Last Night in Twisted River

Last Night in Twisted River

by John Irving

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Overview

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.

In a story spanning five decades, Last Night in Twisted River–John Irving’s twelfth novel–depicts the recent half-century in the United States as “a living replica of Coos County, where lethal hatreds were generally permitted to run their course.” From the novel’s taut opening sentence–“The young Canadian, who could not have been more than fifteen, had hesitated too long”–to its elegiac final chapter, Last Night in Twisted River is written with the historical authenticity and emotional authority of The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany. It is also as violent and disturbing a story as John Irving’s breakthrough bestseller, The World According to Garp.

What further distinguishes Last Night in Twisted River is the author’s unmistakable voice–the inimitable voice of an accomplished storyteller. Near the end of this moving novel, John Irving writes: “We don’t always have a choice how we get to know one another. Sometimes, people fall into our lives cleanly–as if out of the sky, or as if there were a direct flight from Heaven to Earth–the same sudden way we lose people, who once seemed they would always be part of our lives.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400063840
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/27/2009
Pages: 576
Product dimensions: 6.60(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

John Irving has been nominated for a National Book Award three times—winning once, in 1980, for the novel The World According to Garp. In 1992, Mr. Irving was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2000, he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules—a film with seven Academy Award nominations.

Hometown:

Vermont

Date of Birth:

March 2, 1942

Place of Birth:

Exeter, New Hampshire

Education:

B.A., University of New Hampshire, 1965; also studied at University of Vienna; M.F.A., Iowa Writers' Workshop, 1967

Read an Excerpt

I.
COOS COUNTY,
NEW HAMPSHIRE, 1954


C H A P T E R 1
UNDER THE LOGS

The young canadian, who could not have been more than fifteen, had hesitated too long. For a frozen moment, his feet had stopped moving on the floating logs in the basin above the river bend; he'd slipped entirely underwater before anyone could grab his outstretched hand. One of the loggers had reached for the youth's long hair-the older man's fingers groped around in the frigid water, which was thick, almost soupy, with sloughed-off slabs of bark. Then two logs collided hard on the would-be rescuer's arm, breaking his wrist. The carpet of moving logs had completely closed over the young Canadian, who never surfaced; not even a hand or one of his boots broke out of the brown water.

Out on a logjam, once the key log was pried loose, the river drivers had to move quickly and continually; if they paused for even a second or two, they would be pitched into the torrent. In a river drive, death among moving logs could occur from a crushing injury, before you had a chance to drown-but drowning was more common.

From the riverbank, where the cook and his twelve-year-old son could hear the cursing of the logger whose wrist had been broken, it was immediately apparent that someone was in more serious trouble than the would-be rescuer, who'd freed his injured arm and had managed to regain his footing on the flowing logs. His fellow river drivers ignored him; they moved with small, rapid steps toward shore, calling out the lost boy's name. The loggers ceaselessly prodded with their pike poles, directing the floating logs ahead of them. The rivermen were, for the most part, picking the safest way ashore, but to the cook's hopeful son it seemed that they might have been trying to create a gap of sufficient width for the young Canadian to emerge. In truth, there were now only intermittent gaps between the logs. The boy who'd told them his name was "Angel Pope, from Toronto," was that quickly gone.

"Is it Angel?" the twelve-year-old asked his father. This boy, with his dark-brown eyes and intensely serious expression, could have been mistaken for Angel's younger brother, but there was no mistaking the family resemblance that the twelve-year-old bore to his ever-watchful father. The cook had an aura of controlled apprehension about him, as if he routinely anticipated the most unforeseen disasters, and there was something about his son's seriousness that reflected this; in fact, the boy looked so much like his father that several of the woodsmen had expressed their surprise that the son didn't also walk with his dad's pronounced limp.

The cook knew too well that indeed it was the young Canadian who had fallen under the logs. It was the cook who'd warned the loggers that Angel was too green for the river drivers' work; the youth should not have been trying to free a logjam. But probably the boy had been eager to please, and maybe the rivermen hadn't noticed him at first.

In the cook's opinion, Angel Pope had also been too green (and too clumsy) to be working in the vicinity of the main blade in a sawmill. That was strictly the sawyer's territory -- a highly skilled position in the mills. The planer operator was a relatively skilled position, too, though not particularly dangerous.

