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Review: Last Night in Twisted River, by John Irving

Spanning the course of over fifty years, Last Night in Twisted River is the story of Danny Baciagalpo/Angel, the son of a logging camp cook. One evening, he and his father are forced to flee Twisted River, and they spend pretty much the rest of their lives on the run from a crazy and (as it turns out) a not-so-dumb sheriff. The novel takes us from New England in the ‘50s, to Iowa in the ‘60s, then to New England again, and Toronto in 2005.

The quirky plot and characters are pure John Irving. There’s a lot here that he’s visited before (there are the ghosts of boarding schools, bears, and wrestlers in Last Night in Twisted River), but Irving delves into new territory with his latest novel. I’ve always thought of John Irving’s books are being somewhat autobiographical—with embellishments. Danny Angel is a famous author; the plot of one of his novels even sounds suspiciously like parts of The Cider House Rules. As Irving says:

“In the media, real life was more important than fiction; those elements of a novel that were, at least, based on personal experience were of more interest to the general public than those pieces of the novel-writing process that were ‘merely’ made up. In any piece of fiction, weren’t those things that had really happened to the writer—or, perhaps, to someone the writer had intimately know—more authentic , more verifiably true, than anything that anyone could imagine?”

True, but John Irving’s novels, even the parts that are purely made up, are always interesting—so maybe the converse is true as well? Maybe pure fantasy can also be entirely believable?

True, the sex parts of the novel can be a bit off-putting (Irving seems a bit obsessed with the idea of overweight people having sex; Danny has a thing for one of Dominic’s girlfriends). Dominic and Danny’s girlfriends never really emerge out of one dimension (maybe because they don’t ever stay around all that long in the first place). The novel does jump around in time, which can be confusing in some places (especially when it comes to differentiating between what’s happening in the present and what’s being remembered by one or more of the characters. Still, I enjoyed this quirky, offbeat novel. Irving’s novels are always a pleasure to read, and this one is no exception.

Also reviewed by: Book Chase


Sounds like Irving has gone back to his roots with this one. Looking forward to reading it.
Kathleen said…
I've never read anything of Irving's...hard to believe, I know! There's been quite a bit of press about this one and based on your review it might be a good one for me to try!
Wendy said…
Glad to see you enjoyed this one! I loved it, but I am also a fanatical Irving fan :)
S. Krishna said…
I definitely want to read this one. Thanks for the review.

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