I loved the book not really because of my take above, but because every few pages Irving tosses in something that is spectacularly thought-provoking. The book was well-plotted, and you did wonder how it would end. The characters learned lessons and lived their lives. Along the way, Irving was able to give you something valuable to think about at every turn. I value that greatly about all his writing.
Don't miss this book. It has it all, good story, good characters, enough mystery and anticipation to keep looking ahead, enough sex to be contemporary, enough surprises to wake you up out of your own stale conjectures, some warm comedy to be good company, some real tragedy to touch the heart. And I think it taught me a lot that I can use in writing my own novel.
Then for fun I logged on here to read some reviews. I had to laugh at the supercilious statements of some of the editorial reviewers who are grasping at straws trying to find something to criticize. Got pen?
I'm serious about this being a good guide to how to write a novel--it's in the very bones of the book. I got a six-figure advance for my first non-fiction book, Depression is a Choice, published by Hyperion, and now I am starting a novel myself, which probably I will have to sell under a pen name since it is hard to be a cross-over author. Before my non-fiction sale,I was already an author of 5 children's book which I downplayed as "self-published," in order not to be typecast. And before I was a book author I was and still am a cognitive behavioral therapist. I toy with the idea sending my first 50 pages to this author for his remarks but of course I wouldn't presume to do so. I'll just struggle along like every other author has to do. Win by the word or lose by the word--a mind in the hand of fate. It is a worthy path.