Customer Reviews for

Noah's Compass

Average Rating 3
( 187 )
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5 Star

(36)

4 Star

(42)

3 Star

(55)

2 Star

(26)

1 Star

(28)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

This is a terrific character study

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 form...
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

posted by harstan on December 19, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

What in the world?

I enjoyed this main character. It was a good read with not much action. The plot was lacking in action but somehow I kept reading endearing myself with the character of Liam. I enjoyed the author's writing style.
When I finished the book, I asked myself what in the ...
I enjoyed this main character. It was a good read with not much action. The plot was lacking in action but somehow I kept reading endearing myself with the character of Liam. I enjoyed the author's writing style.
When I finished the book, I asked myself what in the world did I just read? I am a bit confused as to why it is named Noah's Compass, because little reference is made to Noah. I will be anxious to hear how others liked or disliked it. I would be hesitant to buy another book by Anne Tyler.

posted by mrsbecky51 on February 1, 2010

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  • Posted December 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    This is a terrific character study

    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

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Another Ann Tyler Novel to Treasure!

    Ann Tyler's has the amazing gift of transforming ordinary characters and every day situations into remarkable novels. Her writing reminds us that the simplicity of real life often make for the best stories.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 7, 2010

    As always, it is a book worth waiting for1

    I have been reading Anne Tyler's books for 25 years. She has never let me down. Her characters are so real, so funny, and so much more interesting than the people I deal with in my everyday life. There is nothing better than an Anne Tyler novel,. I planned the last 3 days reading it, putting it down more than I really wanted to, hoping it would last forever! How I long to meet Liam here in Florida. I can only hope she will continue to write about the good in ordinary people.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 1, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    What in the world?

    I enjoyed this main character. It was a good read with not much action. The plot was lacking in action but somehow I kept reading endearing myself with the character of Liam. I enjoyed the author's writing style.
    When I finished the book, I asked myself what in the world did I just read? I am a bit confused as to why it is named Noah's Compass, because little reference is made to Noah. I will be anxious to hear how others liked or disliked it. I would be hesitant to buy another book by Anne Tyler.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Wonderful read

    Typical Anne Tyler. Exactly what we have come to expect from her books. She takes an ordinary event in someone's life and explores it and all of it's ramifications in depth. Along the way we come to feel like the characters are part of our very own families.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A BEAUTY OF A BOOK

    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

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 25, 2014

    Noah¿s Compass is the eighteenth adult novel by American author,

    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. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Great Book

    Being a retired teacher who suffer from a stroke, I could relae to this book. The characters were realistic and the plot was genuine. A great book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2011

    A must for students of life.

    A few months in the life of a 60-year old man facing retirement. May sound dull; is anything but. Noah is preparing to die, and in fact, learns how to live. Loved it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Ugh

    It could be argued that Anne Tyler has been writing the same book for the past dozen or so years and, honestly no one could refute that except for Anne Tyler herself, whom I'm sure would be a daunting menace in any form of WWF cage match. Still, I really enjoy her (one) story and I love her characters. She writes about good Baltimore people doing good things and, although I've never been to Baltimore, I'd like to assume that it's populated with these lovable but emotionally disjointed people that she populates her books with.

    The main character of this novel is a divorced older gentleman who's become staid in his relationship with life. He is robbed, loses his memory and tries to evoke it via a new dumpy girlfriend who just so happens to have an undisclosed vanilla flavored husband waiting in the wings. He's got a segmented family of daughters and an overbearing ex-wife who keep him honest but still, he's lost and his Bible beating grandson provides the type of secular wisdom that only a toddler can appreciate.

    Even though I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars I'm not going to sit here and proclaim that it pushes the curtains aside on life and teaches you how to understand the broken world as we know it. If anything, it gives up on doing that, and this is exactly why I love it. This is a book about life in all its messiness which exists on the world's book-shelf currently populated by Dan Brown's and Stig Larsen's. It is sorely needed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2010

    Don't Recommend - Boring, hard to finish

    For me, the characters were unintriguing, the life boring and depressing. I definitely do not recommend.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2010

    Too everyday life depressing

    I found this not worth the investment of my time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2010

    Thoughtful, Melancholy Story

    An interesting story about an older man suddenly adrift in the world. He is an interesting, if not particularly compelling character. While I was curious about what he would do with himself, I found myself often more frustrated with him than rooting for him. He was a curious protagonist, as he was not terribly sympathetic. I would recommend this book for an interesting character study, even though the end of the story left me feeling unfulfilled... I sensed this was done intentionally, but did not find the story particularly enjoyable. Still worth the time, however, as it did make me think. I believe this would make an excellent story for a book club to discuss.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    It's Anne Tyler . . . isn't that all you need to know?

