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Last Night in Twisted River [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

John Irving
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 20 2009
From the author of A Widow for One Year, A Prayer for Owen Meany and other acclaimed novels, comes a story of a father and a son - fugitives in 20th-century North America.

In 1954, in the cookhouse of a logging and sawmill settlement in northern New Hampshire, a twelve-year-old boy mistakes the local constable's girlfriend for a bear. Both the twelve-year-old and his father become fugitives, pursued by the constable. Their lone protector is a fiercely libertarian logger, once a river driver, who befriends them.

In a story spanning five decades, Last Night in Twisted River - John Irving's twelfth novel - depicts the recent half-century in the United States as a world "where lethal hatreds were generally permitted to run their course." From the novel's taut opening sentence - "The young Canadian, who could not have been more than fifteen, had hesitated too long." - to its elegiac final chapter, what distinguishes Last Night in Twisted River is the author's unmistakable voice, the inimitable voice of an accomplished storyteller.

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"Last Night in Twisted River is a novel of excellence. This big-hearted, brilliantly written and superbly realised inter-generational tale of a father and son on the lam, and their flawed protector, stands comparison with the very best of Irving's previous work. It is absolutely unmissable."
— Irvine Welsh, Financial Times

"Last Night in Twisted River mulls the crises that steep Irving's finest work, from Garp to Owen Meany to Widow. Yet the scale here is more human, and his approach more humane, than anything that's come before."
— Los Angeles Times

"One of Mr. Irving's more powerful works."
— The New York Times

"Irving both tickles the narrative palate of saga — and suspense — lovers, and guides us gently down the paths of unaccustomed thought on civility, politics and art. . . . Irving always keeps one foot in the fairy-tale forest. Fate and kinship — by blood or choice — entwine as intimately in his books as they ever did in Dickens."
— The Independent

About the Author

John Irving published his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, in 1968. He has been nominated for a National Book Award three times — winning once, in 1980, for the novel The World According to Garp. He also received an O. Henry Award, in 1981, for the short story “Interior Space.” In 1992, Irving was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2000, he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Samantha TOP 500 REVIEWER
The novel began like a poem, a sad, true poem about the waning days of logging. It didn't continue with the same beauty, but it was a great tale of a camp cook and his son encountering tragedy and running from the possible consequences of an accident. The often over-the-top story line in Last Night was made almost believable because of Irving's amazing ability to bring his characters to life. The four generation story of ordinary life back-dropped with melodrama was made especially interesting for me when I found out that some of it was somewhat auto-biographical. Also, the news (for me) that he writes from beginning to end (after writing the last sentence of the book first) without a rewrite explains a lot. There was some poorly integrated scenes and some ineffective repetition that an editor should have nixed. Because he spent very little time characterizing the last generation son, it seemed uneven. However, I am always eager to read the next sentence that John Irving writes. It is always an adventure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad but could have been so much better Jan. 17 2010
By Andrea
John Irving's novels are in a class by themselves. There is no mistaking his stories for anyone else's and this is one of the reasons I've always loved them. Yes, Irving tells essentially the same story in each novel but I think his talent lies in being able to sell you that story every time. It can be comforting to read one of his novels and recognize the recurring elements as you go. Last Night in Twisted River, then, is the ultimate comfort read for Irving fans; it has nearly every one of his favourite 'Irvingisms' - I think Vienna and prostitutes are the only ones he left out.

This overabundance of recurring elements is, I believe, both the book's greatest asset and its greatest weakness. The first third felt like vintage Irving, bringing back memories of Owen Meany and The World According to Garp. The final third was nearly as good and the chapter called 'Lady Sky' was brilliant. It would almost work on its own as a short story and is, for me, the most memorable part of the novel.

The middle of the book is where things took a turn for the worse. The timeline became too confusing to keep straight and so many of those 'Irvingisms' showed up that it became almost eye-rollingly predictable. If you've read all of the classic Irving novels, it's difficult not to make those connections and see what's coming next.

