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From the incomparable Anne Tyler, a wise, gently humorous, and deeply compassionate novel about a schoolteacher, who has been forced to retire at sixty-one, coming to terms with the final phase of his life. Liam Pennywell, who set out to be a philosopher and ended up teaching fifth grade, never much liked the job at that run-down private school, so early retirement doesn't From the incomparable Anne Tyler, a wise, gently humorous, and deeply compassionate novel about a schoolteacher, who has been forced to retire at sixty-one, coming to terms with the final phase of his life. Liam Pennywell, who set out to be a philosopher and ended up teaching fifth grade, never much liked the job at that run-down private school, so early retirement doesn't bother him. But he is troubled by his inability to remember anything about the first night that he moved into his new, spare, and efficient condominium on the outskirts of Baltimore. All he knows when he wakes up the next day in the hospital is that his head is sore and bandaged. His effort to recover the moments of his life that have been stolen from him leads him on an unexpected detour. What he needs is someone who can do the remembering for him. What he gets is well, something quite different. We all know a Liam. In fact, there may be a little of Liam in each of us. Which is why Anne Tyler's lovely novel resonates so deeply.


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From the incomparable Anne Tyler, a wise, gently humorous, and deeply compassionate novel about a schoolteacher, who has been forced to retire at sixty-one, coming to terms with the final phase of his life. Liam Pennywell, who set out to be a philosopher and ended up teaching fifth grade, never much liked the job at that run-down private school, so early retirement doesn't From the incomparable Anne Tyler, a wise, gently humorous, and deeply compassionate novel about a schoolteacher, who has been forced to retire at sixty-one, coming to terms with the final phase of his life. Liam Pennywell, who set out to be a philosopher and ended up teaching fifth grade, never much liked the job at that run-down private school, so early retirement doesn't bother him. But he is troubled by his inability to remember anything about the first night that he moved into his new, spare, and efficient condominium on the outskirts of Baltimore. All he knows when he wakes up the next day in the hospital is that his head is sore and bandaged. His effort to recover the moments of his life that have been stolen from him leads him on an unexpected detour. What he needs is someone who can do the remembering for him. What he gets is well, something quite different. We all know a Liam. In fact, there may be a little of Liam in each of us. Which is why Anne Tyler's lovely novel resonates so deeply.

30 review for Noah's Compass

  1. 4 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    Anybody can write an interesting story about interesting people. But how about a good story about uninteresting people? That's a more difficult challenge. This novel meets that challenge. This is a novel that features a normal person with ordinary abilities and no particular passion for life. Unmotivated readers (aging with nothing in particular to look forward to in life) will be able to identify with this story. It starts out a bit slow, but for the reader who makes it through to the end of the Anybody can write an interesting story about interesting people. But how about a good story about uninteresting people? That's a more difficult challenge. This novel meets that challenge. This is a novel that features a normal person with ordinary abilities and no particular passion for life. Unmotivated readers (aging with nothing in particular to look forward to in life) will be able to identify with this story. It starts out a bit slow, but for the reader who makes it through to the end of the book will find it worthwhile reading. Even ambitious and passionate readers can enjoy the book too. The main character is 60 years old, has lost his job as a teacher and does not feel like looking for another job. As a matter of fact he sees no reason to continue living. Then some things happen, he sees a glimpse of hope, his spirits are lifted, then it all falls apart, but then he makes it through with a new lease on (and appreciation of) life. He also has a degree in philosophy so he has the consolation of philosophy. A quotation from this book: “Epictetus says that everything has two handles, one by which it can be borne and one which it cannot. If your brother sins against you, he says, don't take hold of it by the wrong he did you but by the fact that he's your brother. That's how it can be borne.”http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/37218... There are no characters in the novel named Noah. So why the title? There is a four year old grandson in the story named Jonah. Well, that's close but still doesn't explain the title for the book. At one point in the book the main character reads the story of Noah and the flood to his grandson Jonah (from a Bible story coloring book for children). He explains to his grandson that, "There was nowhere to go. He was just trying to stay afloat. ... So he didn't need a compass, or a rudder, or a sextant...Noah didn't need to figure out directions, because the whole world was underwater and so it made no difference." It's pretty clear to the reader that he's describing his own personal predicament.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    (Melinda) The most compelling concept to me was actually the title. The story of the biblical Noah refers to a man chosen by God to survive the coming flood because "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." Consequently, Noah survived and actually was led on to high and dry ground... And all of this without "steering" the ark! No compass, no map. Liam's grandson actually brings up the idea. Somehow,this theme is threaded into the fabric of this story making me wonder if Liam knew that if he ju (Melinda) The most compelling concept to me was actually the title. The story of the biblical Noah refers to a man chosen by God to survive the coming flood because "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." Consequently, Noah survived and actually was led on to high and dry ground... And all of this without "steering" the ark! No compass, no map. Liam's grandson actually brings up the idea. Somehow,this theme is threaded into the fabric of this story making me wonder if Liam knew that if he just would ride the waves of his life that somehow he would end up on his own dry ground. He certainly didn't exhibit faith as we know it and instead chose to sort of lose his emotional peripheral vision (just as his father did). Anne Tyler cleverly leaves the thinking up to the reader and chooses only to present the experiences of her characters so that we have the delight of uncovering the treasure. Perhaps that treasure is different for each one of us. Some have called this narrative boring or slow..however, I think most of us have inner lives that plod along with occasional bursts of random experiences. As I read this book, I felt as if I was peeking through Liam's window, watching every move and understanding his passivity. Observing others always helps us to observe ourselves in a new and different way.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Maxwell

