Until I Find You, John Irving, Random House Inc, 2005, 820 pp
John Irving has a new novel coming out in May, 2012: In One Person. Since I had fallen behind on his releases, I took the plunge on this long novel. The general consensus, according to readers' stars and critics, seems to be that Irving's last two novels were not up to snuff. I disagree.
Granted, it would be hard to top Cider House Rules or A Prayer From Owen Meany. Somehow, ever since I read The World According to Garp about 18 years ago, I have felt a kindred spirit in John Irving. I'm not confident I could even articulate it, but I always get what he is creating in his novels. In some ways he is as oriented to contemporary issues as Jodi Picoult (of whom I am NOT a fan), but no matter the issue, I feel John there in his novels. He is no mere spectator of modern life. He loves the odd misfit people as much as do Anne Tyler or Ann Patchett, while he writes like a modern Charles Dickens.
Jack Burns is a fatherless child. According to Alice, his mother, William Burns abandoned Alice and Jack; therefore he must never be forgiven. Amidst tattoo parlours and a long list of older sexually abusive women, Jack grows up deciding that no one can be forgiven. Although he becomes a famous actor, the guiding beacon for his existence is that missing father.
I agree with some that the story bogs down at times, though if it weren't for all the detail about tattoo artists, Scandinavia, whores, organists and Hollywood, I would have continued through life blissfully ignorant in those areas.
Basically I don't care about the flaws. This is an almost unbelievable story about lots of unbelievable stuff that does go on in the world. It is also a cautionary tale to parents as we commit unbelievably damaging sins against our children. John Irving has shown that the adult me is an unreliable narrator about my early life, that learning the truth about one's parents is painful but essential, and that forgiveness is the healing for unquiet hearts. I have learned these things in other ways, but being the fiction lover that I am, learning them again in Until I Find You was the best. The tears I shed at the end were as freeing as anything else I have tried.
(Until I Find You is available in several formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore. To find it in your nearest indie story click on the cover image above.)