Read Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving Online


In 1954, in the cookhouse of a logging and sawmill settlement in northern New Hampshire, a twelve-year-old boy mistakes the local constable's girlfriend for a bear. Both the twelve-year-old and his father become fugitives, pursued by the constable. Their lone protector is a fiercely libertarian logger, once a river driver, who befriends them.In a story spanning five decadeIn 1954, in the cookhouse of a logging and sawmill settlement in northern New Hampshire, a twelve-year-old boy mistakes the local constable's girlfriend for a bear. Both the twelve-year-old and his father become fugitives, pursued by the 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 world 'where lethal hatreds were generally permitted to run their course.'From the novel's taut opening sentence to its elegiac final chapter, what distinguishes Last Night in Twisted River is the author's unmistakable voice, the inimitable voice of an accomplished storyteller....

Title : Last Night in Twisted River
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780552776578
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 658 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Last Night in Twisted River Reviews

  • Ben
    2019-02-14 20:38

    This is the new John Irving novel and it's something special. I've read a number of the man's novels and I can honestly say that Last Night in Twisted River is like nothing -- not from him, nor from anyone else -- I've read before. If you think Irving may have lost his touch; think again. His heart, his imagination, his ability to tell a creative story with realistic and colorful characters; it's all right here. John Irving has not lost his touch. This is a beautiful, violent, funny, heartbreaking, intense, and sentimental novel. It breaks new ground for Irving because it is a genuine triumph of political and historical weight. But this is also a novel with a recurring flaw. A significant recurring flaw.Before I get to that; if I may, let me first address each of you based on your specific relationship with Irving.To those of you who have never read Irving: As I said, this book is special and Irving reaches new heights in it. Even so, if you have the option, I do not advise you make this your first Irving novel. This is where that recurring, significant flaw comes into play: this novel is way too long. Irving has a tendency to ramble; it's something he (or his editor) had kept well-enough in check in his earlier years. This is no longer the case. There are probably 150 unnecessary pages in this novel. These unnecessary pages are scattered throughout, many in the beginning, some in the middle, even some towards the end. They are boring, overly detailed accounts of irrelevant topics such as logging logistics, types of food, highway roads, and ethnic origins. If you think you can handle that, go right ahead and make this your first Irving; aside from said deviations, it may be his best novel. To those of you who have had mixed results with Irving: Last Night in Twisted River is far superior in character development and general storytelling than John Irving’s other recent novels; it is more like his early work, in those regards. It does, however, share a similar weakness to them, in that there are moments of utter boredom scattered throughout. The rattling-on is clearly something that has gotten worse with Mr. Irving in his old age -- if this is something you can't deal with, you'll want to think twice before picking this up. (As an aside, this is really a shame, because if it weren’t the case this would probably be considered his best. That's right: best.) And rambling notwithstanding, this is a great piece of literature; personally, I think it's worth enduring the 150-200 unnecessary pages scattered about. But don't say I didn't warn you.Irving fans: Do not hesitate in getting this bad boy in your hands as soon as possible. If you do not love this novel, you will like it a lot. This is Irving's most sentimental and political novel; that may sound scary, but it shouldn't, because he pulls it off artfully and with heart. The protagonist, Danny (or Daniel, depending on the section of the novel you’re in), is a writer, and he happens to share a number of characteristics and friends with the real-life Irving. "The one critisism the author of Slaugherhouse-Five would make of the young writer was what he called a punctuation problem. Mr. Vonnegut didn't like all the semicolons. 'People will probably figure out that you went to college -- you don't have to try to prove it to them,' he told Danny." There are many funny, endearing allusions like this, throughout the novel. Irving also manages to do something here that I’ve rarely seen him do before: he shows important, impactful days of American history, and shows how these moments/days affect his characters – he does this passionately, and the result is significant and powerful; new ground has been broken for our man. Okay, all of you can pay attention again.The storytelling and characters make this novel. The character Ketchum, a wild woodsman with a huge heart and tons of idiosyncrasies, goes down as one of my top-five literary characters of all time. (Despite his ruffian lifestyle and career as a riverboat driver, his idea of foreplay is having his hook-up read him Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. He also manically sends faxes to his friends and has a penchant for fighting and shouting.) Ketchum stands out, but there a number of other, lovable characters in this novel.The Financial Times writes this of Irving: "It’s not difficult to make the case that John Irving is the greatest American novelist of his generation. Irving is not a literary establishment figure in the same way as Philip Roth or John Updike, nor a left-field campus doyen such as Kurt Vonnegut or Ray Bradbury. It’s hard to imagine him at ease at New Yorker cocktail parties, or enthusiastically holding court with earnest young students on the state of the novel. You sense that he would rather be back in the New England inhabited by many of his often working-class characters, which he draws with such empathy." I think this is spot-on, and clearly on display in Last Night in Twisted River, which happens to be the deepest delve into blue collar life that I’ve ever read.Irving writes through the eyes of a child exceptionally well. The wonder, the imagination, the curiosities-- it's all conveyed delightfully. Likewise, an important theme of this novel is how our memories can both sustain us, and kill us; how others can lift us up or bring us down: the starts and restarts of life’s trajectories. Through it all, we tend to persevere and make it through, even when faced with the worst possible scenario."The thing about time, Dominic knew, was that it was relentless."In many ways this is a mood novel. Its title is perfect, because the cautious, pending-doom, melancholy-fear that starts on that first night, never goes away. Whether it's Constable Carl or the Blue Mustang, there are fears around every corner. While this tension is ever persisting, so is the novel’s realness. This is because 1) the characters are so realistic, and 2) life is that way. As far as we know, there's always someone out to put one over on us, always a bad guy or a tragic accident around the corner. Of course, if conveyed sloppily, it wouldn’t seem real at all. But have no fear: this novel was written remarkably well."It was a world of accidents, both the boy and his dad already knew."When bad things happen to the real-as-hell characters in this, it is not as if a description of a person has suffered; but rather, it feels -- both psychologically, and emotionally -- like a real person has suffered the ill-fate. Someone I know well. Someone I care about. I think that Irving's ability to grab us with his characters like this, along with his multigenerational storytelling, explains why reading his novels can help you grow. I become more sentimental, and more appreciative of my loved ones; more appreciative of life in general, when I read his novels. They remind me to absorb and appreciate every moment. “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.”From an interview: "Well, there's one thing that I think readers take from many of my stories, which is don't take the people you love for granted. Love them while they're there, because you don't know how the story ends."This novel contains many unnecessary details and passages, but it is forgivable, because Last Night in Twisted River is still an amazing novel. It made me laugh out loud, it made me think, it made me cry, and perhaps most importantly, it helped me gain a greater appreciation for my life and those that are in it.

  • Elyse
    2019-02-13 15:12

    Update: This is $2.99 Kindle special today... personally I think it’s one of John Irving’s best ...I just notice my old review. A sentence!!!Life was so much more simple here on Goodreads back then.... perhaps I should take a lesson. GREAT BOOK!!! This story was great from the first page to the last sentence of the book. I loved it!I'm just waiting for John Irving's NEW RELEASE! :)

  • Julie M
    2019-02-01 12:23

    Does anyone else think that this is one of the worst books ever? I mean, not even among Irving's?? Where was the editor?? This had all the marks of a poor first novel, not the twelfth by (what I used to think) a first rate novelist. Cannot believe I slogged through the entire 550 pp; the story could've been told in 250, tops. So much repetition. Telling rather than showing. One dimensional characters. No apparent reasons for their actions at many points. Over-description. We know the bear smells bad, the food Dominic prepares is always perfectly tasty. And, yeah, Ketchum, 'Constipated Christ' is clearly what an old river driver would say. Again. And again. Women always way too: motherly-sweet (Carmella, Charlotte); or way bad-ass/drug & alcohol addicted/whorish/white-trash/unredeemable (Rosie, Katie, Six-Pack Pam, Dot, May); or they have some kind of mysterious/angelic qualities--conveniently, because they're DEAD (Injun Jane, & Lady Sky). (And we as readers are supposed to believe that they are worth the trouble these men fight over?) While the trio of main (male) characters have the most sympathetic, human, caretaking qualities--Daniel, the "writer" is so sensitive, sensible, successful and revered by adoring fans. (Irving wishes such a life for himself, or maybe he has this??) Irving spends pages showing off his knowledge or research which does little to carry the plot forward. Often as a narrator, Daniel or Dominic is unreliable. Scenes and situations where the characters were like a bad writing exercise ("throw a two year old into a hippie drug party with his neglectful mother and abiding, caring father and then let him remember specific, meaaningful gist from it in his 40's"?) C'mon. Then, the eventual grudge homicide--it was almost a relief! Really. What the ??? I expected so much more from John Irving who authored one of my favorite books (APFOM).

  • Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
    2019-02-12 16:32

    A ludicrous melodrama as twisted as the title crafted into the believable by a master. Most of all it’s about the consequences of accidents, and dancing… A young boy and his father spend their lives as fugitives (view spoiler)[after he accidently kills a woman he’d mistaken for a bear. (hide spoiler)] The story revolving around 3 male characters, Daniel the main protagonist, his father Dominic a widower and their friend Ketchum, an old-time logger who’d "blow the ball’s off" anyone who threatens them. They're all great but"Wicked tough" Ketchum as the profane and unlikely hero is outstanding. His literary style is as impressive as ever as well. "Rural life in the winter months was rugged; snow-blurred and alcohol-fueled, violent and fast." Peppered with bizarre love interests, while Daniel’s distrust of women borders on terror deep down he’s just looking for a woman to rescue him and the bigger the better. In fact they’re all fixated on huge women. 6-pack Pam, Carmella, Indian Jane & Lady Sky are massive. The only two of normal size are highly suspect. Katie the renegade with the edginess of a sexual deserter & Rosie, the drunken rebel who do-si-doe’d two men on the black ice of Twisted River. This is Classic Irving and it reads like an old friend. Pulling from his favorite bag of tricks he includes bears, wrestling, abortion, prostitutes, politics, abandonment & seductive older women. That covers off most of what we know & love about Irving, only the midgets are missing. His choice of an author for the protagonist gives it the feel of a memoir, interesting allusions to his writing methods & the inclusion of Vonnegut (who hates semicolons) fun. Negatives:His tendency to wander is legendary. Fair warning, I found the 1st chapter in particular a killer, you’ll need to plow on. This one features excruciating detail on logging & cooking (which I personally enjoyed) & Italian surnames (not so much) The lack of compassion for Indian Jane’s fate felt all wrong and the Hollywood ending a bit cheesy. 4 ½ stars rounded up to 5 - I’m a fan:) ___________________________________"Six-Pack knew Ketchum would pause to deliver a eulogy to the confused, heartbreaking moose who danced their scrawny asses off in Moose-Watch pond." Ketchum "If I had seen nothing else in my whole life – only the moose dancing – I would have been happier"

  • Chris
    2019-02-10 13:16

    I don't have the heart to write much of a review for this one but I'm going to write something since I won this in a giveaway and the point of the giveaway is for people to review the books. If you're an Irving fanatic, you should find something to love about this book. There are bears everywhere. And death. And violence. There's running and a few passing references to wrestling. There are bogeymen. And nude people. There are characters who are obsessed over the possibility of losing their loved ones. And loved ones who seem to have a knack for dying. One character is a novelist. One character exclaims rather than speaks ("Constipated Christ!" is one of his favorites.). It spans generations and travels across North America. It has vivid scenes that you'll likely never forget. It's imaginative.But it's also about 200 pages too long (550 total). It's repetitive. It repeats itself. It says the same thing over and over again. Is that an echo that you hear? Why yes, it is. That is correct. You do hear an echo. Indeed, my friend. Indeed. If you were to zone out for a few minutes while reading it, have no fear: if it's important enough it will be repeated for you again a few pages later. Hell, even if it's a minor detail there's a good chance it will be repeated again. (Seriously, this book is at least 200 pages too long.) It abuses the use of parenthetical remarks. (Yes, it does.) And it has such strong hints of his other books that you'll wonder if he's merely recycling old material. And yet...I didn't hate it. At times I actually liked it. But it never swept me off my feet. I never lost myself in it. Ultimately, at no point did it reward me for reading it. So off it goes to hang out next to my other 2-star books. Hey, I gave Lolita two stars, so what the fuck do I know, right? I'm going to pass this book on to a Goodreads friend who loves John Irving and who is quickly becoming a must-read reviewer. I hope he loves this book, writes a great review, and exposes this one as the steaming pile of bear shit that it is. (As if it weren't already obvious that this review stinks.)

  • Benjamin
    2019-01-30 17:12

    I am a lifelong fan of John Irving and as such was thrilled to see this book on the shelves. He's not exactly prolific so I look at a new Irving book as a special treat. As B.B. King said, "the thrill is gone." I was quite disappointed in this book. While it was an enjoyable read for the most part, the plot meanders and not a lot actually happens. Ostensibly the story is about people running from their past but only rarely does it come close to catching up to them until the end which you see coming. Irving also has started repeating himself. While we are all used to his repeating themes (bears, Vienna, wrestling), especially in his earlier books, he has now begun to repear actual events from earlier books. He's better than that. I also had issue with the self-righteousness of the author character when he discussed writing. So much of the book is obviously autobiographical, it came across as though Irving was trying to tell us what good writers do and "oh by the way I am one". I did enjoy the book because Irving at his worst is still better than most others at their best but for him I was disappointed

  • Teresa Proença
    2019-02-02 15:16

    Este livro tem um defeito: 650 páginas. Devia ter 1300. Não... 1950. Não... muitas mais.Tudo o resto é perfeito. Sinopse:"... Numa história que abrange cinco décadas, A Última Noite em Twisted River retrata o último meio século nos Estados Unidos.Desde a primeira frase do romance até ao último capítulo, A Última Noite em Twisted River foi escrito com autenticidade histórica e emocional. O que mais o distingue é a voz inconfundível do autor - a voz inimitável de um exímio contador de histórias."

  • NerdGirlBlogger
    2019-02-04 15:22

    Since I saw the film "The World According to Garp" at age eleven I have wondered to myself what exactly did John Irving survive in his past? I have waited patiently for nearly thirty years to find out. I haven't ever read a single thing about John Irving's personal life; because figuring out just what happened to him to make him the type of writer he is has been a huge puzzle for me. Being a survivor of a horrific childhood myself, I knew Mr. Irving must have suffered even more than I had, as his stories are so twisted and dark. With "Last Night in Twisted River: A Novel" I think I have finally figured out the puzzle of Mr. Irving. While "A Prayer for Owen Meany" will always remain my favorite book of his, "Twisted River" is a close second. For whatever reason, I've convinced myself that this book is the true story of his life, or the true life story of someone very close to him. If it isn't, then call me a fool, but please realize that whether this novel is a memoir or not, "Last Night in Twisted River" remains a brilliant story of father and son and grandson, and the near life-long friendship they have with a mysterious logger. I have always wondered why Mr. Irving writes about the subjects he has always written about, such as widows, Canada, wrestling, motherless and fatherless children, left hands, bears, and even abortion and all of these subjects get a mention in this book. This is the best book I've read in 2009, and I stayed up until 5:15 am this morning just to finish it. All I can tell you is that the novel is fabulous and you need to go buy this book immediately to find out for yourself just how good it truly is. I promise you will be lost in a world like none other.

