Last Night


On the trusted advice of a friend, I read my first John Irving book, A Prayer for Owen Meany, a few months ago. I loved it so much that I was reluctant to start another. It’s also good to have a break between books by the same author – no matter how different the content or form, there’s something stale about beginning that second book. A few months’ time is enough to break the spell, so when I spotted Irving’s latest, Last Night in Twisted River, I picked it up. (It was a spur-of-the-moment purchase as well, since I was about to see a movie alone and had nothing to read before it began. I can do anything alone as long as I have a book with me. Most people use their cel phone for safety in solitude – I’ve always relied on a book.)

It took a few tries, but eventually I got into it, and by the middle of the story I couldn’t put it down. He is indeed a masterful story-teller, and I loved how he wove a bit of what I’m assuming is his own writing process into the book. He also created another favorite character of mine (in addition to Owen Meany) – Ketchum is my new hero. Rough, tough, ornery, and prickly – he’s my kind of man, hiding a fierce loyalty and love for a few select friends.

In the book, the protagonist is an author, and one of the criticisms made about his writing is that it features such unsavory characters. The same might be said about Last Night in Twisted River, but not by me. Some of them may be hard to love, but some of us know what that’s like. The thing I admire most about Irving is his way of conveying that love through the smallest of gestures.

It’s in a fleece vest, or an oiled knife, or a dancing moose. It’s there in the most obvious places, but also in the most senseless acts of violence – the bludgeoning of a woman in the throes of passion or the self-severing of a hand. It’s not easy to find tenderness or compassion in such a harsh world, but Irving makes his heartbreaking aches a source of solace, even in the coldest Winter.

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