By Joshua Ferris
320 pages; Little, Brown
After hilariously eviscerating cubicle culture in Then We Came to the End,
Joshua Ferris aims closer to home in his poignant second novel, The Unnamed
. For most of their 20 years of marriage, Tim, a successful litigator, and his still-beautiful wife, Jane, have lived a privileged life. But Tim suffers from a bizarre disorder that repeatedly compels him to walk for miles through bad weather and worse neighborhoods until, exhausted, he collapses. After the third episode, the couple comes to face some deep issues: "Sickness and death, caretaking, the martyrdom of matrimony—that was fluff stuff," Jane discovers. Ferris shows a talent for the grotesque in his riveting descriptions of Tim's decline. He also includes his specialty—scenes of juicy office intrigue. But what's most engrossing is his portrait of a couple locked in an extreme version of a familiar conflict—the desire to stay together versus an inexplicable yearning to walk away.