teaching position and so downsizes himself into a smaller apartment. He rids himself of many possessions and sets up his new place with no sofa (no one apparently can sit close) but instead has chairs and basics for the final phase of his life. He is not sure what he wants to do; he really does not consider looking for new work or becoming more involved in his family. Surprisingly, he has three daughters from two previous marriages.Liam has a brutal encounter on his first night in the apartment. Apparently, someone broke in and he found himself in a hospital bed the next day with absolutely no recollection of the vicious incident. He cannot remember and as he starts to obsess about finding his memory of that horrible event, it begins to impact his life. He becomes more aware of his sub-standard family dynamics with his daughters and grandson and has a sense of dreary hopelessness. Looking back at his marriages is scary stuff for this 61 year old man.Tyler introduces a possible romance with a 38 year old unattractive woman who appears to be the antithesis of what Liam would consider suitable. The relationship with Eunice is sort of stuck into the plot as Liam grapples with his ethics and desires. Desperately trying either to wallow in sadness or move from the periphery of his children's lives, events are thrust upon him. One of his daughters moves in with him but no strong bond develops. His oldest daughter, Xanthe, is very angry with him but he never asks her why the relationship is stressed. Liam has a "glancing relationship with his own life."I am a big fan of Anne Tyler. This is not her best book but she continues the theme that we do not find easy solutions and life usually is heartbreaking. Liam never argued with people's poor opinion of him; he simply agreed which brings on more sadness. Tyler makes me more aware of how simple things and people are really complicated. She remains the master of familiar and intimate narrative.

Anne Tyler at her Finest - Loved It

by My2Cents

Call me a sucker for books about "sad-sacks" and the "under-dog", so imagine my delight when I read the first two paragraphs of Anne Tyler's new book: Noah's Compass.........(Page 3)... In the sixty-first year of his life, Liam Pennywell lost his job. It wasn't such a good job, anyhow. He'd been teaching fifth-grade in a second-rate private boy's school. Fifth grade wasn't even what he'd been trained for. TEACHING wasn't what he'd been trained for. His degree was in philosophy. Oh, but don't ask. Things seemed to have taken a downward turn a long, long time ago, and perhaps it was just as well that he had seen the last of St. Dufrig's dusty, scuffed corridors and those interminable after-school meetings and the reams of niggling paperwork.In fact, this might be a sign. It could be just the nudge he needed to push him on to the next stage --the final stage, the summing up stage. The stage where he sat in his rocking chair and reflected on what it all meant, in the end."So when circumstances bring Liam to the final chapter of his life, " short, stocky and out of shape" Liam, decides to scale down his possessions and move to a smaller place on the outskirts of Baltimore. The night of the move Liam goes to bed exhausted, and when he wakes up the next day, he is in the hospital with a sore and bandaged head. Liam has no memory as to what happened to him the night before, he only recalls going to bed the night before.Unable to deal with the fact that he can't recall the incident that landed him in the hospital, he decides to see a Neurologist. While he is at the doctor's office he meets Eunice, a professional "rememberer", hired by a aged, wealthy man with Alzheimer's. Liam is so impressed, that he believes Eunice is the answer to helping him remember what happened to him. Eunice agrees to help Liam, but this story is not all doom and gloom, there is humor and comic relief to be had for the reader.It is, however, the head injury which occurs at the very beginning of this novel, that becomes somewhat of a catalyst for the story of Liam's life.So the title Noah's Compass is significant; his "compass" being Liam's memories. Not just of how he got the head injury, but his memories of his life in general, which has been somewhat of a self-imposed amnesia, that helped him block out failures and disappointments in his life.MY THOUGHTS - I LOVED this novel. Liam is a humble, unassuming sad-sack that tugged on my heart-strings but also made me laugh. Humorous, yet poignant, Anne Tyler has written a winner. A story about a quiet man, in the final stage of his life, who is searching for the meaning in the life he has lived. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Good Character Development

by Nancy Crays "book lover"

I'm not going to summarize the plot, as many others have done so. I enjoyed the development of the characters in the book. Liam is a rather lonely and somewhat depressed 60-year-old who has lost his job. It is interesting to see how his views of and ambivalence toward family members and a female friend develop over time.I've read several reviews that complained about the ending. The more I think about it, the better I like it. Perhaps it is because I'm over 70 and ...POSSIBLE SPOILER............know life usually doesn't end up happily ever after or even neatly wrapped up. It just goes on.