  • Michael
    2019-02-03 17:19

    I loved this one as third best among the seven Irving novels I’ve read so far (after “Garp” and “In One Person”). It satisfied my taste for his blend of absurd tragedy and sentimentality, larger-than-life characters rendered as grittily real, and warm-hearted evocation of places and communities in New England. Worthy themes for me include the impossible task of fathers to protect their sons from the cruel accidents of life and the benefits and negative consequences of a writer treating his own life as a story.The story starts in a logging camp in northern New Hampshire where a teenaged boy working on a river drive drowns and disappears under the logs. The colorful foreman Ketchum is devastated by guilt, and he and his best friend Dominic, a cook for the timber company, can’t help reeling from the painful reminder of the similar loss of Dominic’s wife Rosie ten years before when the three were dancing on the river ice at night when they were drunk. That they both loved Rosie contributes to their close ongoing bonds, as does their heightened concern to protect Dominic’s twelve-year old son Danny from any such accidents of fate in the future. Ketchum is a wonderfully rendered as a foul-mouthed, heavy drinking libertarian who is both tough and tender and quite a sage. The book is Danny’s story, who grows up to be a successful writer. From the beginning his imagination is distorted by the fictions he has been told by those who love him, and that gets him in trouble. For example, told that the heavy iron skillet Dominic keeps close at hand was once used to kill a bear, he uses it in the middle of the night to defend his father from what looks like a bear attack. In fact, he ends up killing his father’s gigantic lover. As a consequence, Dominic is about revenge from her boyfriend, a cruel lawman known as the Cowboy, and he decides to run away with Danny. From this beginning, Irving takes us on the road as Danny grows up in a series of cities where Dominic works as a cook, infusing us with a myriad of new characters and the rich details of the restaurant business. We live them in Boston, Vermont, and finally Toronto. Danny goes to prep school and grows up to be a successful writer, and we follow his life in various locations, series of love relationships, and struggles with balancing fiction and autobiography in his work. We jump forward and backward in time, at times presaging and moving toward significant events, at other times slipping back toward them from the far side. That reminds me of Dominic’s wall of pictures in which shots from all different times of his life with Danny and their significant people are placed together out of order. Throughout the book Danny is something of a cipher, known more through his observations than as a true actor in his life. For example, I didn’t feel any grieving from him when he accidentally killed Dominic’s woman (and beloved babysitter), and it will take other family tragedies much later for him to come into better focus. I guess this is Irving’s way of showing the special status of a writer as more like a window than a door. In time we come to realize Danny is the one who is writing the book in our hands, and we can’t help wondering how much he is Irving. Of course Irving probably didn’t spend much of his life hoping to encounter again a gigantic naked skydiver like Danny experienced as a boy. A tour of the Wikipedia entries on Irving and the novel was worthwhile to me to understand a number of the parallels between Danny and Irving’s life. There are enough to make you wonder how much the metaphors and themes Danny works with in both life and his writing are ones that figure importantly in the author’s own life. Danny’s (and Irving’s) method of starting with the ending of a novel and working toward completion of its beginning reminds of how a river exists with its beginning and end simultaneously present despite its temporal and spatial flow to those who might experience submersion in it. The wind-shaped pine on the book’s cover is a representation of what Danny meditates on from the window of his winter cabin site on the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron at the end of the book, a symbol to him of his crippled father’s strengths in the face of life’s cruel weather. It turns out that the picture was taken by Irving’s own son of a tree at his cabin site on the lake where Irving does much of his writing. I wonder who was Ketchum for Irving in rendering the exhortation to Danny: “You keep skirting the darker subjects…You’ve got to stick your nose in the worst of it, and imagine everything, Danny.”The book coheres despite the ambition it seems to encompass all of life with a portrayal of lives over fifty years of history. There are plenty of diversions that make many impatient with their impact on focus. For me, the effect was that of a lingering in the midst of life, a holding onto meaningful elements and details bound to be lost in time. I loved the sweep and warm heartedness of the tale. It enthralled me the same way that Bellow's "Adventures of Augie March".

  • Maciek
    2019-02-08 16:08

    I have read only one novel by John Irving - The World According to Garp - many years ago, and although I enjoyed it I never read anything else by him - for some inexplicable reason, since Irving writes the sort of fiction that I definitely enjoy: big, long novels with a large cast of characters and several different main players. These stories take years and go through generations, allowing the reader to (ideally) know these people inside and out and care about them - most of all enjoy the novel while cooped in during a snowy afternoon, immersed in the story and oblivious to the outside world. Who doesn't love when that happens?Thinking about such fiction brought me back to Mr. Irving. I picked up Last Night in Twisted River purely on the strength of its opening chapter, where a young Canadian hesitates for too long. It's 1954 and the young Canadian is working as a logger on the Androscoggin River in northern New Hampshire; this short hesitation will cost him his life, as he slips from the logs and goes underwater. Despite tries his body can't be recovered by other loggers; they predict that it will most probably drift with the logs along the Androscoggin, all the way to the place where they're collected and taken away. Twisted River is a small settlement and the inspiration behind its name its obvious; it has its share of loggers who don't shy away from drink and fight - because there just aren't enough women, and logging as an industry is slowly dying out. The premature death of the young Canadian affects its inhabitants, among whom are Dominic Baciagalupo and his son, Danny - the camp's Italian-American cook and his son. The drowning of the young boy reminds Dominic of how he has lost his wife, 10 years ago, on the very same river; it also affects Ketchum, a friend of Dominic and Danny who has worked as a logger for as long as anyone can remember. He was there when Rossie fell through the frozen river, and 10 years later he couldn't grasp the hand of the young Canadian who slipped from the logs.The early section of the novel is clearly the best. The logging settlement of Twisted River is an interesting location in the middle of the wilderness that is northern New Hampshire, and its history and the stories of its inhabitants are detailed and engaging. Contrary to other reviewers, I didn't find the details on the logging industry boring - Irving has woven them into his narrative in a way that they read fluently, and aren't just a side note or unimportant trivia. The death of Angel Pope - that's the young Canadian's name - is not the novel's defining disaster; it's just the sign of things to come. Claiming to have once chased a bear out of his kitchen by hitting it with an iron skillet, Dominic keeps the tool hanging on the wall of his bedroom - if a similar emergency arose once again. One night young Danny is disturbed by noises that he cannot comprehend and which are coming from his uncle's bedroom. Fearing for his life he enters it, it and before he can know what he's doing grabs the skillet to save his uncle's life to save him from what his uncle claims to have defended himself long ago - an attack by a bear.It's not a bear who ends up dead, though, and the duo goes on the run to avoid the wrath and fury of local constable, a mean and drunk cowboy named Carl who delights in hurting people and abusing the law. Dominic and Danny will spend the next several decades moving from place to place across the eastern part of the U.S. - Boston, Iowa, Vermont and elsewhere - and across the border to Canada and Toronto, escaping the repercussions of an accident. This could have been a great novel, but isn't. When Dominic and Danny leave Twisted River and go on the lam the novel loses its focus and diverges into too many streams. In the decades that the novel describes Danny will grow up to be a successful novelist, giving Irving a platform for commentary on the process of writing fiction: much similarities can be found between Danny, his fiction and John Irving himself (both Irving and Danny attended the Iowa Writer's Workshop and took classes by Kurt Vonnegut, both evaded Vietnam because they became young fathers, etc.). Through Danny Irving thinks about writing - what it is that makes a good novel, where to write best - as the story withers down and gives in to commentary on writing fiction: many digressions simply go nowhere, contrivances become more obvious (and irritating), important and interesting events are happening off-screen. I certainly don't mind reading authors writing about the intricacies of creating their novels - but not when I'm reading them. The story skips and hops through decades without paying much heed to chronology; perhaps it's just me, but thia approach made me lose interest even faster instead of saving it, and by the end I reached the last page I put the novel down feeling largely indifferent about it - which isn't always a condemnation, but can never be considered a praise.I'm sure John Irving has many fine novels, and I wish that this was one of them. Perhaps I should have chosen one of his earlier works - this one simply doesn't live up to its promise.