Here's what bothered me most about this novel: in The World According to Garp, what I really loved were the original stories that Garp wrote. In Twisted River, Irving develops a very similar character in Daniel but rather than original work, the plots of Daniel's novels bear a remarkable resemblance to those of Irving's early novels (and are released in almost the same order).
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3.0 out of 5 stars A SLOW READ July 10 2010
"Like a long slowly moving hearse, the maroon semiwoodie took the haul road out of the settlement. As they drove south-south-east, sometimes within sight of Twisted River, the dawn was fast approaching."

I was eager for this book, and planned to take in on my holidays earlier this year with me. The book is five hundred and fifty four pages, but that's okay because I like fat books which hold my attention.

The book centres around Dominic a cook who sets up his business in a Sawmill settlement accompanied by his young son Daniel, who one night kills the girlfriend of the constable thinking she was a bear. Afterwards the chase is on for they must leave immediately. They move from New Hampshire to Boston, Vermont, Toronto and then back to New Hampshire all the while opening restaurants as they flee.
The action and intrigue I looked for was not there to the magnitude that I expected. They were far too comfortable in their running away and the suspense was missing.

Otherwise, Mr. Irving painted some very interesting and colourful characters, and because of them I continued to read. SLOW-PACED
Reviewed by Heather Marshall Negahdar - July 10th, 2010
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3.0 out of 5 stars A slow go Aug. 5 2010
After reading A Prayer for Owen Meany, which was dense but enjoyable, I figured I couldn't go wrong with another John Irving book. I was disappointed in Twisted River because it was quite a slow read. It is the kind of book that you can read 50 pages, then walk away from it for a month, and return and not even care that you don't recall what happened, because the events that occur in the story are somewhat repetitious - so you won't miss a beat. I like to finish a book once I've started it, but perhaps I gave Twisted River a bit too much of my time. Perhaps I'll read a John Irving in the future, but I'm hoping it will be more of a page turner.

On the positive side, the characters were interesting and you can't help but feel sympathy for them and their losses. The character of Ketchum is especially enjoyable. Not sure if I necessarily agree with Irving's assessment of Canadians political opinions, however - but it is fiction!
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5.0 out of 5 stars John Irving is the best! Oct. 22 2010
John Irving is the best story teller of his generation. Last night in Twister River brings us back to his roots, to his beginning as a writer. Those who are initiated to Irving's writing will know what I mean. Even the bears are back...!

Irving is witty, funny, sensitive and intelligent. Last Night in Twisted River is delightful altough it takes a while to pick-up, but once it does you're in for an interesting and entertaining ride. You will fall in love with the characters and the depiction of their world.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read.
Beautifully written and populated with interesting well developed characters. The novel demonstrates so well how a large or small decision once made influences the rest of one's... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Genio
2.0 out of 5 stars John Irving: Last Night in Twisted River
There used to be times when writers made their autobiographical novels happier and more satisfactory than their actual fate had been. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Hana
4.0 out of 5 stars classic John Irving
I loved this book. I was lucky to hear John Irving read it aloud at word fest which added to the excitement of reading this. Read more
Published on June 29 2010 by big fan from Calgary
2.0 out of 5 stars First and Last John Irving
Plodding. I had no idea what to expect but I was drawn to the book by the first chapter, but then the book became something totally different. Read more
Published on June 22 2010 by J. Bustard
2.0 out of 5 stars Very Disappointing
Extremely tedious book to get through. Managed to get 3/4 of the way into it and gave up, as it wasn't getting any better. Don't really care how it ended.
Published on Feb. 12 2010 by Jacobs
1.0 out of 5 stars LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER
Published on Feb. 3 2010 by Janette Perry
2.0 out of 5 stars Twisted, for sure....
I had a hard go with this book. John Irving and I have a "twisted" relationship, in that I love some books (Cider House Rules) and...others, not so much. Read more
Published on Dec 3 2009 by Judith B
4.0 out of 5 stars An Acquired Taste
I guess John Irving must be an acquired taste. He hasn't had really great reviews on some of his books since Garp. Personally, I love his books. Read more
Published on Nov. 21 2009 by Gary R. Munn
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