Ordinarily good

by NenetteU

Noah's ark did not have a sail since it did not need one. It didn't have a destination, it just drifted, waiting for the flood waters to subside. It didn't even need a compass for directions. Everything was left to fate, and faith.It took me some musings to fit the book's title to the story. In the end, I surmised that it must be because Liam's life story was just like Noah's ark. He just drifted by, content with his semi-retirement, satisfied with what he has, wanting just the minimum.Liam's is not so spectacular a life to write or read about, but a number of life lessons can be learned from the simplest things. Reading about Liam was like being aware (yet not involved) of an elderly neighbor's life story. Subconsciously, some of the decisions one makes are based on the lessons learned from the neighbor's story. In this light, it makes sense to read about Liam's story.Come to think of it...In a way, my life story is more colorful than Liam's, so probably I can write and publish it, too...hmmm, I think I'll wait 'till I'm 60.


by Pinkcameo

Not the finely drawn characters Tyler Typically gives us. Found Liam too depressing and you do not care where the story goes.

The Ordinary Amazing

by P. Schumacher

I am surprised to see the many negative reviews of "Noah's Compass."I quite liked it. And the hero, Liam Pennywell, isn't that different from many of Tyler's men-characters.He's quite a bit like Michael in "The Amateur Marriage" and many others: dry, remote, timid, controlling, alert, oversensitive, hapless.It's just that here he happens to be the central character.Another reason people may be put off is that this book doesn't have a happy ending, at least in the Romance Novel sense: a marriage. But Liam ends up happy, and it's easy to see why.This is the story of a man, 60, whose life has gone astray, and Who Gets a Second Chance. In fact, Liam gets several second chances.And he doesn't take it, or doesn't take the main one. But refusing the Big One allows him to take lots of little Second Chances, and that seems fine with him.As usual, Tyler is brilliant on the details. She makes the mundane jump into vibrant life.Her trademark theme is here: families, can't stand them, can't escape them.But Liam's family members are richly worth escaping, except possibly Kitty.All the women in his life (and most are women), except Kitty, are both needy and devouring.

Looking for Walden's Pond

by R. E. Cooke

After losing his job, all Liam wants to do in Anne Tyler's 'Noah's Compass' is to pare down, simplify his life and move to his own Walden's Pond. Unfortunately an event changes his plans and he becomes caught in a whirlpool of women. Each is a character with foibles that Liam has to contend with. The men are on the periphery of the story, and the city of Baltimore is a character too. Just as the Biblical Noah had no compass, Liam must figure out how to navigate in his own sea of rising problems. It was fun to imagine that the dialog and each scene could be a stage play.

The Accidental Retiree

by Robin

There are a lot of good things about Noah's Compass. Anne Tyler has a way of describing everyday exchanges between ordinary people in ways that surprise and amuse. Liam, the protagonist leads the unexamined life, teaching fifth graders in a private school, reading his books and speaking occassionally to his daughters and ex-wife. Then, one day, after almost thirty years, he is fired (downsized) from his job.The firing is not as much of a disaster as it would be in many peoples's lives. Liam doesn't appear to be attached to friends at work. He's used to living on next to nothing.and doesn't own a television, a cell phone nor a computer. He lives alone and doesn't mind moving to a cheaper place. But the situation of losing his teaching job causes Liam, at least temporarily, to consider his life. Liam is a student of philosophy, so one would think that examining life would be a habit for him. But its not. Liam seems to have floated through life barely noticing his surroundings.Soon we observe many of the hallmarks of Anne Tyler's books. We learn more about Liam from the way his friends and family react to him, than from what he thinks himself. When his daughters and exwife initially tell him that he is not paying attention to them, they sound unreasonable and demanding--until we realize that they are absolutely right.The problem with Liam, for the reader, is that we have read about him before, in other Anne Tyler books. He's not a terribly interesting person on his own. Not the kind of person most of us would want to find ourselves seated by at dinner. For one thing he is clueless when it comes to the feelings of others. He misses the most obvious social cues, and it frustrates those around him. He seems to need routine. Liam does grow in this book. For one thing he develops a touching relationship with his five year old grandson, Jonah. But for the most part he remains the same, and appears as clueless at the end of the book as at the start.If Noah's Compass were Anne Tyler's first book, I would have enjoyed it more. Unfortunately I have read this kind of character in her other books, especially Macon Leary, the hero of The Accidental Tourist. Like Macon, Liam is haunted by a tragedy, in this case the death of his first wife. Like Macon, he is unable to deal with the memory and seems to have shut down his emotions. Unlike Macon there is not permanent rescue for Liam, and the resolution of Liam's story is probably more realistic, but it is less satisfying.I am glad I read Noah's Compass but I do hope that Anne Tyler focuses on a different kind of person in her next book. When it comes to Liam and Macon, we have gone as far as we can go.