    This is probably not Anne Tyler's finest work, but even when Tyler's mediocre, she far exceeds the accomplishments of other authors at their very best. A male hero -- somewhat rare in Tyler's works -- only added to my enjoyment. Most of Tyler's work is female-centric, but as a male, I find her economy of language facsinating and her sentence structure impeccable. Just hope that there are many more novels to come.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2010

    Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler was a very nice read!

    This book is a very enjoyable read. It has well defined characters who many people will be able to relate with, even if just in part. It is emotionally well rounded, with a slight unexpected twist at the end. Not a thriller or a romance novel. It is a book one might want to read when they just need a little pick up, or just for the enjoyment of a quick book. Definitely an original work of art, set in modern times with modern characters. This book will be reread just for the simple pleasure of it. It has a permanent place on my shelf!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 5, 2010

    Great, easy read

    Love Ann Tyler and enjoyed this little gem very much.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    Ann Tyler Fan

    It's not her best but if you like Tyler you will like Noah's Compass. Always takes an ordinary person and brings them to life. Tyler usually sets her stories in Baltimore and as a former resident I enjoy reading about streets and areas that have good memories for me. Her writing quality is always above average.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Anne Tyler- Noah's Compass

    This novel starts out as a mystery-who assaulted Liam Pennywell in his new apartment and left him in a hospital without knowing who hit him? The solution to the questions around the assault fade into the background as Liam gets out of the hospital and starts to cope with his new condition: he is retired, involuntarily, from a job he didn't like at a private school. He was forced to teach English though he was a philosophy major and, at sixty-one was invited to be laid off. Though he had a case for staying, Liam decided this was a great opportunity to change his life. So he sold his home, moved into the apartment and began to worry about what powers he was losing. So dire were his concerns that he looked for a "reminder"-a sort of assistant who could serve as mental nurse, confidante and amanuensis. He thinks he's found her when he locates Eunice Dunstead, a frumpy thirty-eight year old. They fall into an awkward affair and he begins to have serious thoughts. But that's on the outside of Liam's life. On the inside he has to deal with three daughters: Kitty and her boyfriend, Damien; Louise, the born-again; and Xanthe, who suspects Damien of being Liam's assailant. Throw into the mix Barbara, Liam's second ex-wife (the first died) and assorted other mostly women and you have poor Liam merely trying to survive his retirement. The saving grace for him turns out to be his grandson, Jonah who, at four, loves to color badly and to talk with "Poppy" about many things. Included in his wondering about the world is the clever assumption that Noah was a bad man. He killed a lot of animals because he only took two of each of them on his boat.
    With the cute grandson, the swarm of females around him and the questions of love and death in the air, this begins to sound like a woman's novel and, in many ways, that's what it becomes. But the character of Liam is an appealing one and we wish him well on his hapless quest for his real self. Largely through no fault of his own, the sky clears and there is every indication that he'll make it through, minus a few people he thought would be with him at the finish.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 18, 2010

    Didn't Disappoint

    I totally understand how Anne Tyler's novels are not everyone's cup of tea. I felt the same way when I read her first couple of books, years ago. But I got used to her understated style and grew to adore her quirky, disfunctional characters. One summer while waiting for her next book to come out and longing to read her again, I re-read all of her books. So it was with great joy that I welcomed her latest, Noah's Compass, and it didn't disappoint. The only disappointment is that I read it too fast and now I'll probably have to wait several years for her next one!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    STUNNING NARRATIVE BY ARTHUR MOREY

    Premier voice performer Arthur Morey beautifully assumes the persona of protagonist Liam Pennywell in this wise, affecting story. Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Tyler is a kind, generous author; Morey is a kind, generous reader presenting Liam as an ordinary fellow with regrets, hopes and aspirations common to many. A teacher of performance and writing at several universites Morey brings both knowledge and awareness to his narrative.
    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

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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