I love to submerge and lose myself in Irving’s inventive books, and this one is no exception. I admire his expansive sense of the characters’ world – fleshed out characters with empathetic back-stories who populate a tangible world with their loves and angsts and frustrations. He presents both sides of the emotional theme of abortion with knowledgeable research and compassion. In another theme, that of deception and lying, I found myself grappling in earnest with the eternal question, “when is it okay, when is it not?” Along the way I was spiraled into the twists and contortions of Irving’s intricate plot and emerged fully satiated.
Excellent book with great character development! Those on both sides of the abortion issue will have much to ponder after reading this book. What is good? What is evil? How are Homer's thoughts conflicting with being "of use"? I will be thinking about this novel for a long time.
First off, before taking up this book, any reader unfamiliar with it must first determine if he or she has particularly strong views about abortion -- as many do. If so, that may present a problem. That is not to say that Irving's book is in any way a polemic; indeed, the moral aspects of the topic are treated in a pretty even-handed way and the grim reality of the procedure itself, as well as the circumstances leading up to it are certainly not sugar coated. The argument is set within the context of a greater question: How do we as a society address the inescapable and tragic fact that so many babies are unwanted, uncared-for, neglected, condemned from birth to lives of hardship and abuse, either by their own unwilling, unprepared biological parents or by a society and a disfunctional support system that appears to care much more for the welfare of the unborn than for that of the born.
Beyond that issue, this is a well rounded story, by which I mean that all the pieces, all the separate life journeys of the several main characters are made to intersect at various stages in satisfying ways. They are not "ships that pass in the night"; rather, they impact upon each other for good or ill, often modifying one another's vector in some way.
It is first and foremost the story of an orphan, Homer Wells. That's important, because the multitude of issues that constitute the reality of BEING an orphan -- issues that are unlikely to be understood by anyone who is NOT an orphan -- have a great deal to do with Homer's character and the choices he makes in life.
Secondly, Homer's story is in essence a morality play: His mentor, Dr. Larch has instilled in Homer the necessity of being "of use" -- in other words being an agent for good. The big challenge of course is, how does one determine what is for the good and what is not.
Finally, and best of all, what mkes this a great book is that it's a story about love, in all its many forms. Love of course often leads to heartbreak and many other problems -- not least of them sometimes being orphans, or fetuses that don't become orphans. But it is love that drives Dr. Larch to perform "the Lord's work", love that binds Homer, Wally and Candy together inescapably in their odd relationship, love that impels Melony on her long search to find Homer, brings her back to Lorna who loves her and in the end brings her back to St. Cloud's.
This book is a page-turner. I would recommend it to anyone. Irving is an amazing writer.
Years ago, I discovered <i>A Prayer for Owen Meany</i> and loved it. I've read other books by Irving since, always happily but never with the same degree of passion. This novel carried the same passion. Discussing abortion is not easy, but Irving masters the topic: discrete, passionate, convincing, respectful, he does a tremendous job of bringing his point across without dismissing the seriousness of the decision and its implications.
The storyline itself is delightful, full of ambiguities and deep emotion, tact and subtlety. It carries, of course, Irving's trademark humour and stamp of tall tales. It's compelling and intrinsically <i>novelistic</i>: there's just no putting the book down. A book that will stay with me for a long time.
I almost always finish reading a book, no matter what make prevent me from doing so. This one, however, was an exception. I just couldn't finish it. Believe me, I'm no stranger to reading all kinds of depressing stories - but this one was BEYOND depressing. It is one of those very rare occasions when I liked the movie better that the book.
Well written book
I love John Irving's novels. This one asks the question: How do we know who's family? It's not always a simple matter of biology. Homer was raised in an orphanage, where he is loved by Dr. Larch as a son and by all the other children as a brother. Homer learns everything he needs to know about the medicine needed to treat women's problems... and about family. But he feels a pull away from his roots. He leaves with a couple who have sought help from Dr. Larch to end a pregnancy and finds himself on an apple farm. Life teaches him lessons there he never learned from Dr. Larch. What path will he choose for the rest of his life? And with whom? The Cider House imparts rules for family relationships of every type. A moving story of love in all its guises.
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