a soap bubble in the drifting wind....

by Ronald W. Maron "pilgrim"

While I fully realize that the worth one places in a book is mainly based on what the reader adds to the story, Noah's Compass is no exception. I have, obviously, added my history of life to the subject of this novel and, by doing so, was completely enraptured with the unfolding story line. That being said, I have read nearly every one of Anne Tyler's other novels and must rate this as being one of her best.As a reader you begin to feel that Anne Tyler, in order to invent these winsome and unforgettable characters must spend a great deal of time peering into other people's windows, or listening to numerous personal phone conversations or, at least, having access to the the entire nation's email interchanges. And while many people describe her characters as 'quirky' or even neurotic, I think that Tyler highlights the less-than-wonderful sides that lie within each of us. In this novel Liam is the uncertain and fearful part of us, his daughters each portray a different rebellious part of our overall personalities, the ex-wife as someone important who was lost due to inattention and Eunice echoes the insecurities and neediness that lay just below our public persona. This is not only a story of personality defects, however. It is a story of personal memories that were difficult to recall and, because they were, the eventual resolution of life itself.Anne Tyler, without a doubt, is one of the country's best novelist and this is one of her best presentations to date. While William Shakespeare may have been credited with stating that men live out their lives in quiet desparation, Anne Tyler has written about this truth over and over again.......--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Anne Tyler's Still Got It

by Samantha Hoffman

There was no reason to believe Anne Tyler had lost her writing flair but so often when I find a writer I like, especially an established writer, their earlier books are the best of their lot. I'm happy to say that's not the case here. Anne Tyler still has her signature style and her gift for description, character and dialogue. Liam Pennywell is such a believable character that you think he might live next door. And don't you love the name? Pennywell. It's so...Anne Tyler.He's been forced to retire from his teaching job at (another typical Tyler-ism) St. Dyfrig school (what kind of name is that?) and who would think a story about a 60 year old, twice-divorced schoolteacher would be fascinating, but it is. I was engaged from page one and captivated by the mundane life of this funny, quirky man.But here's the thing, I got close to the end, just a few pages left I thought, and turned the page to finish the book, but it was over. It was shocking! Right out loud, even though no one was in the room with me except my cat, I said, "That's it???" Very odd, abrupt ending on first read. But then I read it again and I suppose it works.At any rate, ending aside, I loved Noah's Compass and highly recommend it, especially if you're an Anne Tyler fan. Fortunately she's still got it.

Stolen Memories

by Sam Sattler

Anne Tyler has a talent for getting to the core of even the most ordinary of lives. Her characters are real people making their way the best they can from one day to the next. Readers seeking thrilling plot elements or adventures will not find them in an Anne Tyler novel, but those wanting to learn more about the human condition and the humor to be found in everyday life will very much appreciate her work.Liam Pennywell is a typical Anne Tyler character. Liam, at 60 years of age, does not consider his life to have been much of a success - and he is right about that. Unable to make a living in his area of expertise, Liam has fallen back on a career of teaching history at a private boys' school in Baltimore, a position that does not require from him so much as a formal teaching certificate. In the meantime, his two marriages have fallen apart and, at this point in his life, he is no longer close to his three daughters or his grandson. Liam lives alone and his only friend, even by the most generous definition of that word, is another of the teachers at the boys' school.When Liam is suddenly downsized by the school, he decides to simplify his life by moving into a tiny apartment in a more downscale part of the city. He almost welcomes the fact that he has been forced into early retirement and is planning a lifestyle more appropriate to his reduced circumstances. After settling into the new apartment with the help of his one friend and his youngest daughter's boyfriend, Liam falls asleep in his new bedroom. He wakes up in the hospital and, although Liam has no memory of the event, it seems that sometime during the night an intruder entered his apartment through the unlocked patio door and knocked Liam unconscious before leaving empty-handed.Liam feels as if the burglar has stolen part of his life and he is obsessed about regaining his lost memory of what actually happened that night. His search for someone to help him recover the memory leads him, almost accidentally, into a relationship with 38-year-old Eunice, a free-spirit of a woman who finds herself attracted to the older man. Liam is slow to recognize that Eunice is offering him a shot at the kind of joyfully spontaneous lifestyle he has never known. Then, when he finally figures it out, the idea scares him so much that he is not sure how to respond to what might be his last chance to make something interesting of his life."Noah's Compass" is about relationships and how people perceive each other. It explores Liam's inner world by taking a frank look at his relationship with his three daughters, his ex-wives, his grandson and the new woman who so unexpectedly enters his life. It is a book about having the courage to take chances, and how sometimes the biggest risk in life comes from a reluctance to gamble a bit before it is too late and the chance is lost forever.Liam Pennywell tends to be a boring and timid man, one willing to shut down his life at the relatively young age of sixty, but his mistakes, and his little triumphs, have much to teach us. Readers will, I suspect, appreciate this novel more a few days after finishing it than they will upon immediately turning its final page. It has to simmer a while.

