Review: Last Night in Twisted River

In the Afterword of Last Night in Twisted River, John Irving talks about the importance of plot in his novels and how this feature is much derided by many readers today.

I had read the Afterword before I started the book, so I read with an eye on the plot--the sequence of events that shape the story. Stories are about characters so, really, plot show how circumstances shape character. With that go setting--time and place. To read Irving is to watch from a perfect distance how experiences in a specific time and place shape a person--or people. To read an Irving novel is to take the ride with those characters.

So it goes in Twisted River, a riveting story about the accidents that seem to have minds of their own as they also seem to determine the directions of the characters' lives.

The story starts out in a logging camp in northern New Hampshire in the middle of the last century and traces lives of a father, son, and then the grandson following a cataclysmic--and very understandable in the delightfully peculiar way of an Irving novel--moment in the lives of the father and the son.

Over and again the boy and the man and then the two men endure one emotional hardship after another as they seek to protect each other from an end that seems as inevitable as it is ruthless.

Twisted River may not be twisted enough to deserve its name, but it has the power to engulf, transform, and take life at will. It has tremendous power over life, but living is our own doing. Twisted River is about a family and a friend doing that well--sometimes despite themselves.