I’ve read nearly 100 more pages of “Noah’s Compass.” When we left Liam Pennywell, he was alone and depressed, and, as he put it, “Almost waiting to die.” Naturally, Anne Tyler wasn’t going to let Liam’s story go in a straight line.
Liam soon becomes involved with a younger woman, a woman who says, “My parents think I’m a failure.” Next thing you know, Liam’s teen-age daughter, Kitty, has moved out of her mother’s house and settled in Liam’s den, for the summer. Liam’s romantic interest, Eunice, is coming over every evening, under the pretense of helping him with his resumé, Kitty’s teen-age boyfriend visits all the time, and Liam is providing taxi service for the two teens. ‘Nother words, Liam’s life is getting complicated.
Next, Liam gets pressed into babysitting his four-year-old grandson. The one-bedroom apartment is becoming crowded, offering little privacy. And Liam and Louise are getting serious. Some of life’s important decisions are negotiated with astonishing simplicity.
Liam confides to Louise: “Sometimes I think my life is just . . . drying up and hardening, like one of those mouse carcasses you find beneath a radiator.” One confidence begets another. Louise says she’s “more like one of those buds that haven’t opened. I’m hanging there on the bush all closed up.”
With intimacy established, the negotiation follows. Here’s a snippet of Anne Tyler’s dialog:
Liam: “Do you think somebody sixty is too old for somebody thirty-eight?”
Eunice: “No, I don’t think it’s too old.”
Liam: “Me neither.”
Only 110 pages left in “Noah’s Compass,” but with Anne Tyler, anything can happen. I’ll report more later.