The more dangerous and less skilled positions included working on the log deck, where logs were rolled into the mill and onto the saw carriage, or unloading logs from the trucks. Before the advent of mechanical loaders, the logs were unloaded by releasing trip bunks on the sides of the trucks-this allowed an entire load to roll off a truck at once. But the trip bunks sometimes failed to release; the men were occasionally caught under a cascade of logs while they were trying to free a bunk.

As far as the cook was concerned, Angel shouldn't have been in any position that put the boy in close proximity to moving logs. But the lumberjacks had been as fond of the young Canadian as the cook and his son had been, and Angel had said he was bored working in the kitchen. The youth had wanted more physical labor, and he liked the outdoors.

The repeated thunk-thunk of the pike poles, poking the logs, was briefly interrupted by the shouts of the rivermen who had spotted Angel's pike pole-more than fifty yards from where the boy had vanished.

The fifteen-foot pole was floating free of the log drive, out where the river currents had carried it away from the logs. The cook could see that the river driver with the broken wrist had come ashore, carrying his pike pole in his good hand. First by the familiarity of his cursing, and only secondarily by the logger's matted hair and tangled beard, did the cook realize that the injured man was Ketchum-no neophyte to the treachery of a log drive.

It was April -- not long after the last snowmelt and the start of mud season -- but the ice had only recently broken up in the river basin, the first logs falling through the ice upstream of the basin, on the Dummer ponds. The river was ice-cold and swollen, and many of the lumberjacks had heavy beards and long hair, which would afford them some scant protection from the blackflies in mid-May.

Ketchum lay on his back on the riverbank like a beached bear. The moving mass of logs flowed past him. It appeared as if the log drive were a life raft, and the loggers who were still out on the river seemed like castaways at sea -- except that the sea, from one moment to the next, turned from greenish brown to bluish black. The water in Twisted River was richly dyed with tannins.

"Shit, Angel!" Ketchum shouted from his back. "I said, 'Move your feet, Angel. You have to keep moving your feet!' Oh, shit."

The vast expanse of logs had been no life raft for Angel, who'd surely drowned or been crushed to death in the basin above the river bend, although the lumberjacks (Ketchum among them) would follow the log drive at least to where Twisted River poured into the Pontook Reservoir at Dead Woman Dam. The Pontook Dam on the Androscoggin River had created the reservoir; once the logs were let loose in the Androscoggin, they would next encounter the sorting gaps outside Milan. In Berlin, the Androscoggin dropped two hundred feet in three miles; two paper mills appeared to divide the river at the sorting gaps in Berlin. It was not inconceivable to imagine that young Angel Pope, from Toronto, was on his way there.

Come nightfall, the cook and his son were still attempting to salvage leftovers, for tomorrow's meals, from the scores of untouched dinners in the small settlement's dining lodge -- the cookhouse in the so-called town of Twisted River, which was barely larger and only a little less transient than a logging camp. Not long ago, the only dining lodge on a river drive hadn't been a lodge at all. There once was a traveling kitchen that had been permanently built onto a truck body, and an adjacent truck on which a modular dining hall could be taken down and reassembled -- this was when the trucks used to perpetually move camp to another site on Twisted River, wherever the loggers were working next.

In those days, except on the weekends, the rivermen rarely went back to the town of Twisted River to eat or sleep. The camp cook had often cooked in a tent. Everything had to be completely portable; even the sleeping shelters were built onto truck bodies. Now nobody knew what would become of the less-than-thriving town of Twisted River, which was situated partway between the river basin and the Dummer ponds. The sawmill workers and their families lived there, and the logging company maintained bunkhouses for the more transient woodsmen, who included not only the French Canadian itinerants but most of the river drivers and the other loggers. The company also maintained a better equipped kitchen, an actual dining lodge- the aforementioned cookhouse -- for the cook and his son. But for how much longer? Not even the owner of the logging company knew.

The lumber industry was in transition; it would one day be possible for every worker in the logging business to work from home. The logging camps (and even the slightly less marginal settlements like Twisted River) were dying. The wanigans themselves were disappearing; those curious shelters for sleeping and eating and storing equipment had not only been mounted on trucks, on wheels, or on crawler tracks, but they were often attached to rafts or boats.

The Indian dishwasher -- she worked for the cook -- had long ago told the cook's young son that wanigan was from an Abenaki word, leading the boy to wonder if the dishwasher herself was from the Abenaki tribe. Perhaps she just happened to know the origin of the word, or she'd merely claimed to know it. (The cook's son went to school with an Indian boy who'd told him that wanigan was of Algonquian origin.)

