mireille27, April 12, 2007 (view all comments by mireille27)
I have accidentally stumbled unto the best author and writer of any time. I 'found' A widow for one year at a restaurant in Zihuatenajo, Mexico that traded or gave away books. After careful deliberation I chose A widow for one year. After that I was hooked. I read The world according to Garp, then Until I find you. Now I am reading The Fourth Hand. John Irvings' dedication to detail, authentic character representation and comic relief is inspiring. 'Until I find you' is long, however in my opinion that is what makes it great. It often takes a lifetime to recover from our childhood. Had John Irving taken a shorter path, the authenticity of the story would be lost. The loss of innocence of any child is a life-long battle that leaves the child scarred and scared. Jack Burns' life is normal considering his childhood. I love that Mr Irving does not protect us emotionally from the characters. I absolutely hated Alice. I think Mr. Irving wanted us to hate her, not to forgive her, even when Jacks father William urges us to forgive. I did not want to forgive her. I truly felt for Jack. His mother acted selfishly and myopically. Only thinking of herself, even when she was sick, why not tell her son? Another aspect of this complex novel that I apprectiate is for the longest time we believe Alice. We are as blind as little Jack of the true nature of William. The often innacurate portrayal of absentee fathers or neglectful and abusive boyfriends is often the only side we hear in stories and in Life. The female perspective. We assume that Alice is correct. That she is the jilted young mom, left to fend for herself while her selfish boyfriend places gettting 'inked' in higher regard than her and their child.I especially appreciate that in the end, we get what we want; the reunion. Father and son, together at last. But it is not happy ending. It is a complicated ending that will go on long after the book is over. That is what I love. An ending that is satisfying but not necessarily easy.
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sandylcarlson, August 6, 2006 (view all comments by sandylcarlson)
Irving's novel beautifully and accurately describes the long-term effects of sex, sex-abuse, and lies on a child's sense of self. Jack Burns's attempt to repair the damage to his world and forgive the perpetrators and sensitively rendered in this novel. Thank you, John Irving.
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Random House -
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Actor Jack Burns seeks a sense of identity and father figures while accommodating a host of overbearing and elaborately dysfunctional women in Irving's latest sprawling novel (after The Fourth Hand). At the novel's onset (in 1969), four-year-old Jack is dragged by his mother, Alice, a Toronto-based tattoo artist, on a year-long search throughout northern Europe for William Burns, Jack's runaway father, a church organist and 'ink addict.' Back in Toronto, Alice enrolls Jack at the all-girls school St. Hilda's, where she mistakenly thinks he'll be 'safe among the girls'; he later transfers to Redding, an all-boy's prep school in Maine. Jack survives a childhood remarkable for its relentless onslaught of sexual molestation at the hands of older girls and women to become a world-famous actor and Academy Award-winning screenwriter. Eventually, he retraces his childhood steps across Europe, in search of the truth about his father — a quest that also emerges as a journey toward normalcy. Though the incessant, graphic sexual abuse becomes gratuitous, Irving handles the novel's less seedy elements superbly: the earthy camaraderie of the tattoo parlors, the Hollywood glitz, Jack's developing emotional authenticity, his discovery of a half-sister and a moving reunion with his father. Agent, Janet Turnbull Irving. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,
"With Jack Burns, Irving has created his most complex protagonist....And in the long, winding, complex and moody narrative that is Until I Find You, Irving has fashioned a real heart-stopper of a story — and one of his finest novels to date."
"Some novels are simply too long, and this is one of them. The framework of the plot cannot support so much detail and so many prolonged scenes....[B]y a third of the way through this almost impenetrable tale, no one will care."
by Library Journal,
"Irving's 11th novel may disappoint longtime fans — this is a quieter, more contemplative journey than his previous works, requiring some patience and reflection....[A] rewarding and meaningful experience."
by Entertainment Weekly,
"[T]he book's second half is so much more lively, you can't help but wish Irving had packed even bigger chunks of Hollywood into this jumbo volume....[T]he results are worth reading even if they end up filling only half a book. (Grade: B-)"
by Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times,
"[A] bloated and lugubrious new novel....Jack's 'melancholic logorrhea' might yield some useful therapeutic results, but in terms of storytelling, it makes for a tedious, self-indulgent and cruelly eye-glazing read."
