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Noah's Compass


Noah's Compass Cover

ISBN13: 9780345516596
ISBN10: 0345516591
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. Do you like Liam Pennywell as a person? Do you identify with him as a character? How?

2. Liam loses his job and moves into an efficiency apartment, thinking he doesn’t have much left to live for and that this final part of life is meant to be “the stage where he sat in his rocking chair and reflected on what it all meant, in the end” (p. 3) . Do you think this is an accurate reflection of Liam’s life at this point? Do you think most people his age and in his position feel similarly?

3. Liam has strained relationships with his daughters and his ex-wife, and blames himself for these circumstances. Do

you think he is right to do so? In what ways have the women in his life contributed to these difficult relationships?

4. How do you think each of his daughters would describe Liam?

5. Kitty becomes especially close with her father over the course of the novel, choosing to live with him over her mother at the end. Did this ring true for you as a reader? 

6. What was your first impression of Eunice when Liam spotted her in the doctor’s office? Would you ever be tempted

to “[pay] someone else to experience your life for you” (p. 67), as Liam desires?

7. Do you think that Liam and Eunice make a good match? Why or why not? Does their age difference matter?

8. As you were reading the novel, did you ever suspect that Eunice was married? How did you feel when Liam discovered

this fact from Eunice’s mother?

9. Do you think that Liam should have tried to make things work with Eunice, or did he do the right thing by ending

things with her after he found out that she was married? Should he have just taken his “share of happiness,” as his

father suggested?

10. Eunice says to Liam that married people “go on being involved for all time even if they’re divorced” (p. 229). Do you think this is a true statement? Do you think Liam, Barbara, Eunice, and Eunice’s husband, Norman, behave this way?

11. The only time Noah is mentioned in the book is when Liam is babysitting Jonah and tells him the story of Noah’s Ark. Liam says that “ ‘Noah didn’t need to figure out directions, because the whole world was underwater and so it made no difference’ ” (p. 220). How do you think this story relates to Liam’s own life?

12. Liam seems to regard his life largely as a failure, and comments to Barbara that “It’s as if I’ve never been entirely

present in my own life” (p. 263). Would you agree with Liam about his statement? To what degree do you feel present in your own life?

13. Liam thinks that: “We live such tangled, fraught lives . . . but in the end we die like all the other animals and we’re

buried in the ground and after a few more years we might as well not have existed” (p. 210). Liam is comforted by this thought; do you feel that way, or do you find this viewpoint depressing?

14. Memory, or the lack thereof, is a large issue for Liam. What do you think he is trying to achieve by recalling the

night of his break-in and any other memories that seem to have escaped him?

15. When Liam does have the opportunity to confront his attacker, he says no, even though he has longed for this

throughout most of the novel. Why do you think he decides not to pursue this? How has Liam changed between the night of the attack and the day when his attacker is identified?

16. Liam set out to be a philosopher, ended up as a fifthgrade teacher at a private boys’ school for most of his career, and became a Zayda at a nursery school after being fired from teaching. Do you think Liam would have been happier as a philosopher? In what ways has your life taken unexpected turns and how did you deal with them?

17. Did you like the ending of the novel? Did you feel that it satisfactorily answered everything?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

majhillier, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by majhillier)
This extremely well written book by Anne Tyler seems to be a bland little tale of Liam Pennywell, a divorced man retiring from his teaching job at a boys school when it becomes clear it's retire or be pushed out. To economize he gives up his very nice apartment in a lovely old building near the school campus for a ground floor apartment in newer building (read: shabby modern) in a dicey neighborhood. He is unaware of the nature of his new environment, although everyone else is dismayed by the locale as they help him move in. His first night in his new flat he is attacked while asleep in his own bed. As a result he suffers from selective memory loss; he cannot remember being attacked. This loss distresses Liam and he tries very hard to reclaim his memory while his ex-wife and family cannot understand why that is important. People seem to fall into his life; his youngest daughter comes to spend the night and decides she'd rather live with dad than disciplinarian mom, the assistant of a wealthy businessman decides Tom should be her husband, although it turns out she already has one of those. Tyler fools the reader into thinking this is a story of a man coming to grips with the loss of his memory as a metaphor for finally re-engaging with his life, but no dear reader, Tyler has something worse coming for Liam. Tyler very late in the work reveals how long before we met Liam, his life was derailed by a devastating loss, one that he never tried to sort out. How that lack of coming to grips with tragedy effects the character's choices at the end of the story is heart-breaking. Anne Tyler is a very wicked woman writing very subtle stories that leave one wracked and if I could I would press this book insistently into your hand and not let you leave without it.
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Product Details

Tyler, Anne
Ballantine Books
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
7.91 x 5.16 x .63 in .5 lb

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Noah's Compass Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.95 In Stock
Product details 304 pages Ballantine Books - English 9780345516596 Reviews:
"Review" by , “Gracefully written tragicomedy...seasoned with poetic images [and] gentle humor.”
"Review" by , "An arresting premise [that] pays off in unexpected ways....Tyler’s writing is as lovely and transparent as ever." The Boston Globe

"Review" by , "Tyler’s most profound strengths lie in her ability to make her stories resonate with readers....With self-assurance and her trademark empathy, Tyler makes the commonplace uncommonly rich and the ordinary extraordinarily touching."
"Review" by , “A gripping, page-turner of a novel [that] radiates with life.”
"Review" by , “[Tyler] reminds us of the infinite reach of our humanity.”
"Review" by , “[A] sensitive, witty story.”
"Review" by , “[An] offbeat delight.”
"Review" by , "Everyone loves Anne Tyler...and her 18th novel will doubtless supply another reason."
"Review" by , "Noah's Compass is immensely readable. It displays many of Tyler's finest qualities: her sharp observation of humanity, her wry comedy; the luminous accuracy of her descriptions....Her's is a fine-grained art, whose comedy could easily coarsen into the self-consciously quirky. If it does not, this is because her surprises are rooted in character: it is human nature that she evidently finds infinitely fascinating and surprising, with its constantly unforeseeable capacity for change....[A] novel by Anne Tyler is cause for celebration."
"Review" by , "Tyler reveals, with unobtrusive mastery, the disconcerting patchwork of comedy and pathos that marks all our lives."
"Review" by , "Dazzling....A beautifully subtle book, an elegant contemplation of what it means to be happy."
"Review" by , "Fired from his job, Liam Pennywell moves into a small apartment and wakes up the next morning in the hospital with head injuries he can't explain. What turns out to have been an attack by a thief leads to unexpected grace, as Liam is forced to engage more deeply with his family and with a woman who finds him irresistible."
"Review" by , "Pure pleasure"
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