    My feelings about this one fall pretty much in line with how I felt about her novel The Beginner's Goodbye. It was alright, enjoyable enough, but not super special. Interestingly, both of these books follow only 1 protagonist, both older men. I think I find her writing most affecting when she writes from multiple perspectives, and usually when it's from the POV of young people or women. But as always Anne Tyler's writing is observant and witty, and reading her books is just super comforting—thi My feelings about this one fall pretty much in line with how I felt about her novel The Beginner's Goodbye. It was alright, enjoyable enough, but not super special. Interestingly, both of these books follow only 1 protagonist, both older men. I think I find her writing most affecting when she writes from multiple perspectives, and usually when it's from the POV of young people or women. But as always Anne Tyler's writing is observant and witty, and reading her books is just super comforting—this one being no exception.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    I started reading Anne Tyler in 1988. And though I've always loved her, there were times when I thought some of her characters were a bit too quirky. As I've gotten older, I've thought that less and less -- whether because I've met 'quirkier' people through the years, or because I'm now quirkier myself, I don't know. In any case, the characters in this novel are absolutely real. It is amazing how real they are. I don't know when I've seen a more real depiction of a 'normal' 17-year-old girl, for I started reading Anne Tyler in 1988. And though I've always loved her, there were times when I thought some of her characters were a bit too quirky. As I've gotten older, I've thought that less and less -- whether because I've met 'quirkier' people through the years, or because I'm now quirkier myself, I don't know. In any case, the characters in this novel are absolutely real. It is amazing how real they are. I don't know when I've seen a more real depiction of a 'normal' 17-year-old girl, for example. And though I admit the multitude of exclamation marks in the main character's thoughts and in all the characters' dialogue bothered me at first, I must've gotten used to it near the end. The dialogue is also 'real' -- and funny -- quite a few times it prompted a chuckle of recognition in the back of my throat. The ending, though, is what made the book for me. A scene in the penultimate chapter brought tears to my eyes, and the last chapter (including the last sentence) was perfect.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    As I read this book, I was often reminded of the television show, Seinfeld , which was purportedly about nothing, but beneath the surface there was usually more. I have read and enjoyed many of Anne Tyler's novels. They all seem to share the trend of family disharmony and often are similar in style, if not content. Noah's Compass is a low-key, meandering story. While sleeping, Liam Pennywell sustained a head injury as a result of an attack by an assailant who broke into his room. This concus As I read this book, I was often reminded of the television show, Seinfeld , which was purportedly about nothing, but beneath the surface there was usually more. I have read and enjoyed many of Anne Tyler's novels. They all seem to share the trend of family disharmony and often are similar in style, if not content. Noah's Compass is a low-key, meandering story. While sleeping, Liam Pennywell sustained a head injury as a result of an attack by an assailant who broke into his room. This concussion caused him to have amnesia surrounding the event. He feels great anxiety about this lapse. In fact, it appears that this entire novel is devoted to forgetfulness and remembering. He is a 60 year old philosopher, who seems to have lived his life in a state of oblivion. It is surprising that he had never utilized his chosen profession, nor did his character, for the most part, seem to apply his knowledge in his actions. His relationship with others lacks many social graces- he is "clueless". In fact, he is devoid of deep friendships and firm family ties. As the story progresses he views his life. "All along, it seemed, he had experienced only the most glancing relationship with his own life. He had dodged the tough issues, avoided the conflicts, gracefully skirted adventure." (p.241) "I haven't exactly covered myself in glory. 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. (p.263) Tyler's style is pleasant, clear and illustrative, but lacks elements of tension. She does lend touches of whimsy and humor in many unexpected areas. Her characters,while clearly etched, are predominantly self-centered, rather unlikable and unattractive. Despite Liam's deficits, one can easily feel compassion for his state. His life is not completely devoid of human contact. An unexpected delight is his teen-age daughter, Kitty. While she is typical of most adolescents,she is the hopeful endearing figure in this story. Although I have shown some lack of enthusiasm for this novel, I can state that it was an enjoyable, pleasant interlude for me.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dave Peterson

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Since I am almost 60 and had a recent "forced retirement" I thought this would be interesting. Anne Tyler is smooth reading and the characters grow naturally to life in your mind. There is a fairly small cast of characters which is something I appreciate in a novel. I listened to this on audio but I think I would have preferred to read it at my own faster pace. It reminded me of a book I read a long time ago but I can't remember the details - it was also about an older retired professor who had Since I am almost 60 and had a recent "forced retirement" I thought this would be interesting. Anne Tyler is smooth reading and the characters grow naturally to life in your mind. There is a fairly small cast of characters which is something I appreciate in a novel. I listened to this on audio but I think I would have preferred to read it at my own faster pace. It reminded me of a book I read a long time ago but I can't remember the details - it was also about an older retired professor who had stopped expecting anything out of life (for example, he had stopped voting) but I seem to recall that it was more satisfactory in it's resolution and character (I think it was Jon Hassler's "Simon's Night"). My thoughts about this one: - Unexpected things will happen to you whether you plan anything or not. - The next thing that comes along may not be what you really need (or the next woman!) but you can learn from it all. - Some people will assume you are getting senile no matter what you choose to do. - It's officially too late to ask dad what to do(ha!), Sometimes you have to re-evaluate your past before you can go forward and that means finding forgiveness for yourself and from others. - The compass that counts is your own moral compass.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*

