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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

Noah's Compass - Anne Tyler 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 an 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.”

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.