Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Long And Twisted Trip Beyond Twisted River

So I was really, really excited when I got an advance copy of the new John Irving book through the Amazon Vine program. Too bad the book turned out to be a total dud. I think true Irving fans should give it a read just to see how Irving's work has changed, but I would not recommend this to the casual reader.

John Irving's "Last Night in Twisted River" begins in the mid 1950s in the isolated logging town of Twisted River. A cook and his son are about to be drawn into a series of events that will change their lives forever. After the events, the cook decides to take his son on the run, and the next 50 years of their lives are shrouded in tragedies related to the events of that one fateful night.

I felt like "Twisted River" was an apt title for this book--since as a reader I felt like I was being twisted and turned on a wild goose chase that lasted for 500 plus pages. The book was long, it was meandering, and it simply is not Irving at his best. The core of the story is simple--the cook makes a decision after a misunderstanding to save his son, and the two of them spend the remainder of the book running as a result. However, the book lingers on this point for too long, and I felt like the characters never grew beyond their actions. Also, the book is broken into segments set in each decade following the 1950s, but instead of focusing on the events happening in that decade, it typically jumps back to events that happened previously. This made it hard for me as a reader to follow the book, since I never knew exactly where in time I was. When coupled with the slow moving plot, this made the book almost unreadable in sections.

If you are an Irving fan, I would recommend that you read this book to see how his approach to writing has changed. If you are considering this as your first experience with Irving, I would suggest that you start instead with one of his classics, such as "A Prayer for Owen Meaney" or "The Cider House Rules".

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I can't believe Irving has churned out another dud. Seems like nothing compares to the period of Owen Meany.