    EXCERPT: 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 boys' 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, 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'd seen the last of St Dyfrig's dusty, scuffed corridors and those interm EXCERPT: 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 boys' 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, 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'd seen the last of St Dyfrig'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. ABOUT THIS BOOK: From the incomparable Anne Tyler, a wise, gently humorous, and deeply compassionate novel about a schoolteacher, who has been forced to retire at sixty-one, coming to terms with the final phase of his life. Liam Pennywell, who set out to be a philosopher and ended up teaching fifth grade, never much liked the job at that run-down private school, so early retirement doesn't bother him. But he is troubled by his inability to remember anything about the first night that he moved into his new, spare, and efficient condominium on the outskirts of Baltimore. All he knows when he wakes up the next day in the hospital is that his head is sore and bandaged. His effort to recover the moments of his life that have been stolen from him leads him on an unexpected detour. What he needs is someone who can do the remembering for him. What he gets is well, something quite different. We all know a Liam. In fact, there may be a little of Liam in each of us. Which is why Anne Tyler's lovely novel resonates so deeply. MY THOUGHTS: This was my first Anne Tyler. I went into it with great expectations, and came out of it depressed. Somewhere in the second half of this book, there is a passage about misery that summed up my feelings about Noah's Compass very well. Unfortunately, I forgot to mark it. It is a miserable book. I must have missed the gentle humor. . . The man is only sixty-one, for goodness sake! He is morose, has basically cut all ties with his family, he has poor self-esteem and nothing to look forward to. Whose fault is that? His own. He is capable of making a life for himself. He chooses not to. I wanted to tell him to get a grip, to grab life with both hands. . . Not a recommendation from me. 😩😩.5 THE AUTHOR: Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated at nineteen from Duke University and went on to do graduate work in Russian studies at Columbia University. She has published 20 novels, her debut novel being If Morning Ever Comes in (1964). Her eleventh novel, Breathing Lessons , was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler, narrated by Arthur Morey and published by Random House Audio via OverDrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions. Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my blog sandysbookaday.wordpress.com https://sandysbookaday.wordpress.com/...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dale Harcombe

    It is easy to write about larger than life, exciting characters. Not so easy to write about the everyday and ordinary. There is probably not a writer around who can handle small moments and the lives of ordinary people as well as Anne Tyler. Retrenched from his job as a teacher, 60 year old Liam decides he needs a new start and moves into a new and smaller apartment. After going to sleep the first night in his bed in the new place, he wakes up in hospital. He cannot remember what happened. That It is easy to write about larger than life, exciting characters. Not so easy to write about the everyday and ordinary. There is probably not a writer around who can handle small moments and the lives of ordinary people as well as Anne Tyler. Retrenched from his job as a teacher, 60 year old Liam decides he needs a new start and moves into a new and smaller apartment. After going to sleep the first night in his bed in the new place, he wakes up in hospital. He cannot remember what happened. That troubles him. He tries to piece together the events after information gleaned from his ex wife Barbara and his three daughters. But some of what they say seems to raise more questions and doubts. They are not agreed about who is responsible for putting Liam in hospital. In the process of trying to move forward Liam reviews his life and comes to some interesting conclusions. If you are looking for a book with a fast paced plot this is not for you. But if you are looking for a book that reveals a lot about characters then you should enjoy it as I did. I have to admit to being an Anne Tyler fan.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    Normally I enjoy Tyler's novels, but with Noah's Compass I failed to see the point. I suppose if you look at it in a simple manner, just your average person living a mediocre life then it makes sense. There were certainly quirky moments, and Eunice started out as an interesting character but I kept expecting to be taken somewhere fun only to be returned home, and early. Kitty fed the novel a little but his other daughters didn't really give much to the storyline. The elder daughters were flat an Normally I enjoy Tyler's novels, but with Noah's Compass I failed to see the point. I suppose if you look at it in a simple manner, just your average person living a mediocre life then it makes sense. There were certainly quirky moments, and Eunice started out as an interesting character but I kept expecting to be taken somewhere fun only to be returned home, and early. Kitty fed the novel a little but his other daughters didn't really give much to the storyline. The elder daughters were flat and undeveloped. The ending was a disappointment; I just sort of finished it with a 'that's it?' When Eunice left so easily after taking a leap coming to him, I felt cheated because any woman who has invested her emotions and walked away from 'security' to be with the man she loved would feel more passion and not just leave that easily, at least without explannation or giving away a piece of her mind. That alone made the characters unbelievable. I realize Liam Pennywell is a ho hum, go with the flow kind of man, one who never faces issues, doesn't take part in confrontation and let's just call him very blah, but in real life even people such as he would come up against those very things whether they'd like to or not. In this story there aren't any true obstacles. As we all know, no matter what kind of person you are, there will always be something and someone challenging you, even if you're calm and blah- someone is going to 'call you out' so to speak and with Liam it just didn't happen, not even when abruptly saying 'It won't work' Eunice just goes without a causing a stir. NOT at all realistic!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Irene

