by Bethanne Patrick, AARP The Magazine, December 7, 2009
In Noah's Compass, Anne Tyler's 18th novel since If Morning Ever Comes (1964), 61-year-old Liam Pennywell wakes up in a hospital bed with no memory of his head injury—but total recall of his recent humiliating job loss. As others voice strong (and divergent) opinions on what the suddenly unemployed Baltimore schoolteacher should do next, Liam examines the roundabout route that led him to this pivotal point in his life.
Q: Why that title?
A: Noah's Compass suggested itself as Liam and his grandson meandered through a discussion of the biblical Noah—another person without a specific destination.
Q: Your last novel came out in 2006. Was writing this one different for you?
A: It was slower—and much harder—than the earlier books. That may have something to do with age (I turned 68 last fall), but I hope I'm wrong, because what would that mean for the next book?
Q: You and Liam have both lost a spouse. Do you identify with him?
A: I never identify with any of my characters—at least not at the start. I think I deliberately create characters unlike me so I can experiment with being someone completely different. But I do identify with one concern of Liam's: What do people our age have to look forward to once we pass the anticipated milestones?
Q: Liam takes under his wing both his daughter's teenage boyfriend and another daughter's three-year-old son. How did those bonds come about?
A: A joy of writing novels is that such developments often come out of nowhere. I had no special plans for either Damian or Jonah at the outset, but I warmed to them as the story went along. Apparently Liam did, too.
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
Members save $65-$200 on round-trip tickets purchased online.
Members save 10% at Park Ride Fly USA's off-airport parking locations nationwide.
Members save 15% on in-store purchases of frozen yogurt, treats and apparel.
AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at