  • Ellen
    2019-02-12 15:13

    Oh John Irving, how you've become a parody of yourself. I really like the descriptions of rural settings and of life in Coos County, but then everything goes downhill. Not only is the symbolism blatant, but the book is basically a mash-up of all of Irving's previous works and his life. The protagonist accidentally kills his surrogate mother figure whom he's kind of attracted to by hitting her in the temple! He escapes the Vietnam war on a technicality! Then he moves to Toronto! Then publishes a controversial book about an abortion clinic that gets turned into a movie! Kurt Vonnegut is name-dropped! As is John Cheever, Raymond Carver, and SALMAN RUSHDIE!And then guess where the story ends. Yup, in September, 2001. We get a nice play-by-play of that sunny Tuesday morning that lasts several pages.I'll make a deal with you. If you promise not to buy the book, and only read the first four chapters (which are quite enjoyable), I'll just tell you the rest of the story and spare you the aggravation of wading through the crap. Seriously, this could have been a short story, but no. Irving felt the need for some reason to throw every single experience and cliché into this book to stretch it out to 554 pages.

  • caitlin
    2019-02-20 14:09

    Irving did not disappoint. All the familiar touchstones are here - bears, wrestling, New Hampshire prep school, Iowa writer's College, breasts, dead young men, overly-protective fathers - yet it's all new. Irving references himself and his critics throughout the book. The story is a lovely story of 3 men covering 50 years of their lives. The melancholy, for me, came not only from the story, but from the sense I got throughout that Irving was saying goodbye. I hope not - he's possibly my favorite writer and I would miss him.

  • J.K. Grice
    2019-02-14 12:24

    I had such high hopes for this book. I thought to myself in the beginning.... "Hey, John Irving is finally BACK as a great American writer!" Unfortunately, little by little, the wheels started to come off the bus, and I found myself trudging through another story that was growing more tedious and dull with every page. The characters that started out so promising, evolved into flat, lifeless souls. And why does Irving always have to throw the sport of wrestling into the mix??? Sadly, John Irving continues to disappoint. Thank goodness we have Richard Russo.

  • Ally
    2019-02-09 17:09

    It's difficult for me to review John Irving objectively, because he is without a doubt the most beautiful author I have ever come across. Last Night does not disappoint, and reminds me why I am such a fan of his work to begin with. It did take me some time to get through - but it was definitely worth it in the end. I will agree that at times Irving is wordy - and I learned more than I cared to about the logging industry and the technical side of cooking.This novel, above any other from Irving, does give insight into his writing process - and who he is as an author. He has the ability to artfully weave one-liners and important thoughts from beginning to end. No doubt due to the foresight of starting a novel with the ending. It tells the tale of a father and son who would simply do anything for each other. The love these characters have for each other is heartbreaking at times. The story follows them for well over 50 years - which is slightly reminiscent of One Hundred Years of Solitude. It follows them throughout the course of their lives, interweaving actual historical happenings in a way that simply makes this story seem more real.I continue to find it difficult to articulate why anyone should read anything by John Irving. So in my head, this review and commentary was a lot better - yet when I sit down to critically think about why I was moved the way I was - words escape me. So, I will just say that is a wonderful story filled with quirky characters trying to find their way through a world full of accidents.

  • Jacob
    2019-02-22 20:15

    November 2009"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." And how! John Irving, a writer who doesn't shy away from sudden, violent, and often unusual deaths (and really, how else could a mistaken-for-bear incident end?), certainly lives up to his reputation: on the very first page--first sentence, really--a young Canadian logger hesitates too long; the constable's girlfriend (and a host of other characters) aren't far behind.I really, really wanted to like this novel more. It has everything I love about Irving: memorable characters (especially Ketchum, possibly Irving's most memorable character yet), a grand and decade-spanning story, an army of semicolons and parentheses, bears, etc. Still, the story feels lacking, in parts. After the not-a-bear fiasco, the twelve-year-old, Daniel, and his father Dominic, flee the scene and spend the next fifty years on the run from the constable, who takes his own sweet time catching up. When we next meet the cook and his son, in Boston, twelve years have passed--and just as Irving catches up with all the flashbacks of the intervening time, the two flee again. And again. Each time their cover is blown, Daniel and Dominic--later Danny and Tony, then Danny and Dominic again--get a ten- or fifteen-year head start on both the constable and the reader, with Irving spending more time on the gaps in between events than the present story. This type of nonlinear storytelling is hardly new for Irving fans (and it's never bothered me before), but in this case it felt distracting and uneven--very uneven. While I don't expect a completely linear story in a John Irving novel, I had some trouble with this one.Some other reviewers have complained about the length of Twisted River: it's too long, a bit jumbled, Irving meanders too much. Personally, I think it was too short--the novel would benefit from an extra hundred pages, or two. Or just fifty. We're treated to a lot of filler material in the decades between each new introduction to Danny and his father, but the filler isn't completely satisfying. Characters--very interesting ones, at that--only show up in flashbacks, some important events only get a passing mention. I would've preferred much more of Joe, Danny's son, than Irving revealed.I wish I had better things to say. Last Night in Twisted River is a nice book, and it feels important--but it also feels very uneven, and too short. In The World According to Garp, in The Hotel New Hampshire, and in the other works I've read, I've always read the last page and closed the book with satisfaction. At the end of Twisted River, though, I had to read the last paragraph a few times, wondering if that was all. In Irving's other books, The End has always felt right (and the ending to Garp is damn near perfect), and the story felt finished. But here, something was incomplete.(Edit: Still agonizing over the three-star rating. Most of the book was a somewhat solid, if shaky, four stars. But the ending was a bit of a letdown--and I really didn't like that last chapter--so I had to dynamite that shaky fourth star, reluctantly. It's times like these that I wish Goodreads offered an extra half-star option.)---December 2010I was slightly disappointed (or underwhelmed, or just annoyed) with Irving's latest novel when I read it last year, but I thought I should try it again, to see how well the book, and my feelings towards it, have changed. Answer: not well. At least, not for the better. If anything, I'm just more annoyed, or confused, or both.Some thoughts on the re-read:--I still don't like the timeline of events. In Twisted River, a young boy in a logging camp accidentally kills the local constable's girlfriend, causing the boy and his father to go on the run for fifty-odd years. With Irving, that means huge leaps forward in time, often of fifteen years or more--but with much of the present story devoted to flashbacks, filling in huge gaps that barely close before the story leaps forward again. I hadn't encountered this from John Irving before--at least, not in this amount--but a few months after Twisted River, I read A Son of the Circus, which is even more convoluted. Unfortunately, what works in Circus doesn't work so well in Twisted River; however, I can't see how Irving could have told this story any other way.--I can't decide if the novel is too long, or too short. There are some parts of the novel that feel bloated and unnecessary, while other parts are lacking. Daniel's son Joe only appeared in flashbacks, other characters were even less present. It feels so strange to learn about these people after the fact--after everything has happened, when they are little more than memories--but, as I've said, it's hard to see how any other way would have worked.--(view spoiler)[I still don't like the ending. I almost hate the ending; I certainly hate other books that end that way. At the end of Twisted River, Daniel Baciagalupo, a writer (whose books are loosely--and playfully--similar to Irving's own), is working on his latest novel, specifically the first chapter--which turns out to be the first chapter of Last Night in Twisted River, the book we, the reader, are reading. I hate reading books that end with a character writing the book I've just finished reading (I've read a few), and it always feels cheap and gimmicky. Irving makes it work, of course--because Irving can make anything "work"--but it still feels cheap and gimmicky. It very nearly puts Twisted River in the same category as Apprentice to the Flower Poet Z and Diary--and if there's anything that makes me cringe, it's seeing John Irving and Chuck Palahniuk in the same sentence (not to mention same review, same bookshelf, same room). Irving and Palahniuk. Hurts to read, doesn't it? (hide spoiler)]Those are my main complaints, and the reasons why Twisted River still isn't getting that fourth star. It probably deserves more than three...but I'm too stubborn to change my mind.

