Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler

Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler

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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In Praise of Noah's Compass

"Anne Tyler reveals the beauty to be found in the detritus of daily life."—Diana Wagman, Los Angeles Times

"Reading Noah's Compass reminded me of my neighbor's legendary Maryland crab soup: pure pleasure going down."—The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Tyler is often compared to Jane Austen, with some justice. Both have created worlds in which delicate adjustments of irony and common sense prevail over the romantic. But while Austen's characters often thrive, Tyler's typically muddle through with good, if not the best, intentions."—The Dallas Morning News

"Noah's Compass is a beautifully subtle book, an elegant contemplation of what it means to be happy."—
The Guardian [UK]

"Family. What is more basic? What more inescapable? Heartening, enraging, exhausting, sustaining, they are ever with us, Tyler suggests; clearly, she would not have it otherwise. Her gift is to make us feel the same."—The Globe and Mail [Canada]

From a Q&A with The Baltimore Sun

From a Q&A with The Baltimore Sun Question: How did you come up with the idea for Noah's Compass?

Answer: I was half-asleep one night when I heard the house give an unfamiliar creak. But I told myself, "Oh, well, if a burglar comes upstairs and conks me over the head, I won't know about it anyway." That thought led to another and then another, as often happens near sleep, and when I woke up in the morning, I had the seeds of Noah's Compass.


Q: I think you might have created a new profession—hired rememberers. What a wonderful idea! Would you employ such a person yourself?

A: When I invented the notion, all I could think of was that I wanted to be such a person. (It's a way of leading other people's lives, as is novel-writing itself.) But I suppose, at my age, it would be more sensible to hire one.


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Anne Tyler

About Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is her 17th novel. Her 11th, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. A member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, she lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Photo © Diana Walker
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