While it lasted, the work during a river drive was from dawn till dark. It was the protocol in a logging operation to feed the men four times a day. In the past, when the wanigans couldn't get close to a river site, the two midday meals had been trekked to the drivers. The first and last meal were served in the base camp- nowadays, in the dining lodge. But out of their affection for Angel, tonight many of the loggers had missed their last meal in the cookhouse. They'd spent the evening following the log drive, until the darkness had driven them away -- not only the darkness, but also the men's growing awareness that none of them knew if Dead Woman Dam was open. From the basin below the town of Twisted River, the logs -- probably with Angel among them -- might already have flowed into the Pontook Reservoir, but not if Dead Woman Dam was closed. And if the Pontook Dam and Dead Woman were open, the body of the young Canadian would be headed pell-mell down the Androscoggin. No one knew better than Ketchum that there would likely be no finding Angel there.

The cook could tell when the river drivers had stopped searching-from the kitchen's screen door, he could hear them leaning their pike poles against the cookhouse. A few of the tired searchers found their way to the dining lodge after dark; the cook didn't have the heart to turn them away. The hired help had all gone home -- everyone but the Indian dishwasher, who stayed late most nights. The cook, whose difficult name was Dominic Baciagalupo -- or "Cookie," as the lumberjacks routinely called him -- made the men a late supper, which his twelve-year-old son served.

"Where's Ketchum?" the boy asked his dad.

"He's probably getting his arm fixed," the cook replied.

"I'll bet he's hungry," the twelve-year-old said, "but Ketchum is wicked tough."

"He's impressively tough for a drinking man," Dominic agreed, but he was thinking that maybe Ketchum wasn't tough enough for this. Losing Angel Pope might be hardest on Ketchum, the cook thought, because the veteran logger had taken the young Canadian under his wing. He'd looked after the boy, or he had tried to.

Ketchum had the blackest hair and beard-the charred-black color of charcoal, blacker than a black bear's fur. He'd been married young-and more than once. He was estranged from his children, who had grown up and gone their own ways. Ketchum lived year-round in one of the bunkhouses, or in any of several run-down hostelries, if not in a wanigan of his own devising-namely, in the back of his pickup truck, where he had come close to freezing to death on those winter nights when he'd passed out, dead drunk. Yet Ketchum had kept Angel away from alcohol, and he'd kept not a few of the older women at the so-called dance hall away from the young Canadian, too.

"You're too young, Angel," the cook had heard Ketchum tell the youth. "Besides, you can catch things from those ladies." Ketchum would know, the cook had thought. Dominic knew that Ketchum had done more damage to himself than breaking his wrist in a river drive.

The steady hiss and intermittent flickering of the pilot lights on the gas stove in the cookhouse kitchen -- an old Garland with two ovens and eight burners, and a flame-blackened broiler above -- seemed perfectly in keeping with the lamentations of the loggers over their late supper. They had been charmed by the lost boy, whom they'd adopted as they would a stray pet. The cook had been charmed, too. Perhaps he saw in the unusually cheerful teenager some future incarnation of his twelve-year-old son-for Angel had a welcoming expression and a sincere curiosity, and he exhibited none of the withdrawn sullenness that appeared to afflict the few young men his age in a rough and rudimentary place like Twisted River.

This was all the more remarkable because the youth had told them that he'd recently run away from home.

"You're Italian, aren't you?" Dominic Baciagalupo had asked the boy.

"I'm not from Italy, I don't speak Italian -- you're not much of an Italian if you come from Toronto," Angel had answered.

The cook had held his tongue. Dominic knew a little about Boston Italians; some of them seemed to have issues regarding how Italian they were. And the cook knew that Angel, in the old country, might have been an Angelo. (When Dominic had been a little boy, his mother had called him Angelù-in her Sicilian accent, this sounded like an-geh-LOO.)

But after the accident, nothing with Angel Pope's written name could be found; among the boy's few belongings, not a single book or letter identified him. If he'd had any identification, it had gone into the river basin with him -- probably in the pocket of his dungarees -- and if they never located the body, there would be no way to inform Angel's family, or whoever the boy had run away from.