    Tyler’s specialty is the ordinary dramas of family life. Her plots may be thin but her characters are complex. This is Liam’s story, a 61 year old man who seems to have spent his life avoiding conflict or challenge. As the novel opens, Liam is passively moving through several major life transitions which culminates in a night time intruder leaving him unconscious from the attack. Waking up in the hospital, he has no recollection of the home invasion, a memory loss that obsesses him to such an ex Tyler’s specialty is the ordinary dramas of family life. Her plots may be thin but her characters are complex. This is Liam’s story, a 61 year old man who seems to have spent his life avoiding conflict or challenge. As the novel opens, Liam is passively moving through several major life transitions which culminates in a night time intruder leaving him unconscious from the attack. Waking up in the hospital, he has no recollection of the home invasion, a memory loss that obsesses him to such an extent that he uncharacteristically initiates some actions to try to restore the memory. As his misguided actions to restore his memory play themselves out, his ex-wife and three mildly distant daughters, his somewhat estranged father and step-mother, move in and out of his days in fairly normal patterns, but which lead him to dawning insights about his life. I appreciate the way Tyler explores the quotidian. At the same time, I often felt as if I were seeing puzzle pieces that looked right, until they were forced into place, they just did not fit comfortably. I often have that sense with those who populate Tyler’s novels, that there is something almost imperceptibly off , a sense that things don’t exactly flow from point to point. One example of that in this novel was the development of the relationship between Liam and Eunice. 3.5 stars

  11. 5 out of 5

    Pekka

    Päätin tutustua Anne Tyleriin jo aikoja sitten. Kyselin suosituksia ja merkitsin ne kalenteriini. Vuodet vierivät ja kalenterit vaihtuivat. Lopulta viime perjantaina satuin nappaamaan lähikirjastosta tämän. Lauantaina lainasin pääkirjastosta lisää. Sunnuntaina tunsin, että lähitulevaisuuteni lukijana on turvattu. Se on mukava tunne.

  12. 5 out of 5

    christa

    Anne Tyler's 18th novel "Noah's Compass" is more twee than Zooey Dechanel wrapped in the orange and brown tones of a home-knit afghan. It starts in a good place: 60-year-old Liam Pennywise, once widowed, once divorced, a philosopher-turned-elementary-school teacher has been laid off from his job at a mediocre school. He begins downsizing an already modest life by moving into an apartment complex off the highway near the mall. He goes to bed his first night in his new home, and wakes up the next Anne Tyler's 18th novel "Noah's Compass" is more twee than Zooey Dechanel wrapped in the orange and brown tones of a home-knit afghan. It starts in a good place: 60-year-old Liam Pennywise, once widowed, once divorced, a philosopher-turned-elementary-school teacher has been laid off from his job at a mediocre school. He begins downsizing an already modest life by moving into an apartment complex off the highway near the mall. He goes to bed his first night in his new home, and wakes up the next day in the hospital with his head bandaged and a bite mark on his hand. He is told that an intruder walked in an unlocked door in the night, there was a struggle, the neighbors heard the ruckus and called the five-oh. Liam can't recall a lick of what happened. While none of his belongings were taken, he feels like a chunk of his life has been stolen from him. A flock of clucky women orbit Liam's world at the farthest reaches of his solar system: his high-school aged daughter Kitty, his sister Julia who can't be bothered to remember that Liam doesn't eat red meat, his bible-banger daughter Louise, his white-flabby thighed ex-wife Barbara, and eventually, the frumpy and socially awkward Eunice. Aside from Kitty, who is sparring with her mother and wants to live with Liam instead, these women are all disapproving of Liam's hapless wardrobe and the way his existence is becoming more and more muted. They have grudge bags teeming with his failings, while he maintains a sort of shrugging inability to understand any of them. Liam is introduced to Eunice in the waiting room of a neurosurgeon's office. She is working as a "rememberer" for a local billionaire, whispering into the old man's ear the details that he is embarrassed to be unable to recall -- like that the receptionist's name is "Verity." Although Liam knows a rememberer won't be able to tell him what happened the night of the attack in his apartment, he gets hopped up on the idea that he could have an assistant like that, keeping track of his existence and reminding him of the details. He stalks Eunice, and eventually officially meets the 38-year-old disheveled woman with questionable choice in accessories. They develop first and briefly a friendship, which eventually turns into a very chaste love affair. Meh. I'm not buying it. It's a pretty flimsy thread and some naive brainwork that brings these two together in his living room. What passes for intimacy is Liam sitting on the arm of her chair. The simple See-Dick-Run language, and the Skip-Jane-Skip sentimentality is just too precious to be taken seriously. When their relationship reveals a particularly brutal bit of rot, neither character's actions seem realistic. It's all just words on a page with no feeling. Like an servers at the Olive Garden singing Happy Birthday to a stranger. There are parts where cutesy works a little bit. Liam's daughter Kitty and her alleged druggie boyfriend add good color to an otherwise beige story. Liam's grandson's fresh perspective on bible stories is cute-ish, a nice break from the blunt force of being smothered in an avalanche of stuffed animals.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Booker