by San Francisco Chronicle,
"At more than 800 pages, Until I Find You takes the crown for the best longest novel of recent years....Irving lays on a lot of charming comedy."
by Marianne Wiggins, The Washington Post,
"It does go on and on, and someone, somewhere in the production line at Garp Enterprises, Ltd., should have advised John Irving not to rush to print until he'd crafted pain into art, as he's done so masterfully before."
by Chicago Sun-Times,
"All in all, this is a wonderfully thought-provoking book. Despite its length and heft (I was afraid of dropping it on my foot), its artistry is so compelling that I'm considering reading it again. How weird is that?"
by Chicago Tribune,
"On the surface, the book seems to be a galloping sexual bildungsroman. And yet, beneath the farce, a slow undercurrent of sorrow makes itself felt....[There] might be [an] intriguing 300-page novel secreted inside this sprawling, uneven one."
by Dallas-Ft. Worth Star Telegram,
"As Jack Burns matures, so does the book....This is a novel worth reading all the way through."
by Charlotte Observer,
"The last 300 or so pages of Until I Find You are marvelous, and the twists and turns as Jack pursues his final search are believable and touching. The main problem is with the long middle of the novel in which Jack seems not only to have forgotten his father, but to have lost himself."
by Cleveland Plain Dealer,
"[A] diluted story, a 350-page novel told in more than twice that space....The magical alchemy of plot, character and psychology that Irving brought to the best of his earlier tales is nowhere to be found."
by San Jose Mercury News,
"[E]ven when, a good two-thirds of the way through, he finally did something that impressed me, I still found myself not liking this book very much, which disturbed me because of how much I admire Irving."
by Los Angeles Times,
"Until I Find You, an often stunningly visual novel, is burdened by bloat. One can easily imagine a pared-down, vivid film version."
by Rocky Mountain News,
"No John Irving novel is any easy read; he'd rather take the long way home than the easy path. Yet it's always an unpredictable journey, and once you emerge from the emotional briar patch, you find yourself sad that it's over, and ready to take the trip again."
Suffused with overwhelming sadness and deception, this 11th novel by the bestselling author — a chronicle of the life of an actor — is also a robust and comic novel, certain to be compared to Irving's most ambitious and moving work.
Until I Find You is the story of the actor Jack Burns - his life, loves, celebrity and astonishing search for the truth about his parents.
When he is four years old, Jack travels with his mother Alice, a tattoo artist, to several North Sea ports in search of his father, William Burns. From Copenhagen to Amsterdam, William, a brilliant church organist and profligate womanizer, is always a step ahead - has always just departed in a wave of scandal, with a new tattoo somewhere on his body from a local master or “scratcher.”
Alice and Jack abandon their quest, and Jack is educated at schools in Canada and New England - including, tellingly, a girls school in Toronto. His real education consists of his relationships with older women - from Emma Oastler, who initiates him into erotic life, to the girls of St. Hildas, with whom he first appears on stage, to the abusive Mrs. Machado, whom he first meets when sent to learn wrestling at a local gym.
Too much happens in this expansive, eventful novel to possibly summarize it all. Emma and Jack move to Los Angeles, where Emma becomes a successful novelist and Jack a promising actor. A host of eccentric minor characters memorably come and go, including Jacks hilariously confused teacher the Wurtz; Michelle Maher, the girlfriend he will never forget; and a precocious child Jack finds in the back of an Audi in a restaurant parking lot. We learn about tattoo addiction and movie cross-dressing, “sleeping in the needles” and the cure for cauliflower ears. And John Irving renders his protagonists unusual rise through Hollywood with the same vivid detail and range of emotions he gives to the organ music Jack hears as a child in European churches. This is an absorbing and moving book about obsession and loss, truth and storytelling, the signs we carry on us and inside us, the traces we cant get rid of.
Jack has always lived in the shadow of his absent father. But as he grows older - and when his mother dies - he starts to doubt the portrait of his fathers character she painted for him when he was a child. This is the cue for a second journey around Europe in search of his father, from Edinburgh to Switzerland, towards a conclusion of great emotional force.
A melancholy tale of deception, Until I Find Youis also a swaggering comic novel, a giant tapestry of lifes hopes. It is a masterpiece to compare with John Irvings great novels, and restates the authors claim to be considered the most glorious, comic, moving novelist at work today.
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