Legally or not, and with or without proper papers, Angel Pope had made his way across the Canadian border to New Hampshire. Not the way it was usually done, either-Angel hadn't come from Quebec. He'd made a point of arriving from Ontario -- he was not a French Canadian. The cook hadn't once heard Angel speak a word of French or Italian, and the French Canadians at the camp had wanted nothing to do with the runaway boy -- apparently, they didn't like English Canadians. Angel, for his part, kept his distance from the French; he didn't appear to like the Québécois any better than they liked him. Dominic had respected the boy's privacy; now the cook wished he knew more about Angel Pope, and where he'd come from. Angel had been a good-natured and fair-minded companion for the cook's twelve-year-old son, Daniel-or Danny, as the loggers and the saw-mill men called the boy.

Almost every male of working age in Twisted River knew the cook and his son- some women, too. Dominic had needed to know a number of women-mainly, to help him look after his son-for the cook had lost his wife, Danny's young mother, a long-seeming decade ago. Dominic Baciagalupo believed that Angel Pope had had some experience with kitchen work, which the boy had done awkwardly but uncomplainingly, and with an economy of movement that must have been born of familiarity -- despite his professed boredom with cooking-related chores, and his penchant for cutting himself on the cutting board.

Moreover, the young Canadian was a reader; he'd borrowed many books that had belonged to Dominic's late wife, and he often read aloud to Daniel. It was Ketchum's opinion that Angel had read Robert Louis Stevenson to young Dan "to excess" -- not only Kidnapped and Treasure Island but his unfinished deathbed novel, St. Ives, which Ketchum said should have died with the author. At the time of the accident on the river, Angel had been reading The Wrecker to Danny. (Ketchum had not yet weighed in with his opinion of that novel.) Well, whatever Angel Pope's background had been, he'd had some schooling, clearly-more than most of the French Canadian woodsmen the cook had known. (More than most of the sawmill workers and the local woodsmen, too.)

"Why did Angel have to die?" Danny asked his dad. The twelve-year-old was helping his father wipe down the dining tables after the late-arriving loggers had gone off to bed, or perhaps to drink. And although she often kept herself busy in the cookhouse quite late into the night, at least well past Danny's bedtime, the Indian dishwasher had finished with her chores; by now, she'd driven her truck back to town.

"Angel didn't have to die, Daniel-it was an avoidable accident."

The cook's vocabulary often made reference to avoidable accidents, and his twelve-year-old son was overfamiliar with his father's grim and fatalistic thoughts on human fallibility -- the recklessness of youth, in particular. "He was too green to be out on a river drive," the cook said, as if that were all there was to it.

Danny Baciagalupo knew his dad's opinion of all the things Angel, or any boy that age, was too green to do. The cook also would have wanted to keep Angel far away from a peavey. (The peavey's most important feature was the hinged hook that made it possible to roll a heavy log by hand. )

According to Ketchum, the "old days" had been more perilous. Ketchum claimed that working with the horses, pulling the scoots out of the winter woods, was risky work. In the winter, the lumberjacks tramped up into the mountains. They'd cut down the trees and (not that long ago) used horses to pull the timber out, one log at a time. The scoots, or wheelless drays, were dragged like sleds on the frozen snow, which not even the horses' hooves could penetrate because the sled ruts on the horse-haul roads were iced down every night. Then the snowmelt and mud season came, and-"back then," as Ketchum would say -- all the work in the woods was halted.

But even this was changing. Since the new logging machinery could work in muddy conditions and haul much longer distances to improved roads, which could be used in all seasons, mud season itself was becoming less of an issue -- and horses were giving way to crawler tractors.

The bulldozers made it possible to build a road right to a logging site, where the wood could be hauled out by truck. The trucks moved the wood to a more central drop point on a river, or on a pond or lake; in fact, highway transport would very soon supplant the need for river drives. Gone were the days when a snubbing winch had been used to ease the horses down the steeper slopes. "The teams could slide on their haunches," Ketchum had told young Dan. (Ketchum rated oxen highly, for their steady footing in deep snow, but oxen had never been widely used.)

Gone, too, was railroad logging in the woods; it came to an end in the Pemigewasset Valley in '48 -- the same year one of Ketchum's cousins had been killed by a Shay locomotive at the Livermore Falls paper mill. The Shay weighed fifty tons and had been used to pull the last of the rails from the woods. The former railroad beds made for firm haul roads for the trucks in the 1950s, although Ketchum could still remember a murder on the Beebe River Railroad -- back when he'd been the teamster for a bobsled loaded with prime virgin spruce behind a four -- horse rig. Ketchum had been the teamster on one of the early Lombard steam engines, too-the one steered by a horse. The horse had turned the front sled runners, and the teamster sat at the front of the log hauler; later models replaced the horse and teamster with a helmsman at a steering wheel. Ketchum had been a helmsman, too, Danny Baciagalupo knew -- clearly, Ketchum had done everything.