    I think I've read all of Anne Tyler's books and this is probably the weakest. In other books her characters tend to live on the fringes of society, outwardly losers, but through Tyler's eyes we get to like them and understand their often odd behaviour. Liam Pennywell, the main protagonist of Noah's Compass, provokes none of this sympathy. With his grumpy disconnection from the modern world, deliberate obtuseness in conversation and total lack of concern for his family he is a weak, unlikeable an I think I've read all of Anne Tyler's books and this is probably the weakest. In other books her characters tend to live on the fringes of society, outwardly losers, but through Tyler's eyes we get to like them and understand their often odd behaviour. Liam Pennywell, the main protagonist of Noah's Compass, provokes none of this sympathy. With his grumpy disconnection from the modern world, deliberate obtuseness in conversation and total lack of concern for his family he is a weak, unlikeable and really quite boring character. The women surrounding him, an ex-wife, sister and two daughters, are all competent, bossy and basically interchangeable. Pennywell's impulsive pursuit of the local tycoon and his memory coach seems out of character and we get no plausible explananation of why he embarks on this route. Having said this, of course Tyler is incapable of writing badly. The young daughter Kitty provides a brillianly observed portrayal of teenage behaviour and the book is worth reading for her character alone. Overall a disappointment though.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lori Kelley

    Some may find Anne Tyler too formulaic.... "quirky character muddles through life and suddenly has epiphany"...however I personally find reading her books as comforting as a warm blanket on a cold night or a nice chat with a good friend. Noah's Compass doesn't disappoint as the main character, Liam, is a retiree who has stripped down his life to the bare bones, moving into a small, gloomy condo with a few books, a couple chairs, and some canned soup. He has almost no friends and is disconnected Some may find Anne Tyler too formulaic.... "quirky character muddles through life and suddenly has epiphany"...however I personally find reading her books as comforting as a warm blanket on a cold night or a nice chat with a good friend. Noah's Compass doesn't disappoint as the main character, Liam, is a retiree who has stripped down his life to the bare bones, moving into a small, gloomy condo with a few books, a couple chairs, and some canned soup. He has almost no friends and is disconnected from his family. Liam has no expectations of life and almost seems to have given up until an unexpected event occurring the night he moves in presses him into a sort of action. The way he goes about trying to fill a blank in his life is almost comedic and as the circle of his life expands, the moments are both tender and funny...and sometimes sad. As usual, Tyler takes the most nondescript people and brings them alive in all their everyman glory. Though not my favorite of her books, I enjoyed it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jane Long

    OMG! What a waste of my time. Would not recommend this book to anyone. God knows why it's called Noah's Compass, I could think of a couple more titles for it! lol. Not even worth one star. Sorry Anne.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~

    This was okay. I really did not get into it as much as I have on some of Tyler's other books.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    The characters were well developed but I never really got to the POINT of the book until Liam's grandson was so ticked off at Noah for letting so many animals die and Liam was telling his grandson about Noah and the ark. These few paragraphs made the book make sense, albeit a little late. Maybe worth a re-read. Not a waste of time, I just didn't get it until the last few chapters.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I have heard some pretty harsh reviews of this new offering from Anne Tyler, but I liked it. Keep in mind though, I don't need much plot, I am a lover of character studies.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    Nobody will raise a Botoxed eyebrow at the claim that men age badly. It's not just our bodies; it's the whining, the self-absorbed fear, the carcinogenic rage. Even the best writers follow the hoary advice to write what they know, and if they live long enough, what they know is old age. Shakespeare closed his last play with Prospero saying, "Every third thought shall be my grave." Our modern masters have been just as grim. Rabbit Angstrom aged through the second half of the 20th century until Joh Nobody will raise a Botoxed eyebrow at the claim that men age badly. It's not just our bodies; it's the whining, the self-absorbed fear, the carcinogenic rage. Even the best writers follow the hoary advice to write what they know, and if they live long enough, what they know is old age. Shakespeare closed his last play with Prospero saying, "Every third thought shall be my grave." Our modern masters have been just as grim. Rabbit Angstrom aged through the second half of the 20th century until John Updike finally gave the old basketball star heart disease and laid him to rest. Updike's final collection of stories, published six months after he died last year, describes people moving about "with the aid of pacemakers and plastic knees, retired and taking up space." Philip Roth has degenerated from the sexual exuberance of "Portnoy's Complaint" to prostate surgery and incontinence in "Exit Ghost." Don DeLillo and Paul Auster have shuffled into this conversation with Old Man novels of their own. It's only a matter of time until Jay McInerney gives us "Bright Lights, Big Hip Replacement." Centenarians are the fastest-growing demographic, so it would not be surprising if novels shifted their focus from preparations for marriage to Preparation H. But if women experience courtship differently from men, they also experience retirement differently. Which brings us to Anne Tyler's 18th novel, "Noah's Compass," a small story that provides an interesting variation on those dismal tales of aging by Roth & Co. Her protagonist is Liam Pennywell, a 60-year-old divorced man of quiet desperation who has misspent his life "teaching fifth grade in a second-rate private boys' school." After years of silently harboring irritations and offenses (e-mail, cellphones, poor grammar), he's laid off in the novel's opening paragraph. He really doesn't mind. "It wasn't such a good job," Liam thinks. "Things seemed to have taken a downward turn a long, long time ago, and perhaps it was just as well. . . . In fact, this might be a sign. It could be just the nudge he needed to push him on to the next stage." Those of us who love Anne Tyler know that uncomfortable nudge, that promise of an unknown next stage. In one tragicomic novel after another, we've seen frightened, disoriented people -- just like us -- pushed out of their comfort zones into quirky occupations and difficult family arrangements. With determined enthusiasm, Liam moves into a smaller apartment -- "He had accumulated far too many encumbrances" -- and he tries to embrace his new, refocused life. But the solitude of the first day surprises him, and the problem of filling up all the remaining days yawning before him is daunting. "Most probably, this would be the final dwelling place of his life," Liam thinks. "What reason would he have to move again? No new prospects were likely for him. He had accomplished all the conventional tasks -- grown up, found work, gotten married, had children -- and now he was winding down. This is it, he thought. The very end of the line. . . . He was going to be one of those men who die alone among stacks of yellowed newspapers and the dried-out rinds of sandwiches moldering on plates." A passage like this, with its subtle, depressive humor, makes you wonder if you haven't accidentally picked up a book by Anita Brookner, who every year for two decades has published an exquisite novel about some dull sad sack like this, wasting away in tidy loneliness. But with Anne Tyler a moment of such cloying self-pity always signals an impending reversal: Liam wakes up in a hospital with an enormous bandage around his head. He was mugged in his new apartment on the first night and beaten unconscious. That violent act is the trigger for this sensitive, witty story about a man who's forced to realize he's not dead yet -- he's not even out to pasture. Released from the hospital a few days later, Liam finds that he has no memory of the assault, and the loss of that little part of his life sends him on a frantic quest that's unfathomable to the hectoring women in his life: his condescending ex-wife, his three impatient daughters and his dismissive sister. "They said he didn't pay attention. They claimed he was obtuse. They rolled their eyes at each other when he made the most innocent remarks. They called him Mr. Magoo." He knows better, though, and he's determined to reclaim that missing evening. But this is an unusually small novel with a plot so slight that I won't say anything more about what -- or whom -- he finds. That evocative title, though, is just one lovely element of "Noah's Compass." It stems from a tender moment with his grandson, who's dropped off at his apartment now and then. While working on a Christian coloring book, the boy asks Liam where Noah was going in the ark. "There was nowhere to go," Liam tells the boy. "He was just trying to stay afloat. He was just bobbing up and down, so he didn't need a compass, or a rudder, or a sextant." "Just trying to stay afloat" -- neither sinking into Roth's existential despair nor ascending into Oprah's blinding self-delight -- that's the difficult, totally unhip theme that Tyler takes clear to the end of this understated novel. In fact, "Noah's Compass" is likely to dissatisfy many of the author's fans, who have come to count on her for more fully resolved tragedies or more satisfying personal insights. Instead, with Liam, she has articulated the melancholy stasis of many older people's lives. "I'll be fine," Liam says near the end, "and he meant it." So, buck up -- we can do this. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...

