Book Read! LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER by John Irving

Title: Last Night in Twisted River.

Author: John Irving

Publication date: 2009

Original Language: English

Read in: English

Number of Pages: 658

Fiction/Non-Fiction

Where From: Bought (Fnac Leuven)

Five stars



First sentence: “The young Canadian, who could not have been more than fifteen, had hesitated too long.”

P. 99: “For someone who left school when he was younger than Danny, Ketchum read the books he borrowed with a determination bordering on lunacy.”

Last sentence: “He felt that the great adventure of is life was just beginning  – as his father must have felt, in the throes and dire circumstances of his last night in Twisted River.”

From GoodReads: In 1954, in the cookhouse of a logging and sawmill settlement in northern New Hampshire, an anxious twelve-year-old boy mistakes the local constable’s girlfriend for a bear. Both the twelve-year-old and his father become fugitives, forced to run from Coos County–to Boston, to southern Vermont, to Toronto–pursued by the implacable constable. Their lone protector is a fiercely libertarian logger, once a river driver, who befriends them.



Yes, John Irving did it again, and that’s why he is my all-time favourite author.  From the first sentence I got drawn into the book and I wanted to know what was going to happen with all the unique characters that play a role in the story.  Of course, there are bears featuring in the narrative, and yes, there is some talk about wrestling. But Irving has such a way with words, that I can’t help myself going with the story, and believing in everything that happens, however incredible it is.

For me it has been like this since I read The World According to Garp“.  I loved that book, but when a few years later I read A Prayer for Owen Meany, I was flabbergasted by the complexity of the story and the unbelievable real people he described.  I then immediately read other books by him, both older and the new ones when they were published (in random order: A Son of the Circus, The 158-Pound Marriage, The Water-Method Man, The Cider House Rules, The Fourth Hand, A Widow for One Year, Until I Find You;; there are indeed some books I still have to read, but I want to savour them), and although I really, really loved them, for me, not one of them had the magic of A Prayer for Owen Meany.

But Last Night In Twisted River has that magic again.  The characters are as real as if they are living next door.  I care and feel for them, and I think about them even when I am not reading the book.  The story is great, but there is also some interesting stuff about the process of writing, which fits in perfectly, as the main character is a writer.  Some examples:

In the media, real life was more important than fiction; those elements of a novel that were, at least, based on personal experience were of more interest to the general public than those pieces of the novel-writing process that were ‘merely’ made up.  In any work of fiction, weren’t those things that had really happened to the writer – or, perhaps, to someone the writer had intimately known – more authentic, more verifiably true, than anything that anyone could imagine?  (This was a common belief, even though a fiction writer’s job was imagining, truly, a whole story, as Danny had subversively said whenever he was given the opportunity to defend the fiction in fiction writing – because real-life stories were never whole, never complete in the ways that novels could be.”

And those former journalists who later turned to writing fiction subscribed to that tiresome Hemingway dictum of writing about what you know.  What bullshit was this?  Novels should be about the people you know? How many boring but deadeningly realistic novels can be attributed to this lame and utterly uninspired advice?”

Well, I could go on for a while, but I think you can guess that I only have one advice for you: read this book. And if you haven’t read Irving before; go and read one of his books!  You won’t regret it!

Other thoughts/reviews: Leeswammes’ BlogYou’ve Gotta Read This!, and Guardian Books.

Here you can hear John Irving talking about Last Night in Twisted River!

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4 Comments

  1. It’s clear you loved this book. Just wondering why you didn’t read it earlier, if John Irving is you favorite author. Too many books on the shelves? 😉

    I liked this quite a bit, but not as much as you.

    • I am going to have to give you a foolish answer, Judith; the reason I didn’t read it sooner, is that because he is a favourite author, I always wait till there is a new book by him, so that I have one ready all the time. I know it is kind of stupid, but that’s the way my brain works. And besides, like you say, I do have other books I can read. 🙂
      Thanks for your comment!

      • That is a funny reason! Like always saving some chocolate for when you really, really want some.

        But, weren’t you very tempted to read it?

      • I guess I have a rather twisted mind… 🙂 Of course I was tempted but luckily I have enough books waiting for me. Now I will wait till Irving’s latest book In One Person is published in paperback before I buy it… And then I will probably wait to read it until he has published another book. Or I will read one of his older books, one I haven’t read before or one I did read before.

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