Tag Archives: Book Club Reading List

Review: Last Night in Twisted River

Last Night in Twisted RiverLast Night in Twisted River
By John Irving
Random House
June 2010
592pp

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.

Source: Purchased

Review: Ethan Frome

Ethan Frome Book Cover

Ethan Frome
By Edith Wharton
Penguin
1911 (Original) 2009 (This version)
128pp

The Short of It:

Tragic, depressing and grim.

The Rest of It:

Oh my goodness! My book group chose this book for December, thinking that because it was short, it would be a good choice for a busy month. I agreed at the time. However, do not let its length deceive you. It’s certainly not a complex novel in that you need a lot of time to pick it apart, but it’s heavy and fraught with high drama as all of the main characters are miserable and there doesn’t seem to be any hope for happiness.

The story takes place in a nineteenth-century New England village. Ethan Frome is married to Zeena. Zeena has a great many problems. One of which is her ailing self. It’s not clear if she is truly ill, of if her meanness just makes her so, but she is bedridden to the point of needing a helping hand. Mattie, her cousin, comes to help them out.

As the three of them spend time together, it’s clear that Ethan has fallen hard for Mattie. He secretly catches glimpses of her at the supper table, and finds excuses to be alone with her. Although he hopes that she feels the same way, it’s hard to tell as first what Mattie is thinking. However, it’s not hard to tell what Zeena is thinking and it’s no surprise that she makes it difficult for them in the end.

My frustration with this book is that there is really no honor to be had when it comes to Ethan. He loves Mattie, but he doesn’t really act upon it in a realistic way. He sort of fumbles along and experiences moments of gushing that you’d expect from a young girl, not a grown man. I mentioned the honor part because it’s not really out of a sense of honor that he is with his wife. It’s as if he doesn’t have the energy to live any differently. He puts up with her but I’m not sure why. Certainly not for money, as they are poor farmers and with her medical costs, there is nothing extra to be had.

I wanted to feel something for Ethan, but I felt nothing. It was like downing a glass of wine and having it go right to your head. I was numb to his plight and I felt no pity for him. The end of the book, as seen through a third-party visitor to the house, has got to be one of the most depressing endings ever.

Although I didn’t love it, there is plenty to discuss.

On a funny note, when I saw the cover above, I was thinking torrid love affair, a “roll in the hay” so to speak, but when you read the book you realize the cover has nothing to do with what my dirty, smutty mind was thinking. Too bad.

Source: Purchased