  20. 4 out of 5

    M

    There are certain things you can count on with Ann Tyler - the book will be well written, for one, the characters well sketched with the detail of a perceptive thinker. And I found this to be an easy and enjoyable read just about the whole way through. Interestingly, Tyler attempted a sort of mysterious beginning which, as far as I know, is unlike her - a sixty year old man goes to sleep one night and wakes up in the hospital. But the noir-ness ends there, which is fine since I don't think it sui There are certain things you can count on with Ann Tyler - the book will be well written, for one, the characters well sketched with the detail of a perceptive thinker. And I found this to be an easy and enjoyable read just about the whole way through. Interestingly, Tyler attempted a sort of mysterious beginning which, as far as I know, is unlike her - a sixty year old man goes to sleep one night and wakes up in the hospital. But the noir-ness ends there, which is fine since I don't think it suits her, but what does resume is a somewhat quirky and sort of disatisfying story. Liam, the old guy, has a series of coincidences that I found implausible and kind of irritating. In an effort to speak to a doctor, he stumbles into his car, clearly incapable of driving, and wham, someone pulls up to see if he needed anything. Once at the office, he happens to overhear that the woman next to him is a 'rememberer' for a living (?) just when he was frantic that he couldn't recall the assault he lived through. Then he follows this rememberer and it turns out they fall in love. Never mind that she is young enough to be his daughter; somehow that doesn't factor in. And Liam, a philosophy major, is an amazingly weak and dry character, for someone who enjoys such a rich topic. His disconnected daughters, sister and ex wife rang true enough as characters, but their interactions themsevles seemed forced and strange. I guess the ultimate purpose of the story was how little remembering thigns actually matters, or something - to be honest I really couldn't say - but I will say that this was a quick read and a book that restored my faith in solid prose, and reinforced why I minded Tropper's writing so much.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    I liked this book a lot. It is very simply written, about a man who is very ordinary. I liked that. It’s nice to sometimes read about someone who is not a superhuman being, who knows how to parachute out a plane with just an umbrella or some such. The main character, Liam, at age 61, has just lost his job, not that he liked it much anyway, and has moved to a small apartment, and seemingly has no-one in his life and little to do. But suddenly and then in growing numbers, people begin to populate I liked this book a lot. It is very simply written, about a man who is very ordinary. I liked that. It’s nice to sometimes read about someone who is not a superhuman being, who knows how to parachute out a plane with just an umbrella or some such. The main character, Liam, at age 61, has just lost his job, not that he liked it much anyway, and has moved to a small apartment, and seemingly has no-one in his life and little to do. But suddenly and then in growing numbers, people begin to populate his life. First he is burgled and assaulted, waking up in hospital with no memory of the event. This event seems to precipitate the return to his life of the several women who once were part of it – his ex-wife, his three daughters and his sister. And then surprising, a girl friend. The book is like a “fall and rise” – Liam starts off downsizing everything and contemplating an empty life, and ends the book quietly satisfied, with enough contact and reason for living. The book is well written, with simple sentences that allow the flow of the story to lull you onwards. You really feel you have become part of Liam’s life. I was a bit mystified by the title, though. The only mention of Noah’s Compass is when Liam explains to his grandson that Noah did not need one. Did the author mean that Liam also did not need a compass? That wasn’t clear to me at all. But a good four out of five and recommended.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    This is a very short novel, really more of a novella - I read the whole thing on a two-hour train journey, and I'm not someone who whizzes through books. But not a word is wasted and I think Anne Tyler still manages to create compelling characters and the sort of moral dilemmas which will leave you going round and round in circles. The central character, a reserved teacher called Liam who has just been made redundant, rather reminds me of the hero of 'The Accidental Tourist', and I think perhaps This is a very short novel, really more of a novella - I read the whole thing on a two-hour train journey, and I'm not someone who whizzes through books. But not a word is wasted and I think Anne Tyler still manages to create compelling characters and the sort of moral dilemmas which will leave you going round and round in circles. The central character, a reserved teacher called Liam who has just been made redundant, rather reminds me of the hero of 'The Accidental Tourist', and I think perhaps that's the novel of hers which I found myself remembering most often. I also especially enjoyed the bits with Liam's young grandson, which reminds me that Tyler is always good on children. But then, she's always good, full stop.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    This is a book about my father- and all the people who are always so emotionally distant and nonchalant no matter how much we love them. Liam is a man who floats through life, seemingly non-curious about others, his family and himself but who is lovable even for all that. This is the story in which he wakes up and begins to swim a bit... The ending is a bit staged but I found this book to be both beautiful and healing. Tyler also has a keen grasp in how idiosyncrasies in others can make us cringe This is a book about my father- and all the people who are always so emotionally distant and nonchalant no matter how much we love them. Liam is a man who floats through life, seemingly non-curious about others, his family and himself but who is lovable even for all that. This is the story in which he wakes up and begins to swim a bit... The ending is a bit staged but I found this book to be both beautiful and healing. Tyler also has a keen grasp in how idiosyncrasies in others can make us cringe but as we grow to love them, make us laugh and even love them all the more for it. Her skill in dialogue is impressive and always reveals her characters' minds. These aren't the quickest of characters (as their speech reveals) but they may just be more true to life.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Peyton