Table of Contents

I.
Chapter 1. UNDER THE LOGS Chapter 2. DO-SI-DO Chapter 3. A WORLD OF ACCIDENTS Chapter 4. THE EIGHT-INCH CAST-IRON SKILLET
 
II .
Chapter 5. NOM DE PLUME Chapter 6. IN MEDIAS RES
 
III .
Chapter 7. BENEVENTO AND AVELLINO Chapter 8. DEAD DOG; REMEMBERING MAO'S Chapter 9. THE FRAGILE, UNPREDICTABLE NATURE OF THINGS Chapter 10. LADY SKY Chapter 11. HONEY
 
IV.
Chapter 12. THE BLUE MUSTANG Chapter 13. KISSES OF WOLVES
 
V.
Chapter 14. KETCHUM'S LEFT HAND Chapter 15. MOOSE DANCING
 
VI.
Chapter 16. LOST NATION Chapter 17. KETCHUM EXCEPTED
 
Acknowledgments Sources

Interviews

A special note to you from John Irving:

Dear Readers,

In January 2005, I was driving north to Rutland, Vermont, on a snowy road. An old Bob Dylan song was yowling away on the car CD-player.

I was thinking about my next novel, my twelfth. It's about a cook and his son. They live in a rough place, a sawmill and logging-camp kind of town. Something awful happens; they have to leave town in a hurry. But something else happens later; the cook's son is compelled to go back to the town he and his father ran away from. That's all I knew. I didn't know what made the son return to the scene of the crime, or what made the father and son leave in the first place. The Bob Dylan song on my car CD-player was "Tangled Up in Blue." I've probably heard that song a hundred times, but on that cold, early morning one stanza jumped out at me.

"I had a job in the great north woods / Working as a cook for a spell / But I never did like it all that much / And one day the ax just fell."

By the time I got to Rutland, I knew the last sentence of my novel -- that's where I begin a book, with the last sentence. From there, I work my way back to where the story begins. In eleven out of twelve novels, the last sentence has come first.

I wrote the last sentence of my next novel on a pad of prescription paper in my orthopaedic surgeon's office. Here it is: "He felt that the great adventure of his life was just beginning -- as his father must have felt, in the throes and dire circumstances of his last night in Twisted River."

And there, too, of course, was the novel's title: Last Night in Twisted River.