  • Amanda
    2019-01-31 16:16

    Dear John Irving,The beginning was so good. Soooo good. I was even able to overlook some racial stereotyping and move forward. And that's a rareity. I didn't know if I wanted to take the time to read this whopper of 550 pages. I was ranking your book strictly junior highishly at first. I got to 495 and I just couldn't take it anymore. When did you get so ridiculous Mr. Irving? I used to love you. Your subtle inside jokes. The way the plots and coincidences looped around back on themselves like my old sense of humor. And then last year, when you put out that childrens book that was brainchilded from your adult book, I felt a kinship. And all those writer characters are my favorite. But this here is just too over the top. Why did you have to spinoff to 9/11? Why is Ketchem so pro Isreal? Why does everyone have to die? Why does the cop have to feel up dead bodies? Why does Ketchum still talk like he is 25 when he is 85? What the hell happened to Joe? Why didn't Danny just stop drinking the wine in the first place? Uggg. I quit you John Irving. I quit you for good.Sincerely,Amanda

  • Kathleen
    2019-02-15 16:23

    For me, Irving writes books as Beethoven wrote music -- in a minor key. The books are supposedly comedies. They are not to me. They are melancholy reflections on the lives we all lead -- the loves, the misses, the lives, the deaths, the greatest fears, the surprises, the essential ingredients for storytelling -- the bears.This book hits all the Irving themes. This time he adds homages to the late Kurt Vonnegut, by name, as well as other authors. He adds homages to grammar; he especially honors the semicolon. He is tongue-in-cheek while being downright honest about contemporary American life. About halfway through, the reader recognizes the author/character has written quite recognizable books. (!)His politics are mine, which made the reading easy. His sympathies are mine. His fears are mine. His food tastes are mine. What more can be said? John Irving's work touches me deeply.I can guess the complaints about this book -- it is repetetive, the themes have been worked over, the neuroses are recognizable from other works. All of that is true but none of it matters as the construction brings us around to what we all know. It is, all of it true. Even the bears.

  • switterbug (Betsey)
    2019-01-30 12:34

    A veteran enthusiast of John Irving's novels will yield to this story as a ballad and homage to his entire body of work--sprayed with a mist of Dylan. Readers unfamiliar with Irving may not be impressed--they will have a lot more to complain about. So don't start here if you are largely uninitiated with this author. Begin with his fourth book, the tour de force, The World According to Garp (Modern Library) or his masterpiece, A Prayer for Owen Meany (Modern Library). And then work your way through his oeuvre. The more Irving you have read, the more poignant and personally enriching is the symbolism and recurrent themes of this lugubrious tale; you will be less distracted by his prolixity.The opening epigraph is from Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up in Blue:"I had a job in the great north woodsWorking as a cook for a spellBut I never did like it all that muchAnd one day the ax just fell.I credit this stanza, as well as a sizable chunk of the song, as informing the story. After I read the last page of this novel, the lyrics from Dylan's song floated back to me. Although not a direct transposition (not at all), you could lift a considerable portion of that song, shake it up Irving style, and see them rising in the novel. And as Dylan stated (regarding this song), "You've got yesterday, today and tomorrow all in the same room, and there's very little you can't imagine not happening.'" Irving's non-linear narrative mirrors that statement. A fifty-year period (1950's to 2005) is covered, but it ebbs and flows non-sequentially within each section. (Sometimes on the same page.) And the unimaginable takes shape.I come from the veteran enthusiast's point of view. The familiar chords and refrains abound--bears; tragic accidents; his love affair with the semi-colon; fathers and sons; absent parents; odd couplings; hands; furry creatures; and working class cultures (that's just a start). Critical analysis aside, I was emotionally riveted by this story. My experience of loving this book went beyond the novel itself--I embraced the connection to his oeuvre. It is a river that flows into the sea. Although it is a tremendous story, it can't be entirely perceived in isolation. I frequently uttered, "Here we go" as my heart stopped, slowed, sped up, froze, and slammed into the channels of my soul. And like a river's flow, this epic journey expresses what is always changing, always the same with Irving's literature.For seasoned Irving readers, the vintage ribald humor will be noticeably tempered; his farce is minimized, and the story is less picaresque than usual, more mournful. He is still the master of telling a tragic event with bawdy details, but there is less rogue here, more lament. There are outlaw characters, but the rebel prose is not as evident. New readers may even describe it as cloying and overwritten. It should have bothered me, but the story overrode my criticism. He gets in the way of himself while inserting himself--but eventually he moves over again and gets out of the way to let his characters exhale.Never have I read so much Irving in Irving (or Irving on Irving); he would either diverge from Danny the writer into Irving-as-writer (while vehemently denying the memoirist aspects of fiction writing), or overshadow the narrative with proclamations, expository writing that felt like Irving apologia for Irving. And yet, these indulgences did not impair my absorption. They were more like narrator-as-Irving bursting through that fourth wall for something peevish to declare and then pulling back. The story is juicy and plump; the haunting beauty is stunning. The twisted narrative flows and echoes from his previous works and courses and tangles through and loops out like a billabong from the body of Irving--that remains interconnected to, but also separate from the arteries of his oeuvre.The characters are familiar but original--colorful anti-heroes with more than a touch of moral ambiguity, emblematic of past characters, but ripe and fresh. The taciturn cook, Dominic Baciapalugo, is restrained and reflective, while his blustering best friend, Ketchum, is strident and outrageous. They both deeply love and try to protect the cook's son, Danny, from the secrets that torment them. The women, for the most part, are big and briny and dimensional. Very few characters are mere conveniences--they are memorable and succulent and keep the story flowing.I experienced this novel as if it were alive. I could not put it down, and it moved me to tears. The narrative has shortcomings and needs editing, and, again, I think that readers new to Irving are going to find salient complaints and miss the meritorious connections. Understandable. This review may seem bewildering and inconsistent with my five-star assignation, but the humanity of this literature is a bent tree with many branches, and a twisted river. And I got soulfully tangled up in the blue, blue beauty of Irving's story.

  • Joe
    2019-02-23 17:36

    Last Night In Twisted River has all the ingredients one expects in a John Irving novel. There are quirky characters, several coming of age, (sexual), stories; a non-traditional, bordering on, dysfunctional family; tragedy and violence, (similar to the author’s previous books, this mayhem borders on the cartoonish or even Three Stooge-ish); there is dark humor and a lot of not so subtle foreshadowing. And oh - there are even a few bear stories. What’s missing here – at least to this reader - is empathy or even a bond the reader usually develops for/with Irving’s charactersThe novel chronicles the lives of Dominic and Danny Baciagalupo over 50+ years and a half a dozen locales. Tagging along and keeping tabs on the Baciagalupo father/son duo is Ketchum, a Paul Bunyan-esque lumberjack man-child; who is somewhat endearing, foul-mouthed and eccentric.The story opens in 1954 at Twisted River, a logging outpost, where Dominic, known as Cookie, is the camp’s cook with his son Danny who is just a boy. Mother Baciagalupo died tragically, her story told as the novel unfolds. On Danny’s and Cookie’s last night in Twisted River, a tragic event with young Danny at its center, starts the Baciagalupos on their fugitive life on the run; moving from Boston to Iowa City to Toronto and Putney, Vermont.Not so close on their heels is a fat, cantankerous, booze addled and vengeful Twisted River Sheriff, who slowly – over decades – puts together the story of the Baciagalupos and their hasty departure from the logging camp.Over the ensuing years Dominic cooks his way from one city to the next in restaurant after restaurant. Son Danny grows up to become a father himself and an accomplished author. All the while the two hide in plain sight from the persistent but not so bright Sherriff. (The Ketchum character with collect calls, faxes and visits from Twisted River keeps the fugitive Baciagalupos abreast of the Sheriff’s progress on the “case” and his pursuit.)There are plenty of women, interesting minor characters and a few engaging vignettes over the years, but as the story progresses Danny becomes the central character, and the story becomes less and less compelling; simply because Danny is not a compelling character. He’s a worrier, a victim, much too predictable and in the end, annoying.This character development may be a credit to the author but it makes for some tiresome reading. And bottom line, Irving protagonists usually have a lot more gumption. Adding to this dreariness, the author inserts himself into the story by explaining an author’s job, which never seems to work, i.e. writers explaining writing.So as a novel Last Night In Twisted River is okay and there are more than a few bright spots, but as an Irving novel it falls short of much of the author’s previous work, with many of the scenes and characters recycled and somewhat stale.