    What can you say about a book that pulls you in so completely that you finish it within seven hours? I read Noah's Compass in the space of an evening, and was so engrossed I was surprised to find it eleven o'clock (way past my bedtime) when I stopped reading. Anne Tyler's trademark blend of quirk, bittersweetness, and pathos are in full supply here, eliciting laughs and gasps alike. This is a solid, relatable novel and a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Davida Chazan

    Liam is 61, unexpectedly unemployed, and the victim of a home break-in during his first night in a new apartment, but he can't remember even a moment of that event. What this mix of events has on Liam's life and family is the subject of Anne Tyler's 2009 novel "Noah's Compass." You can read more about this book in my review here. https://tcl-bookreviews.com/2017/08/0...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Anne Tyler has the extraordinary ability to subtlety observe the quiet moments of seemingly ordinary lives and then describe in understated and beautifully composed prose how they deal with an unforeseen disruption or challenge. In "Noah's Compass" we meet Liam Pennywell, a 60 year old private school history teacher. Forced to take early retirement, he decides to economize and move into a smaller apartment. On his first night in the new place he goes to bed and wakes up in the hospital with no c Anne Tyler has the extraordinary ability to subtlety observe the quiet moments of seemingly ordinary lives and then describe in understated and beautifully composed prose how they deal with an unforeseen disruption or challenge. In "Noah's Compass" we meet Liam Pennywell, a 60 year old private school history teacher. Forced to take early retirement, he decides to economize and move into a smaller apartment. On his first night in the new place he goes to bed and wakes up in the hospital with no clue as to how or why he got there. He becomes obsessed with finding out what happened during the missing hours when he was unconscious and, in his quest to uncover this mystery, he encounters various people some of whom will have a profound effect on his new life. As a long-time reader of Ms. Tyler's work I must confess that Mr. Pennywill is not the most compelling of her many characters. He's kind of an ineffectual man who is constantly saying the wrong things and always seems to be a bit overwhelmed by his circumstances. It took this reader quite a way into the book to finally warm up to him but that is probably because he evolves as the book progresses. Anne Tyler fans should enjoy this read but, readers new to Tyler may want to choose from her vast catalog such literary masterpieces as "Dinner At the Homesick Restaurant", "Breathing Lessons", "The Accidental Tourist" or, her most recently published work, "A Spool of Blue Thread".

