Also by this author: Avenue of Mysteries
Published by Random House on October 27, 2009
Read synopsis on Goodreads
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If we look back on our lives, we can all pinpoint one single act that set into motion a chain of events that spiraled out of our control. If you have kids, then you also know that a parent will do absolutely anything to protect their child. These two statements aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive and serve as the catalyst for Last Night In Twisted River by John Irving, which follows a logging camp cook and his son over several decades as they try to escape their past and forge a new future.
The book starts out by introducing the reader to the logging camp cook and his 12-year old son, who live in Coos County, New Hampshire. Life is decent, if not great, and they bumble through the days with a quiet dignity. That is until the cook’s son mistakes a woman for a bear and defends his father against her, forcing them to flee the town and people they know to escape the clutches of a violent, alcoholic constable. From there, the story follows them over the next five decades as they bounce around from state to state (and even to Canada) to avoid detection. With the help of an old logger friend, they take on assumed identities and are prepared to pull up roots at a moment’s notice. It’s easy to imagine the toll this takes on them, and Irving is not shy about weaving the effects into their personalities and actions.John Irving proves once again he's a master storyteller in Last Night In Twisted River (Review) Click To Tweet
As with most longer books, it’s a bit slow-going at first as Irving provides detailed background on the characters. It soon picks up the pace, though, and the enhanced background enriches the story as it progresses. It also forces the reader to connect with the characters early on, which, to be frank, gives Irving the power to punch you in the gut. If you’ve read A Prayer for Owen Meany, then you know exactly what I mean by this.
I spent most of the book hovering between anxiety and hope, anxiety over whether they were going to get caught by the murderous constable and hope that they’d live happily ever after. There were times that I cried and times when I yelled and, to be honest, a time when I put down the book and told my husband, “I can’t do this. I don’t want to know what happens.” Curiosity won out, of course, and while I’m glad I finished it, I ended the book feeling like this:
On a non-literary note, there were a few things about the book that I enjoyed reading because it resonated with me, personally. For example, in the book toboggans are sleds, not hats, which I fully agree with even though there are those out there who think differently. There are also some scenes set in Colorado (where I live), and it’s always neat to see in a book a place that you’ve been to, even if it’s not necessarily the most pleasant part of the book. More soberly, I found myself reading about the events of September 11, 2001 on September 11 and while I didn’t need any reminding about the devastation of that day, it was a reminder about how real-life finds its way into fiction.
I could go on and on about this book and I’ll be thinking about the ending for at least the next 100 years, but I’ll refrain. Instead, I will say this: Irving is a master storyteller who will make you fall in love with the characters only to feel all of the feelings. If you’re a glutton for punishment like me, then pick this one up.