  • James
    2019-02-01 14:38

    Irving is a genius. I state that upfront to make it clear where my review is coming from. No, Last Night in Twisted River is not his finest work. But even coming in at average, Irving outguns almost everyone else out there. And when I consider all the books I have given four stars to that don't even begin to compare to this one, I wish I could add another star on the scale, just to capture my feelings for Irving's greater works (Garp and Owen Meany come to mind). This book contains all of the trademarks for which Irving is famous, including bears, acrobatics, adultery, and ornery writers. In fact, this book includes them self-consciously. It's a testament to the man's body of work that he can write a story about a writer that is so farcical yet you still find yourself identifying hints of autobiography beneath all the absurdity. Such is the man's skill.I am drawn to this work for the unparalleled writing, certainly, but another aspect of the book snuck up on me. This book is a story of a father and son who manage a loving but gruff, meaningful yet strained, loyal to the death relationship. It spans their entire life together as they bear decades of exile after causing the death of someone in such a ridiculous way that there would be no explaining it to authorities. Under Irving's tutelage, you can practically feel the heft of the cast iron skillet in your hands, you bristle at the chill of the night, and you most definitely become gripped by the fear of leaving the backward logging camp they called home, never to return. I read this book shortly after I finished The Road, Cormac McCarthy's harrowing postapocalyptic tale of a father's drive to give his son a life worth preserving. The one-two punch of these two books cause me much reflection on my own parental urges, which are equally strong, though they have not been so severely tested. I am grateful that such skilled writers would choose to tell such important tales. This is in sharp contrast to some other skillfully written books I read in the past year that had almost nothing to say (I'll get around to my review of Let the Great World Spin at some point, sadly). So I return with relish to Irving, knowing that I'll discover him striking chords I need to hear, with words that comfort as they afflict.

  • Jess
    2019-02-16 20:26

    Oh, John Irving. You have finally, finally run out of new things to say, and so your characters live in this little world where bears run amok, boys go to prep school and wrestle, single-parent households are abundant, disgruntled Vietnam-era young men defect to Canada, women are either buxom with outsized personalities or prematurely dead free-spirited wraiths, and every sage adult has an oft-repeated and italics-laden catch phrase to impart. And it's such a shame, too, because this is the best and most cohesive Irving plot in at least 10 years. It has a beautifully paced arc and some fantastic nonlinear exposition. Restaurant kitchens, logging, and Italian Americans in Boston are all meticulously researched and give the whole thing a really fresh feel...until you get to Danny, who's a stock John Wheelwright/John Berry/Homer Wells/Garp character living in Irving's same old universe. He could have been so much more. The classic Irving tropes were comfortable, but in the face of such an interesting premise and dazzling descriptions, they just felt kind of lazy. Without them, it was a five star book, for sure.

  • Alex O'Brien
    2019-02-02 12:14

    If you're a fan of John Irving, there's a good chance you'll love this book: it's filled with his favourite motifs and themes-bears, wrestling, flatulent dogs, severed body parts, outsiders, and long digressions. I particularly enjoyed the first section which deals with the lumberjack life in Northern New Hampshire. As a writer, I was also fascinated by one character's reflections on writing and the writing life-there is a wealth of wisdom to be learned here. This character's career mirrors Irving's career in many ways. An added personal bonus was the final section was set on an island in Georgian Bay near Pointe au Baril, in cottage country near my home. Unfortunately, the novel is repetitious and too long; careful editing could have knocked off a good hundred pages. And though Irving may be a master of the non-linear narrative, in this story the author jumps back and forth too quickly and often, and uses too much exposition at the expense of scene development, leaving the reader confused and devoid of intimacy with the main characters. I never found myself that close to two of the three main characters, the Cook and his author son; but the third main character, the log driving lumberjack, Ketchum, he's a delight to behold.On the whole, I enjoyed the book and recommend it; just be warned that it's a long read and you had better enjoy log driving, cooking, and books about writing.

  • Kate
    2019-02-01 19:26

    I love John Irving. I became a writer because of John Irving. That said, Last Night in Twisted River was not his best.The story of a cook and his son and an angry companion was touching in spots and unrelentingly repetitive in others. As usual, the characters are magnificently drawn, the details chosen with such finesse that it’s impossible to remain unmoved.Yet the story doesn’t move for long stretches of time and the premise was too fantastical even for Irving. I am willing to suspend my belief for him and go along for the ride, but the idea that “the cowboy” was still chasing them so many years later was never fully realized for me. Why this obsession with them? Also, was there never a moment of guilt for Danny after what he'd done? I won't ruin it here, but he never mentions it again, as if a person can do something like that and never again give it a thought. Even after 500 some odd pages, I just didn’t get it. Nor did I buy that everyone lived to be so old and in such good shape—including the dog.Still it is Irving, and he has the power to blow you away with every sentence. So that even when I was lulled into a sort of torpor where I was trying skimming so that I could get to the next thing that might move the plot along, one sentence would shock me back into full attention.This book in another author's hands would have been dreadful. Instead, it just wasn’t one of my favorites in an opus I hope never ends.

  • Dana Simpson
    2019-02-11 20:38

    John Irving at his finest since Garp. I reread chapter one 3 times, entranced in the details of the boy's body drifting along the river, then getting wedged in the logs, hanging there as if a part of the tree. Then, as the story unfolds, the references to the twisting river was so amazing, relating the river as a passage of time, mannerism of writing, the taunts life brings, and how the swelling of the river can surface even the ugliest in human soul. When the little boy smashed the Indian woman in the head, it was so brutal, I think I even got a head ache! As the boy grew up I cried for the loss of his "Indian mother", praised his courage, laughed over the lust for the 'balloon" woman,and later appreciated the married man he had become. I struggled liking him when he was with the hippie chick, I felt he was so much better than her. When he became a father, his true calling came, and the best part of the book is here, specially when he referred his worth as a father to his own father. That was great. AS in the beginning, I reread the last 3/4 chapters over several times. I loved he finely got together with the balloon lady, becoming soul mates. Mostly, I lost myself in the swaying of that little tree, as he thought out what to write, such soft touches of detail, yet so brutally cold. Irving at his very finest!