A middling effort from a great one

by Sandy Parsons

Anne Tyler is one of my favorite authors. In fact, Breathing Lessons, The Accidental Tourist, and Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant could all take spots in the top ten. I wouldn't have thought that she was capable of writing a book that wasn't brilliant. And yet, here we are.We've got all of the trademark Tyler setups in place. The odd job, The Rememberer, who wouldn't want one of those. The scattered family, and this one is more disconnected than most. The event, an amnesia-inducing blow from an amateur thief, and the sad reality of being a normal person and being alive for any amount of time. The ingredients are all there, but evidently someone slammed the door and the souffle fell, leaving us with a flat pancake of a tale.The one thing that Tyler does, probably better than anyone else, is embedding the profound within the ordinary. Maybe that's where the problem with this book comes in. The main character is not, nor has ever been, engaged with his life. He knows it, and the ultimate payoff is that he is okay with this. Accepting that you are mediocre and not willing to change is a theme that, while probably pretty relatable for most people at some point in their lives, isn't exactly punching you in the face with profundity. Still, if anybody could have pulled it off, Tyler could have, and that's why the disappointment is greater than for a lesser author.

Vintage Tyler - observations on aging, memory, and living a full life

by sb-lynn

Summary and review, no spoilers.This story is told from the point of view of 60 year old Liam Pennywell, who due to financial cut-backs has recently been let go from his position as a 5th grade teacher at a boys school. Liam didn't try all that hard to be spared this dismissal, and in fact Liam seems as if he doesn't care much about anything at all.Liam has downsized from a spacious apartment in a nice part of town, to a small two bedroom in a seedier area. Like many an Anne Tyler character, he is looking back on his life and trying to figure out how he got here, and why he has not had the success he should have had, and why he is leading the life he is now.During the course of this seemingly simple yet complex little novel, we are introduced to the cast of characters that make up Liam's past - his wives, his daughters, his own parents, and an oddball (this is Anne Tyler country) woman with whom Liam establishes a rapport.There is not a lot of action in this novel. We don't go traveling very far, and the story takes place over just one year. Yet, Anne Tyler once again makes brilliant observations about people and what makes us tick. You may think your experiences and reflections and hopes and dreams are unique - but they're not. They are shared, and there were many moments in this book that just had me shaking my head in recognition and empathy. Her observations about aging are spot on.The only criticism I have is that I was a bit unsettled at the end. I know that some of the complaints about this book have been about the ending, but I believe that Tyler is telling us something about memory - that truly seeing and understanding our past will enrich our lives and make getting old not just a wait for the end.I recommend this book can it be enjoyed by anyone, but best appreciated by those 50 and older.


