John Irving is back, and he has returned to the fine form that launched him into the mainstream of popular fiction.
If you were like me and thought that the last few offerings from John Irving had lost thier, well… Irving-ness, well you can be rest assured that he has returned to his old form with Last Night In Twisted River. I will say that the book jacket blurb isn’t one of the better ones I’ve seen. I felt that it was misleading as where the story would take you. Furthermore, it almost made me think twice about picking up this book and reading. So publishers beware, you can send even dedicated fans of an author away with an inappropriate jacket blurb.
This story is reminiscent of The World According To Garp in the way it takes on large issues as well as an epic story. LNITR happens over a period of fifty years or so, which gives the reader a feeling of having been a part of the characters lives, literally. This is a gift that Mr. Irving has demonstrated from his earlier novels, Hotel New Hampshire comes to mind. The story centers around the life of Daniel Baciagalupo, the son of a logging camp cook, in the 1950’s New Hampshire. A horrible accident happens and the cook takes his son away in the middle of the night so as not to be blamed for his son’s honest mistake. The mistake is the accidental killing of the local cop’s girlfriend. It doesn’t matter that the cop is a drunk and beats his girlfriends. No, he only wants to find the killer of his property, which is how he see’s his girlfriends.
So the events of that night have set in motion a life of being on the run for the cook and his son. From New Hampshire they move to Boston and from there life takes them to several other places as events warrant. The son, Danny, and his father Dominico decide to change their names just in case the crazy cop was still trying to find them. As it would happen, Danny becomes a famous writer, and the name change is fortuitous for him. His new name Danny Angel becomes one of the most well known names in the literary world and even into the mainstream to some degree. Without giving too much away, the father and son grow and make changes as they need to. They suffer the apparent loss of every woman that comes into their lives. Their only true friend in the world is the one they left behind in New Hampshire, Kethcum. He is the uncle and brother they never had. He keeps them informed as to the movements of the drunken and corrupt cop. He also holds a secret from Danny that is as shocking as it is sad.
It’s the secrets that ultimately come out that make this story so effectively layered and true. It’s almost a signature of Mr. Irving. As these secrets unfold and come into the light, the father and son continuously adapt to the changes that come into their lives, all of which are affected by their last night in Twisted River. As is the usual way for Mr. Irving, the story is so natural that it almost seems to write itself, which is the hallmark of a truly great writer.
By all means, if you are in the mood to be taken away and completely involved in the lives of the characters of John Irving, then I highly recommend this book. I, personally, am delighted to see this return to his earlier style of story telling. This is the kind of writing that made John Irving so famous to begin with, and it is the kind of writing that will continue to cement his place in history as one of the foremost writers of the last 40 years.