Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book Review: Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

On the jacket:

In 1954, in the cookhouse of a logging and sawmill settlement in northern New Hampshire, an anxious twelve-year-old boy mistakes the local constable’s girlfriend for a bear. Both the twelve-year-old and his father become fugitives, forced to run from Coos County–to Boston, to southern Vermont, to Toronto–pursued by the implacable constable. Their lone protector is a fiercely libertarian logger, once a river driver, who befriends them.

In a story spanning five decades, Last Night in Twisted River–John Irving’s twelfth novel–depicts the recent half-century in the United States as “a living replica of Coos County, where lethal hatreds were generally permitted to run their course.” From the novel’s taut opening sentence–“The young Canadian, who could not have been more than fifteen, had hesitated too long”–to its elegiac final chapter, Last Night in Twisted River is written with the historical authenticity and emotional authority of The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany. It is also as violent and disturbing a story as John Irving’s breakthrough best seller, The World According to Garp.

What further distinguishes Last Night in Twisted River is the author’s unmistakable voice–the inimitable voice of an accomplished storyteller. Near the end of this moving novel, John Irving writes: “We don’t always have a choice how we get to know one another. Sometimes, people fall into our lives cleanly–as if out of the sky, or as if there were a direct flight from Heaven to Earth–the same sudden way we lose people, who once seemed they would always be part of our lives.”


I've never read Irving before, except for being a fan of The Cider House Rules, which I used to be a fan of. 

Last Night in Twisted River is a beautiful, violent, funny, heartbreaking, intense, and sentimental novel. The novel is a bit too long, Irving seems to have a tendency to ramble which I found later when I discussed his books with a friend who is a fan. There are also some boring, overly detailed accounts of irrelevant topics such as logging logistics, types of food, highway roads, and ethnic origins.

If these aspects can be ignored, Last Night in Twisted River is an amazing read; the storytelling and characters make this novel. Irving writes through the eyes of a child exceptionally well.  Irving references himself and his critics throughout the book, in this story of 3 men covering 50 years of their lives. The synopsis above would give you a fair idea of the plot, the way Irving weaves the tale is a pleasure to read.

As a book lover, I am kicking myself for not having read more of Irving earlier. I plan to rectify it soon, I suggest you read him up too!

Rating: ****/5

[This review is for Random House IndiaThe opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

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