by Stephen T. Hopkins

From the beginning of Anne Tyler's novel, Noah's Compass, protagonist Liam Pennywell, finds himself in one tangle or another as he tries to stay afloat. Liam, age 60, has been fired from his teaching job at a private school. He moves to a crummy apartment in a dicey neighborhood, and ends up in the hospital after someone breaks into his apartment and clocks him. Packed with messy relationships, small kindnesses, and the perfect blend of life's misery and happiness, Noah's Compass will captivate many readers, especially those who appreciate the richness of character that Tyler can deliver. Here's my favorite line from Liam, "I just ... don't seem to have the hang of things, somehow. It's as if I've never been entirely present in my own life."Rating: Three-star (Recommended)


by Suzanne

"Noah's Compass" refers to the idea that Noah didn't need a compass because he wasn't heading in any particular direction--he just wanted to stay afloat. This is the case with Liam, a 60 year-old-man who has just stayed on the surface of life without having a further plan. This works for him until he finds himself homeless and alone. An affair with a confused young woman, Eunice, opens up his life in ways that could not have been predicted. The difference in this experience is that he pursued her rather than taking things as they come. Liam's revival is not without excitement but does fall a little flat until Eunice appears.Ann Tyler's prose is always a joy. She stays focused on her characters without pulling in overly long descriptions of nature as a device to augment the mood or action of the story, which sadly is so prominent in many novels past and present.

Not really a fan of "a-year-in-the-life-of" books but if you are than this is for you

by T. Edmund "TeD"

Noah's Compass finds Liam, a 60-year-old recently retired (sort-of) teacher shifting into a new apartment, who awakens to find himself in hospital after a blow to the head.From this point we follow Liam, as he struggles to regain his memory, initiates a romance with a younger (married) woman, juggles the advice giving attentions of his daughters and deals with an awkward relationship with his ex-wife.The prose of Noah's Compass is plain-speak and easy to read, however the author occasionally indulges in tell rather than show - throughout the book Liam makes realisations that are spelt out to us rather than shown within the action - Also, and this is a strange thing to be bothered about but hey, the narration switches between almost exclusively using He and then Liam. At first I thought this was to reflect confusing times in Liam's life but no, just random. Maybe I'm just picky.Not to spoil anythng but like mentioned in the title, the novel is a year in the life of type thing, so don't expect drama in the three part, resolution of tension sense. Instead expect a cute kinda nice story about an older man having social adventures.

A Good Book Club Selection

by Timothy Kearney

For some reason I expected NOAH'S COMPASS to be a retelling of GOODBYE MR. CHIPS. A late middle aged teacher at a Baltimore prep school finds himself "downsized" has the potential to be the a tale of a lovingly eccentric intellectual who was moving from one stage of life to another. If you're looking for a contemporary version of Arthur Chipping who lovingly devotes his life to his young charges, you won't find it in NOAH'S COMPASS. Liam Pennywell finds himself unemployed due to budgetary woes at least as far as the official version is concerned, but more than likely it was due to poor teaching skills. A devastating situation which takes place shortly after his termination which brings the people in his life to the forefront: his former wife and three daughters. As we encounter these women, along with a woman he begins dating, we see Liam not only as a passive man, but one who could have had a fulfilling life had he not missed so many opportunities. Perhaps what makes Liam so interesting is that he does not have the strong reactions towards the people in his life that they have towards him. He could appear to be someone who keeps his emotions inside, but we learn he barely has the emotions. He feels no guilt regarding the people he has wronged and has no anger for those who have wronged him. He's completely passive which causes the reader to have conflicting emotions towards him. Readers cannot help but feel sorry for him but at the same time can feel anger.Overall, this is an enjoyable work. This is my first Ann Tyler novel and from what I gather she is able to create interesting characters and keep the reader's attention, which she has done in this novel. At some points I did feel it was more of a character study and would have enjoyed a stronger resolution, although since Liam is so passive, the entire novel from beginning to end does fit his personality. Since it is more character driven than plot driven, my guess is that readers will have a range of reactions to the characters in this book, and no doubt, it will be the topic of many heated discussions in book clubs once it is released in paperback.

Tyler's writing makes the ordinary into something extraordinary

by Wallaby

Liam is a 61 year old single man forced into retirement. This does not sound like much of a plot does it? In fact there is not much plot to this book except for the unexpected twist to Liam's lukewarm love life, but that is not what makes this book so very good. This story answers the seminal question: "Is an unexamined life worth living?"The cathartic turn in Liam's life is when he quotes a comedic line from an old Dean Martin skit. All of the sudden, Liam has removed the blinders that he has worn for 50+ years.If you do not appreciate a subtle story about what constitutes the real meaning of life, you will probably not enjoy this phenomenal novel. Remember when Seinfeld said that his show was "about nothing?" Well, on the surface this book is about nothing as well, but it is really about everything: family, life, love, friends, purpose and fulfillment.

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