Last Night in Twisted River
By John Irving
The Short of It:
Unforgettable characters and a truly unique story are something reader’s expect from an Irving novel. Last Night in Twisted River delivers on both counts.
The Rest of It:
The story begins in a New Hampshire logging camp in 1954. Twelve-year-old Daniel accidentally kills the local constable’s girlfriend, which forces him and his father to flee town. As fugitives, they move from place to place, making friends along the way.
Told over the course of five decades, Last Night in Twisted River is many things. It’s definitely a story about a father and a son, but it’s also very much a story about friendship. In this novel, friendships remain true and loyalties prevail.
I fell in love with many of the characters in this novel. Dominic could not love his son more. The passages where he reflects upon Daniel literally caused my heart to ache. Some may argue that Dominic’s decision to flee does more harm than good, but when it comes to the protection of your child, people often make rash decisions. I didn’t hold it against him.
Oh, and Daniel!. He’s flawed in many ways. He seems to pick all the wrong women and has a tendency to drink too much, but the love that he holds for his father is enough to make you love him. He’s cautious, until he’s not. Which is sort of an ongoing theme throughout the novel. He grows up to be a writer and it’s through his writing that we get to know the real Daniel.
My favorite character of all though is Ketchum. Ketchum is their logging friend who remains a constant source of support for them. Although he is my favorite, I’ll let you experience him for yourself when you pick-up the book.
I do have this to say about Irving’s depiction of women… I’m not sure if he loves them or hates them! In this novel, the women are very bold, surly types. Most have questionable manners and lack good hygiene, yet they are quite important within the story itself. I enjoyed them, because although they lacked social graces and often, common sense, they were endearing in some way.
I love how Irving is able to walk a reader through a story. He takes your hand, and glides you through the chapters as if you’re a character in the story. I don’t believe there was ever a moment where I felt lost. His voice comes through so clearly. It’s one of the things that I love about Irving’s writing.
Last Night in Twisted River is a bit long, but well worth the effort. It will be on my fave list for 2010 and will probably be a favorite of mine for a long time to come. There aren’t many books that you want to reread right after finishing. That’s how I felt about this one.
19 thoughts on “Review: Last Night in Twisted River”
I love Irving – his books are always memorable. In college I went on a binge and read nothing but Irving for several months – I just couldn’t put his work down. And now, several years later, I realize I haven’t read anything by him in so long, I’ve forgotten what a great author he is. Thanks to your post for reminding me – I’m definitely picking up this book. It’ll be a good read for 2011. Cheers!
I don’t like to be contrary, but I have to speak up on this one. Our book club read this, and we all unilaterally disliked the book. Irving does seem to have a “thing” with women, and it doesn’t seem to be a good thing. I also totally didn’t buy the whole ending. I never thought there was much of a connection with Lady Sky in the first place, so ultimately it all seemed contrived, like he had to come up with a good ending so he stuck his hand into the bag and came out with her!? I did like Ketchum though. He was quite the character!
I hear you on the ending. This was my pick for book club and we meet next week. We’ll see what the others say. I know they are not fans of reading lengthy books and this was a bit long to get through but I tend to like books that center around “loner” types. Daniel and his dad always had people around them, but they were essentially alone. Sort of tragic and sad and I ate it up.
Wow, I have this book sitting on my shelf and now I know I’ll be picking it up sooner than later. Thanks, Ti!
I picked this book up a few weeks ago but didn’t start reading it yet so my husband is enjoying it. But, like me he reads a variety of books at once so it will take him some time to get through it. I’m thinking I may take it back from him because your review has me wanting to read it…Now! lol Thanks for a great review! I’m interested to see what I think about Irving’s female characters!
hmmm… you are keeping up with reviews and all things blog! I have read just one book over the last three weeks but it was A Suitable Boy…doesn’t that count for at least 3!
I love a good chunkster but that’s the problem with reading them… they suck up too much time.
Sounds terrific! I felt somewhat the same about Irving’s female characters in The World According to Garp as you did in this book. So many seemed set up for failure…then again, I guess Garp was, too. The movie version of The Hotel New Hampshire had strong women characters. Maybe that would be worth checking out to compare.
I’m not sure why I’ve avoided Irving all these years but your review has me wanting to purchase my own copy of this one!
I am glad to see a good review for this one. Originally, I was very excited to read it but my enthusiasm waned a bit when it didn’t get the praise I expected.
I saw this one in the bookstore and thought about it, but decided against it for some reason. Rethinking that now. I haven’t read an Irving before but this could be the one to start on. The characterization of the women might get to me… but I won’t know until I try!
All the women are fairly strong, although there is some violence against women. Irving manages to take you into a different direction as soon as it begins to be uncomfortable. I had no problems reading through it.
I thought this book was very good as well. I had only read this author’s earlier works like Owen Meany, so I do like reading something more recent.
I’m a fan of Irving (well, except for Until I Find You) and plan to read this next year. Thanks for the review.
I used to devour Irving’s books but for some reason I haven’t read one in a long time. Sounds like it’s time to get back to him. I love how you describe him as taking you by the hand!