  • Deborah Edwards
    2019-01-23 19:23

    When I heard the riveting title of John Irving’s most recent novel, “Last Night in Twisted River,” and read a few blurbs describing the subject matter and the characters, I just knew in my heart he had finally written another book worthy of being placed next to his early masterpieces on the bookshelf of honor. I just knew I would feel the same rush of excitement I felt when I was introduced to Owen Meany or T.S. Garp, or Dr. Larch or even Susie the Bear, and first entered their strange and revelatory worlds. My palms were sweaty just thinking about it. I just knew this was the one. I knew it. And that was my first mistake. “Last Night in Twisted River” is an ambitious novel that tackles themes that might seem a natural progression for Irving who tackled themes relating to childhood, young love, lust, sexuality, infidelity, rebellion, and identity, in earlier books, then began to further explore themes related to parenting, child-rearing, loss, grief, success, human rights, and the nature of religion in later works, and now adds to those themes with an in-depth look at the nature of aging, dying, and coming to terms with one’s past decisions (not to mention a lengthy running theme about lethal grudges and warring factions that is meant to tie in to America’s political and military history, and our contemporary war on terrorism). In fact, there is a literal “running” theme of running away from danger, and of danger always following, always being right there at your heels. Compelling stuff, in theory. And let me be clear, I was not put off by either the themes or by the political platform (admittedly, Irving’s politics have usually mirrored my own, and his themes have always captivated me). In fact, I desperately wanted Irving to write a novel that illuminated those themes for me in a way that moved me, caused me to reflect, or even left me emotionally gutted, if necessary. At the very least, kept me engaged. None of those things, however, indeed, actually happened.Some reviews have criticized the fact that Irving seemed to be rehashing material he had used before, reaching into an old bag of tricks and trying to make something new out of it. Have these people not read Irving before? He started doing that in book two. In my opinion, this is part of Irving’s allure, part of his familiar voice, a little shout out to his cult following. We want to see the usual hallmarks. If you go to the carnival, you want to see a Ferris wheel. If you read a John Irving novel, you want to see some bears. And this novel does not disappoint on that front. He mentions most of the biggies: bears, wrestling, New Hampshire (even Exeter, by name), the draft, the usual “sexual suspects,” odd mixes of people living together in one big complex, the writing life, and even a shout out to his own books. It had all the elements. It really should have worked.So, why didn’t it? As a big fan of Mr. Irving (and I am – a huge fan), this novel seemed really self-indulgent. Stopping just short of building a soapbox, Irving preached his views rather than incorporating them into a well-crafted story. Irving certainly knows how to craft a brilliant story. In “Cider House Rules” he managed to take a volatile issue like abortion and explore it with depth and purpose through the lives of his very well-developed characters and the situations that were thrust upon them as they explored both the theme and their own feelings about it. Intelligent people on either side of that issue could have appreciated the story despite their feelings about the subject matter. But here, rather than having characters engrossed in situations that let the reader discern the struggles and inherent complexities of those situations, Irving just basically went on tirades that often seemed bombastic, and worse, unrelated to the material at hand. But even more troubling, in “Twisted River,” there also seemed to be an emotional disconnect, something I never detected in Irving’s other novels. Early in the book, for instance, we are introduced to a sympathetic maternal character who unexpectedly meets a tragic end at the hand of another main character, someone for whom the victim cares deeply and who supposedly cares deeply for her. The death is accidental, but never once do we feel that the victim is mourned, that her death is anything more than a convenient plot contrivance to further the theme. Not once are there any genuine feelings of grief expressed or of wistful remembrance or even of guilt or regret. More is made of the absurd logistics of disposing her body than of the affect she had on the child she cared for or the character who was her lover. She is forgotten almost as soon as her body is left behind. This type of emotional disconnect with various important characters occurred throughout the novel for me, and always made me cringe. I realize that part of Irving’s purpose was to convey to the reader that often people come into our lives unexpectedly and sometimes those people are just as unexpectedly removed from our lives; but, he also set these characters up as people we should care about. How can we care about them if they don’t seem to care about each other all that much? In fact, the very few attempts at emotional connection (usually merely sexual) bothered me almost as much as the many instances in which it was non-existent. For instance, at the end of the book, an emotional connection is actually forced upon us, and is so implausible in its ridiculousness as to border on insulting our intelligence. (I’ll just say it involves buying a suddenly urgent and deep love between two characters who met once, briefly, and haven’t had ANY contact in forty years.) I often found myself thinking that, perhaps in the writing of this novel, Irving had made a list of absurd images and plot developments in his head, all of which had to be strung together using the characters at hand, and, as such, the characters became mere props for those images, more important as plot contrivances than as genuine people actually witnessing or taking part in the events. Irving has written many books that involved plot contrivances and absurd situations, but in the best of those, I never once questioned the validity of the situations, and never once felt that the characters involved had less than authentic reactions to the events. In this book, nothing ever felt fully real or fully realized.Another bothersome aspect for me involved the dialogue. Perhaps, in trying to capture the way he believed Coos County loggers would speak (or the way North End Sicilians would speak), Irving took a risk and went whole hog. Granted, for me, his river driver character, Ketchum, is the most interesting (and endearing) character in the book and makes for the most lively aspects of it, but Irving never quite makes the dialogue natural, not only with Ketchum but with most of the other characters, as well. Ketchum, in particular, comes off more as cartoon than man, (I always pictured him as a kind of fleshed out version of Yukon Cornelius from the “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” special). And Ketchum was my favorite character, so you can see how things deteriorated from there. As a last aside, (and just a pet peeve, really), I was also irritated with Irving’s obvious use of the Danny Angel character to mirror his own literary ascent. I don’t mind that he wrote a character based on himself or made reference to obvious milestones in his own career. That’s not it at all. It was the constant references to how great he was and how many famous people he knew and how rich he had become and how ignorant ALL those press people were who asked him such tedious questions and all those fans who mischaracterized his work and how he could never possibly answer all their letters. Ah yes, fame is so difficult and being great is such a chore. That grew tiresome rather quickly. So, my favorite author has written a book that I just don’t like. I’m sure he’ll get over my disapproval. As his friend and mentor, Kurt Vonnegut, (who is mentioned several times in the book) would say, “And so it goes.” The truth is, it doesn’t matter. My great love of many of his other novels is not diminished by my lack of love for this one. Would I have liked to have gotten some meaningful insights into these compelling themes from a man I have always admired and maybe idolized a little? Of course I would have. But if I am expecting to learn my life lessons from a John Irving novel, maybe I am already lost. If anyone is reading this review, and has never read an Irving book before, please don’t let this stop you. In fact, go out and buy a copy of “A Prayer for Owen Meany” immediately. Trust me, you’ll never be the same. And you’ll love him, too – no matter what.

  • Allison
    2019-02-06 16:28

    The story in this book spans five decades, following the lives of a cook, Dominic Baciagalupo, and his 12-year-old son Danny. In the beginning of the story, they are living in a logging and sawmill settlement in northern New Hampshire, and after an accidental killing, they leave abruptly, taking up residence in another state, and always waiting for the day to come that they'd have to flee again. There were times that I was completely engrossed in the story... but there were parts in the middle, and especially toward the end, that the story seemed to ramble and became very tedious to read. In these parts, the story line fell apart - there seemed to be no plot, no point, to what was going on! What I disliked most about this book was that the author seemed to make it OK for a boy/man to have sex with an aunt (mother's sister). That's incest. But the way this story was written, having a sexual relationship with your aunt was a normal thing - there were no regrets or any hint that the character realized that it was incest. Plus, the reader only hears about it after the fact - it doesn't have any impact on the story. So I didn't understand why it was even put in there. I rated this book is "it was OK" because there were some well developed characters and parts of the story were very compelling. I did start getting tired of it in the last couple of chapters because it again started to become tedious to read again. I'm not sure where or why the author of this book decided that one of the main characters who became an author would be writing this book that I'm reading (yeah, it's kind of like looking in a mirror at yourself looking in a mirror... but it's a book that you're reading that's being written by a character in the story apparently, but hasn't been written yet). Oh well. I did not like most of the characters, and some of the characters that Irving developed were not realistic at all - they were more like cartoon characters than real characters because some of their characteristics were so exaggerated. I would not recommend this book to anyone unless they were a huge John Irving fan.

  • Mary Rowen
    2019-02-08 17:18

    This novel was published a couple of years ago, but I didn’t get to it until recently, and wanted to give it a plug. I should mention that I’m quite prejudiced here, because I love just about anything John Irving writes, but this is certainly one of his best books.Much like another of my Irving favorites, A Widow for One Year, Twisted River meanders for a while before the reader figures out that the story will focus primarily on the life of a writer; in this case, Danny Baciagalupo. But Irving can get away with that. He’s a master of complex family sagas that would read like soap operas in the hands of anyone else.So many discussions about Irving revolve around his plots, and that’s justified; his plots are fascinating, unique and airtight. But his novels truly resonate with me because of his characters. Twisted River contains some of his best: a charming, sentimental logger who lives with an arsenal of weapons and a guilty conscience; a heartbreakingly optimistic and forgiving cook; a terrifying, murderous cop; and a naked woman who falls from the sky in a parachute.Then there’s Danny Baciagalupo, who grows from a young boy to a sixty-three-year-old man over the course of the story. This is Irving’s most auto-biographical novel ever; he gives Danny his complete professional resume, and the twist in the final chapter is incredibly clever. But, as Irving points out in his afterword, he doesn’t give Danny his life. Danny is plagued with unbearable pain and sorrow, whereas Irving has been far luckier.And, like so many Irving novels, Twisted River also deals with a parent losing a child. Irving has called this his worst fear; he’s even said he hopes writing about this topic over and over again might protect him from such a loss. I hope so too.I’ve got a few other books on my list right now, but I’m also dying to read Irving’s newest offering, In One Person.

