Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

In true John Irving style, this book starts off as one thing, dives into some extreme tangents you don't expect, and ends on a completely unrelated note. I really enjoyed it.

Last Night in Twisted River is primarily about a father and son on the run. They've accidentally committed a crime, covered it up, and left their New Hampshire home to avoid the wrath of the drunken, violent police officer should he discover the truth of what happened. The story begins when the son, Daniel, is 12 and ends when he's in his 60's.

In the course of their time on the lamb, Daniel grows up, gets married, has a son of his own, and becomes a famous writer (using a pseudonym of course.) He also leads a pretty tough life - most of it spent with a broken heart. Daniel's Dad, Dominic, spends his time as fugitive loving, cooking, and fulfilling dreams although he's a bit broken as well. Keeping the characters rooted to where the whole things started is Ketchum, a rough logger and close friend whose complicated relationship with Daniel and Dominic never overshadows his unfailing desire to protect them both.

More than a "thriller" this is a book about people and how they deal with the horrible and stressful extremes of life. Can you really prepare for the worst? Can the inevitable be avoided? How do you find peace when the smoke clears? Irving offers up his answers to these questions through his complex characters and doesn't disappoint in the process.

A side note to the story I also found interesting was that Irving shares his own writing style with the reader through Daniel. The way Daniel forms his novels is actually identical to Irving. With a bit of a comedic twist at one point, Daniel considers a title for a book's first chapter that is the same as the title for the first chapter of Twisted River. I like that Irving shares such a personal process with his readers in this way.

I'm a decent-sized Irving fan, but I haven't read all of his work. A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of my favorites, but I didn't enjoy Twisted River on the same level even though it was an intelligent and interesting read which I'd recommend to anyone.

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