The Last Chairlift
By John Irving
Simon & Schuster, 9781501189272, October 2022, 912pp.
The Short of It:
It’s been a long time I’ve read Irving but his new book does not disappoint.
The Rest of It:
Rachel Brewster is a slalom skier at the National Downhill and Slalom Championships in 1941. Due to her slight stature, she’s known as Little Ray. Although she’s well-known for her skill on the slopes, she doesn’t come close to winning a medal. Back home in New England, she becomes a ski instructor and has a son named Adam. The son who was conceived while at the Championship.
Little Ray and Adam are part of a very unique family. Although Little Ray had relations which resulted in her pregnancy, Little Ray’s partner is actually her long-time friend Molly. Another friend, Elliot, who happens to be small like Little Ray, is a cross-dresser that is near and dear to everyone, including Adam. In fact, Adam goes out of his way to protect Elliot when his secret is discovered.
If you think this is quite the cast of characters, then you’d be right and that’s not even the half of it! There is also Em, who doesn’t speak but pantomimes what she wants to say, nosy Aunts who are obsessed with Adam’s sexual preferences, oh, and ghosts. Ghosts.
Adam is a writer so some of the story is left up to the reader. Is it fiction that Adam created or is it actually part of his story? The ghosts he sees at the Jerome Hotel could be real, or they could be part of his plot. You see what I mean?
This is a wild ride of a story. At 900 pages, I really couldn’t predict how the story would end or where these characters would end up. What I can tell you is that Irving’s knack for character development is very strong and he continues to use his platform to make some political statements. The entire last part of the book was political. That said, this was probably one of the most unique stories I’ve read in a really long time.
I can’t emphasize enough how unique this story is. It’s a love story, a ghost story, and ripe with sexual politics. These characters will stay with me for a very long time.
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
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