  27. 4 out of 5

    M.M. Graham

    A slow read, focusing more on the main character thoughts rather than events.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sian Lile-Pastore

    couldn't stop reading this! (buddy read with Bert!). Like the couple of other Anne Tyler's I've read - it's about ordinary lives and everyday matters and problems. it's about a guy who is 60 who has lost his job and is downsizing, and I guess also about how you can change stuff around and build a community and a family even if you haven't had that before. I really enjoyed the writing style - there's something slight and yet profound about the whole thing.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

    Noah’s Compass is the eighteenth adult novel by American author, Anne Tyler. When sixty-year-old Liam Pennywell is retrenched from his job as a fifth-grade teacher, he decides to downsize his life, moving to a smaller apartment with less possessions; he even considers retiring altogether. But after going to sleep in his new bedroom, he wakens in a hospital bed with no memory of intervening events. His capable ex-wife Barbara and his three daughters (the rather bossy Xanthe, the born-again Christ Noah’s Compass is the eighteenth adult novel by American author, Anne Tyler. When sixty-year-old Liam Pennywell is retrenched from his job as a fifth-grade teacher, he decides to downsize his life, moving to a smaller apartment with less possessions; he even considers retiring altogether. But after going to sleep in his new bedroom, he wakens in a hospital bed with no memory of intervening events. His capable ex-wife Barbara and his three daughters (the rather bossy Xanthe, the born-again Christian Louise and seventeen-year-old Kitty) tell him to be grateful he can’t remember being mugged, can’t remember how he got his scalp wound or the bite on his hand. But the void in his recall nags at him, and in his neurologist’s waiting room he encounters Eunice, a woman whom he feels may hold the key to the recollection he seeks. And it seems that, unlike Xanthe, Louise and Kitty, who find him hopeless and obtuse and are infuriated by his policy of not arguing, Eunice looks up to him and seems to understand him. Whilst aware of her shortcomings - “plump and frizzy-haired and bespectacled, dumpily dressed, bizarrely jewelled, too young for him and too earnest” - might he, after being widowed, remarried and divorced, have finally have found someone to be happy with? And just to complicate life even further, Kitty comes to live with him for the summer vacation, something he’s not entirely sure how to cope with. And there’s Kitty’s boyfriend, Damian, who attracts the disapproval of Xanthe and Barbara. Tyler excels at making the reader really care about fairly ordinary people doing fairly ordinary things and having fairly ordinary events occur in their fairly ordinary lives. And just when the plot sounds somewhat predictable, Tyler throws in a major twist or two. Liam is a likeable character who admits “….I haven’t exactly covered myself in glory. 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.” Through Liam’s thoughts, Tyler displays some wonderful imagery: “Damian had the posture of a consumptive – narrow, curved back and buckling knees. He resembled a walking comma.” and “Nobody would mistake him for anything but a cop. His white shirt was so crisp that it hurt to look at it, and the weight of his gun and his radio and his massive black leather belt would have sunk him like a stone if he had fallen into any water.” Many of the interactions between characters are laugh-out-loud moments, but Liam provides some gems of wisdom too: “He started laughing. He was laughing out of surprise as much as amusement, because he hadn’t remembered this himself until now and yet it had come back to him in perfect detail. Where from? he wondered. And how had he ever forgotten it in the first place? The trouble with discarding bad memories was that evidently the good ones went with them.” This novel is characteristically Anne Tyler: funny, moving, thought-provoking and, as always, quite brilliant.

  30. 5 out of 5

    JoAnn/QuAppelle

    Like most of Anne Tyler's books, Noah's Compass was gently written and uncomplicated. No postmodern literary gimmicks for her, thank goodness. Just a straightforward story with a few surprises, and with eccentric characters who probably live down the street. I love the way Tyler takes everyday happenings and makes the reader realize that nothing is really insignificant, that everything has meaning or value.While reading the book, you hardly realize the layers of character development that she ha Like most of Anne Tyler's books, Noah's Compass was gently written and uncomplicated. No postmodern literary gimmicks for her, thank goodness. Just a straightforward story with a few surprises, and with eccentric characters who probably live down the street. I love the way Tyler takes everyday happenings and makes the reader realize that nothing is really insignificant, that everything has meaning or value.While reading the book, you hardly realize the layers of character development that she has woven into the story. Her observations of the human condition are always so on-target, but she never makes judgments about what she sees. The story is a year in the life of Liam Pennywell, sixty years old, who has just lost his teaching job. Liam has been widowed and divorced and has three daughters, so he lives in a world of women, most of whom he cannot comprehend! He is a drifter in the sense that he just lets life happen to him without doing much about anything. Not that he is incompetent, but he just prefers to "go along". Until his first night in his new and smaller apartment when something happens to upset his equilibrium. Tyler works her magic and Liam, while not transformed, at least broadens his approach to life. While this will not rank up there with A Patchwork Planet, my very very favorite of Tyler's, it certainly was well worth reading and provides lots of food for thought. I am always astounded that her sweet and gentle books keep me thinking about them for so long afterwards. This was a copy bought in the UK and not available here until January. I have no sense of deferred gratification when it comes to this author's books, so I bought it last month. Being familiar with the area of Baltimore where Tyler's books are all set makes her books even more enjoyable. A pivotal scene in this book took place in Eddie's, an upscale grocery store that I often visit on N. Charles Street....in fact, Charles Street is often mentioned. Here are three quotes I wrote down while reading...just so well-said by Tyler, with such economy. Other writers would/could have taken pages to say essentially the same thing: ****Damian had the posture of a consumptive – a narrow curved back and buckling knees. He resembled a walking comma.**** ****She collected and polished resentments as if it were some sort of hobby.**** ****All along, it seemed, he had experienced only the most glancing relationship with his own life. He had dodged the tough issues, avoided the conflicts, and gracefully skirted adventure. “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.” ****

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