Friday, January 15, 2010

Book Review: Last Night in Twisted River

John Irving: how I adore him. I've been a faithful follower for decades, although I missed one or two along the line that didn't have stellar reviews. I have such fond memories of The World According to Garp and A Prayer for Owen Meany, especially. And I distinctly remember, upon finishing A Widow for One Year, declaring that it was a perfect novel. John Irving's writing sticks in my mind. Vividly.

Last Night in Twisted River is a wonderfully sprawling world of Irving. Unforgettable characters, scenes that are so vivid I wonder if they happened to me, and a twisted, crazy plot line. (And this particular world of Irving has loads of good food.)

The story in a nutshell: Dominic Baciagalupo and his son Daniel must flee from their home in Twisted River, a logging camp in New Hampshire after Daniel, age 12, accidentally kills someone. They find new identities in new places, always looking over their shoulders for the sheriff of Twisted River. Dominic grows older and Danny becomes a famous writer, and both men cling to each other and to Danny's son, Joe. Thrown into the mix is Dominic's passion for woman and cooking and also their crazy, Paul-Bunyan-like friend from Twisted River, Ketchum. It's a long and often disturbing journey from Daniel at 12 to Danny in his 60s, but it is well worth the journey. Irving is not clean-cut in the slightest, so don't read this if you like gentle fiction. But if you enjoy a story of epic proportions by a master storyteller, don't miss it.

I have to say that I was annoyed at one section of the novel, when Irving went on this strange political diatribe for a few chapters. I actually agreed with much of what he was saying, but I found this soapbox oddly placed and completely out of context with the rest of the novel. I didn't like that. On the other hand, I loved Irving adding cameos by authors like Kurt Vonnegut and Raymond Carver during Danny's time at the Iowa Writers Workshop. That was awesome.

If you loved The World According to Garp, you'll love this. If you've never read Irving, this might not be your best introduction. It may be best to start with A Prayer for Owen Meany and take Irving from there.

Other reviews of this book:
Book Chase
Best Book's Reviews
The New Dork Review of Books

(Got a review? Leave me a comment and I'll link up!)


SariJ said...

Thanks for the review. I loved Owen Meany. I actually put the book down because I did not want to read the ending (no I will not spoil it for anyone). My friends talked me into finishing it as it was beautifully done. The World According to Garp was another great book that still sticks in my head. On your recommendation I will try this one.

Greg Zimmerman said...

Yeah, those political rants were so strangely out of place in an otherwise meticulously constructed book. I just didn't get it! Why, Mr. Irving?

Ketchum. I mean, wow. What a fantastic character. He has grown on me even more since I finished the book a few months ago - one of my favorites of all time, I think!

Jennifer said...

I read a mixed review of this (maybe combined with an interview? Must remind myself where I read this), but may pick this up based on your advice. Maybe the interview mentioned the political ramblings ...

Wendy said...

Great review! Glad you also loved this one as I did (thanks for the link love :)) I hardly remember the political ranting, but when you mentioned it, I did remember thinking at the time that it felt out of place.

Marci Rae Johnson said...

I love John Irving too. He's one of my favorite writers of all time. I've had Twisted River on my TBR list for quite awhile. Owen Meany is definitely my favorite.

Aarti said...

Thanks so much for commenting on my Sunday Salon post! I have never read John Irving myself (travesty, I know). I think I started one of his books- Cider House Rules? He wrote that one, right?- but didn't get very far into it. Still have it, though!

Anonymous said...

I love Owen Meany and teach it to my AP kids. Will put this on the list. Have you read PEACE LIKE A RIVER by Leif Enger? The bare bones of the plot remind me of Twisted River. Fantastic book.

wisteria said...

I loved A Prayer for Owen Meany so much I named my cat after the character. My cat's name is Owen Beany. LOL
I have Last Night in Twisted River and just about every other John Irving book. I love his writing. I'm so glad you liked this book as much as you did. I have it in my TBR pile and have been dying to get to it.
Now I have another reason. Thanks for the great review.

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