The Short Take:
If you already know and like John Irving, grab on to this book. While the situations and personalities aren’t quite as out there as his National Book Award winning The World According to Garp, Irving’s excellent story telling and the attention he devotes to developing the character’s relationships make this effort one of his best.
John Irving is a “must read” for me. His characters and plot lines are always at least a little quirky — a trait I continually enjoy. Last Night in Twisted River is actually a bit closer to “normal” than most his novels, though there are surprising number of Amazon-sized women scattered throughout the plot. This is also arguably the most political of Irving’s novels in that it includes actual events like the Vietnam War and the attacks of 9/11.
Ultimately this book is about love, but not the romantic variety. It focuses instead on friendship and family and the way you helplessly worry about losing those you love. Irving also includes a fair amount of literary criticism through a central character, Danny, who is also a writer. Danny’s schooling, various homes, and achievements largely parallel Irving’s own, including such details as being mentored by the late Kurt Vonnegut. What’s amusing to me is that Irving uses this character to complain about critics spending so much time looking for influences and hints from “real life” in works of fiction. However, here he goes, pretty much waving a red flag at the bull (or herd of bulls).
Regardless, this is one of Irving’s better efforts: a touching story that will intrigue you in many ways.
A Little Plot:
Danny, the young son of lumber camp cook, Dominic, accidently kills someone who had a close relationship with the crazy, mean, vindictive constable. To protect his son, Dominic decides to go into hiding. Aided by their close friend, Ketchum, the two leave the area and change their identities.
While Ketchum remains at the lumber camp to keep an eye on the constable, Dominic and Danny build close friendships with others that must irrevocably be broken when the constable comes too close to finding them.
Ultimately it is the close and complicated bonds between the cook and his son, and with their friend, Ketchum, that weave through and embrace every page of this novel. Covering half a century, this book contains moments of tragedy and violence but deep and selfless love forms it’s true heart.
To visit John Irving’s own website, click here.