Synopses & Reviews
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. Both the twelve-year-old and his father become fugitives, forced to run from Coos County — to Boston, to southern Vermont, to Toronto — pursued by the implacable 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 living replica of Coos County, where lethal hatreds were generally permitted to run their course.
From the novel's taut opening sentence — The young Canadian, who could not have been more than fifteen, had hesitated too long — to its elegiac final chapter, Last Night in Twisted River is written with the historical authenticity and emotional authority of The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany. It is also as violent and disturbing a story as John Irving's breakthrough bestseller, The World According to Garp.
What further distinguishes Last Night in Twisted River is the author's unmistakable voice — the inimitable voice of an accomplished storyteller. Near the end of this moving novel, John Irving writes: "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."
"Irving (The World According to Garp) returns with a scattershot novel, the overriding themes, locations and sensibilities of which will probably neither surprise longtime fans nor win over the uninitiated. Dominic 'Cookie' Baciagalupo and his son, Danny, work the kitchen of a New Hampshire logging camp overlooking the Twisted River, whose currents claimed both Danny's mother and, as the novel opens, mysterious newcomer Angel Pope. Following an Irvingesque appearance of bears, Cookie and Danny's 'world of accidents' expands, precipitating a series of adventures both literary and culinary. The ensuing 50-year slog follows the Baciagalupos from a Boston Italian restaurant to an Iowa City Chinese joint and finally a Toronto French cafe, while dovetailing clumsily with Danny's career as the distinctly Irving-like writer Danny Angel. The story's vicariousness is exacerbated by frequent changes of scene, self-conscious injections of how writers must 'detach themselves' and a cast of invariably flat characters. With conflict this meandering and characters this limp, reflexive gestures come off like nostalgia and are bound to leave readers wishing Irving had detached himself even more." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A]n artful reflection of how the past informs the present, both for the unforgettable trio at the heart of his novel and the flawed but indomitable country they live in." Booklist
"Will entertain the faithful and annoy readers who think this author has already written the same novel too many times." Kirkus Reviews
"Irving's latest is interesting, funny, and original — but also self-indulgent and highly digressive, with more backstory than story." Library Journal
"There's plenty of evidence in Irving's agility as a writer in Last Night in Twisted River....some of the comic moments are among the most memorable that Irving has written." New York Times
"A rich and evocative story." Washington Post
"The focused account of the family and its arts is packaged with Irving's typically massive plot complications and a vast cast of secondary characters. It is a book that never lets you forget that it is a book, a written thing, full of commentary and repetition (and parenthetical clarifications) and foreshadowing and explanation." Floyd Skloot, the Boston Globe
(read the entire Boston Globe review
A story spanning five decades, Irving's 12th novel is set in 1954 New Hampshire, where an anxious 12-year-old boy mistakes the local constable's girlfriend for a bear.
About the Author
John Irving's novels can sneak up on a reader — you might begin by laughing at his eccentric characters but be in tears by the end of the book. With titles such as The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules, he has achieved a singular popularity for a person who is also one of America's most unique contemporary authors.