  • Eileen
    2019-02-10 17:36

    In his latest book, LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER, John Irving pays homage to the notion of family and the craft of fiction writing. Through the writer/character of Danny Angel, Irving weaves a story about storytelling; a tongue-in-cheek retrospective of his own work and favorite themes. But mostly, he just tells a great story.Once again, Irving explores how our “family histories…invade our most basic instincts and inform our deepest memories…“ (page 94) ; how our childhood experiences, and those of our ancestors, color our adult lives, for better or worse. The “family” at the heart of the novel consists of Dominic Baciagalupo, a cook in a logging camp and single father; his son, Daniel who is twelve at the story’s opening; and Ketchum, a veteran logger who isn’t related to them by blood, but is a virtual “older brother” to Dominic and guardian angel to both father and son. The novel spans a half century from the 1950’s up to 2005, moving back and forth in time. In 1954, an incident in the New Hampshire logging town of Twisted River forces father and son to flee. The action then winds between their lives as fugitives and fateful past events that seem to have led them to this life on the run. I did think often of Thomas Hardy and his similar obsession with fate, even before Irving cites that writer as an inspiration to Danny (page 135): “One day, the writer would recognize the near simultaneity of connected but dissimilar momentous events – these are what move a story forward – but at the moment Danny… had merely been thinking: How “coincidental” is this? (He was too young to know that, in any novel with a reasonable amount of forethought, there were no coincidences.)”But, isn’t this true in real life as well? There are many of us who believe there are no coincidences; who grapple with those “intersections in the road…these junctions, where making a sharp-left or sharp-right turn from the previously chosen path” (page 349) can make such a difference. What informs these decisions to make a turn or keep on driving straight into the night? As Danny reflects on page 350, how many times do we look back on the “choices” we’ve “made” and wonder if they even fall “in the category of a decision?”A special treat I found in this book - interspersed with the alternately moving, comical and nightmarish plot - were reflections on the nature of fiction writing itself. How it is “both autobiographical and NOT autobiographical at the same time.” (page 230) How, for many readers, the parts of a novel that are said to be based on real events are valued more, and considered more “authentic, more verifiably true” than the parts that are “merely made up.”“(This was a common belief, even though a fiction writer’s job was imagining, truly, a whole story – as Danny had subversively said, whenever he was given the opportunity to defend the FICTION in fiction writing – because real-life stories were never whole, never complete in the ways that novels could be.)” pages 372-373.Throughout this novel, Irving shows how a gifted writer can use a real-life story to craft a fictional one, that is, in the end, a more authentic - and better - story.Toward the end of the novel (page 423), Danny remarks: “If we live long enough, we become caricatures of ourselves.”I’m grateful to John Irving for that insight, as well as for his creating the character of Danny Angel. If we join Danny on his intrepid journey from childhood to adulthood, we too may learn to take ourselves a little less seriously and enjoy our caricatures more.

  • Aj
    2019-01-24 17:13

    A new John Irving novel that was released on my half-birthday and was pre-ordered for me by my ever-thoughtful beautiful wifey! I can understand that Irving is likely to a polarizing writer - either you love him or you don't (but perhaps have enjoyed some of his more popular novels, e.g. Garp & Ciderhouse). But I love him. He is my favorite all-time author. And LNITR was like a warm homecoming to a very familiar place. Like going to you favorite restaurant from your childhood (and this is an appropriate metaphor for this book, which focuses heavily on cooking) and discovering the menu hasn't changed and ordering your very favorite meal. If it's your favorite, why change it? Irving has not felt the need to re-invent himself as an author with every book. There are familiar elements that are warm and cozy - wrestling makes an appearance and does NE boarding schools (although neither to the extent as is found in other books), there is some political commentary on the Vietnam War (a la Owen Meany), the main character is an author (and writes an "abortion novel" a la Ciderhouse), and as always there are disturbing sexual elements and well-foreshadowed tragic death. I love Irving's character for their ambiguity. Most of them are not entirely likeable, but certainly sympathetic and multi-dimensional. Additionally, although the novel is tragic, and heartbreakingly so (I cried), the conclusion feels just right and wraps everything up. One is never left wondering with Irving. Again, so comforting and familiar. Being familiar with Irving is also comforting because (much like knowing the end to a book) I was able to concentrate and appreciate elements of the writing. For instance, Irving is using more parenthetical asides in this novel and uses them as a means to his foreshadowing. Also, this is more of a political novel (although I take it from Irving's commentary via his author character, he would resent this label). But as a post 9-11 novel that takes place largely in NE, it would be un-Irving-like to ignore the events all-together. And, as in previous political commentaries, I find Irving to share many of my political beliefs, but able to describe them in a very Irving-esque way. And so I will end with this lovely commentary, delivered by Ketchum (my favorite character, and not only for this - contains strong language, put on your big girl pants) "This ass-wipe in the White House is the wrong man for the job - you just wait and see how many mistakes this penis-breath is going to make! On this moose turd's watch there's going to be a fucking myriad of mistakes!" Oh and the 4 stars not 5 is because it's not my favorite Irving, one must maintain some standards. It's not a Hotel New Hampshire or a Son of the Circus.

  • Kirsta
    2019-02-05 14:26

    You know those people who lick the inside of an Oreo cookie out and then don't eat the chocolate cookies? They might like this book; only the middle was good.The Sept 2009 goodreads newsletter had an interview with Anita Diamante where she discussed cutting extra words and how she keeps cutting and keeps cutting until she is down to only the essential words in her novels. John Irving needs to hang out with Diamante. The first 200 pages or so were just so dang wordy. Everything had multiple names, which sure, I suppose that multiple names for each character were important to the story but Paris/West Dummer as one example just added unnecessary words and chaos as he was setting the stage for the novel. In addition, throughout the book, Irving will complete a thought in parenthesis at the end of a paragraph. Anyone with a reading level beyond the 8th grade can infer on their own what he's included in the parenthesis. This gave the feeling that the thing just hadn't been edited. I have an ARC so I kept thinking that maybe, if future readers were lucky, those parts in parenthesis would be cut. I learned in high school writing courses to fully examine what you add in parenthesis to see if it's necessary or can be cut completely. This is pretty basic.The middle was awesome. I flew through it and really enjoyed the character of Danny Angel/Daniel Baciagalupo. The simultaneous stories of the fathers and sons were really, really great. And then, we get to the last part where things just flopped. As a rule, I hate, loathe, abhor modern day politics in fiction. I read fiction to escape my reading of modern day politics. It's one thing if it adds something to the story but the politics in this section added NOTHING. The only service they provided was to get my bp up as I relive the last decade. The second to last chapter's sole purpose was to take up space in the book so that the symmetry of the two chapters per part wasn't lost. Absolutely nothing of benefit, other than fleshing out the authors opinion of Bush, was established here. Just like his lengthy sentences in parenthesis, I'm sure we could all infer his thoughts on the previous President on our own. Then the last chapter concludes with a rushed and unlikely ending, wrapping everything up in a nice neat bow. Had that story line begun in the chapter before, it would have been a bit more plausible. Maybe.This is the first John Irving book that I've ever been able to finish and I can now say with absolute certainty that I do not like his sophomoric writing style, and while his stories are good, I'll wait until they come out on film to see them in the future.