--John Irving

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Last Night in Twisted River 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 313 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved every word of this wonderful saga; not only the finely crafted story and the loveable, flawed characters, but the sound of it, the voice, the phrasing and cadence. The language carries us through improbable events and across the decades. By the writer's device and the lives of his characters we experience love and joy, sorrow and regret, fear and loneliness. Irving's grim humor lets us laugh at the capriciousness of fate and our own folly. In the face of overwhelming loss, right beside our fictional heros, we continue to live and work and accept our circumstance. In the end we find hope and redemption. What more can you ask for in a novel? The tale is perfection.
Jane-O More than 1 year ago
Geesh, I wish people would stop writing reviews and rating books when they haven't even read the book yet. Those reviews do not help me at all in deciding whether I want to read the book or not.
McCoyRJ More than 1 year ago
I noticed on the cover of this novel that the author's name is most predominant, which was the reason I and many other John Irving fans (I presume) selected this book. After reading it however, that very same reason may keep many fans of Irving (and new readers who tried this one) from ever selecting one of his novels again. Unlike others who threw in the towel early, I did read the entire book only out of respect for Mr. Irving's previous work (I resorted to skimming the last few chapters out of respect for myself). But I found myself constantly struggling "not" to put this one down for good. It is quite possibly one of the worst novels I have ever read. Best described, "Last Night at Twisted River" is part cookbook, part political rant (mindless liberal hatred of G.W Bush and general vitriol towards conservatives), and most of all rehashing old ideas - deranged bears, teen's death while driving on a snow covered highway, loss of a hand, an adolescent's infatuation with an older woman, and (believe it or not) even a tragic accident in the midst of receiving fellatio. To make matters worse, not a single character had any redeeming qualities at all. For Irving's sake, this novel is completely forgettable (if not for how bad it is). I still highly recommend his old work for those unfamiliar with him, but as his last few novels have shown, he has sadly lost some of his gift for story telling. That may be enough to keep some fans interested, but in my opinion, this novel was a complete waste of time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed 420 pages of this book, then I started hitting something I have never seen before in an Irving novel: polarizing political diatribes. I for one don't want to hear the same old liberal shibboleths about recent elections, even if spoken by a "character". If Daniel Baciagalupo is so apolitical, why does his love for John Kerry advance the story? Even as controversial as The Cider House Rules were, the explosive issues of abortion were handled sensitively and gently by Irving. I enjoyed the latter story even though I am firmly pro-life myself. How are these fictional events furthered by dragging out the same personal attacks on certain politicians and those who happen to agree with them? It's disappointing, but I'll have to watch reviews on future Irving books more carefully before I buy.
thewanderingjew More than 1 year ago
This is a tale of tragedy, loss, love and friendship. John Irving has a knack for making the outlandish and the horrific, the extraordinary and the traumatic, seem mundane. Even the most awful moments are reduced to a matter of fact ordinariness. I thought that the characters in Last Night At Twisted River, seemed naïve and stuck in a time frame which seemed to have more in common with the days of the wild West in the 1800's, with its lawlessness, than the 50's in New Hampshire. Their backwoods mentality stays with them even as they move to more cosmopolitan locations and their naivete and/or inability to fit in or anticipate the dangers of their world, seems to govern their lives. For me all of the dysfunctional characters became more endearing as the book progressed, even as some events and coincidences become stranger and stranger. They are not lucky in love or in life, though, hard as they try. There always seemed to be a cloud of disaster following all of them. Even the short fused, illiterate, at first, Paul Bunyanesque character of Ketchum, (a logger with a mouth like trash, who insists on saying whatever he likes, in whatever manner he likes, regardless of where he is), becomes more and more lovable as he ages, although his old age does not soften him and he becomes even more recalcitrant. The story takes place over a period of 60 + years and three generations. The meat of it pretty much begins and ends with the tale of a bear and a hand. An accidental murder propels the main characters into a world of constant fear and running, trying to escape the wrath of Carl, the constable of Twisted River. Fear of being caught forces them to relocate many times when they are accidentally discovered. They are not afraid of being caught by the law, primarily but rather by the corrupt constable from Twisted River, who is hell bent on revenge for the murder of his lover, Injun Jane, whom he has abused in the past and at first thought he had killed, in a drunken stupor. He is an abusive beast of a man who uses his extraordinary size and strength to often take the law into his own hands meting out punishment as he chooses, which basically means in Twisted River, he is the uncontested law of the land. No one wants to cross him except perhaps, Ketchum, the recalcitrant logger who is Dominick Baciagalupo and his son's dearest friend and protector. Dominick, a cook, is a gentle man with an identifying limp. He is devoted totally to his son Daniel who is a thoughtful, well spoken obedient young man, who accidentally kills Injun Jane whom he adores, when he is a child. He mistakes her for a bear when he catches his dad and her in a compromising situation. He has awakened from sleep and the sounds he heard, coupled with her size and massive bulk and her unusually long hair, made him panic. He hits her with a skillet, rumored to have been used to strike and frighten a bear attacking his mother, Rosie. He believes this time that it is his father under attack. That incident begins their life on the run. Tragedy follows this family from the first. Although they keep starting over someplace new, each time they settle in, they are somehow coincidentally discovered and are forced to move on again. The peaceful life eludes them while tragedy continues to chase them. Although it may take about 50 pages to get into the story don't give up. As the book continues, it gets better and better except for the political bias. It was unnecessary.
Booklover87 More than 1 year ago
I love John Irving and I think he is a great writer, however, this book was not his best. The beginning and end were the best parts but the middle became tedious to get through. Some of his content was very political and he touched on things like the Vietnam War and September 11th. If you are a John Irving fan, it is worth reading because of how great of a writer he is but some who have not read him before might find it boring and too long.
sherrythefang More than 1 year ago
I feel like I have been sucker-punched. I get repeating themes and I have always appreciated it in Irving's writing. This feels like some creative writing assignment gone awry "How many of these themes can you get into 500+ pages?". I think Irving's time has past- Irving is a caricature of himself- terrible book.
ThirtyOnePointSeven More than 1 year ago
This book was good; not John's best, but an excellent read. I think my favorite aspect of the book was Mr. Irving's repeated themes. I really feel like I know the author through the themes he uses from novel to novel. The characters are excellent; each with truly distinct personalities. The plot also excellent - not too out there, but not too "in there" either. If you're a John Irving fan, it is, of course, a must read. If you've never read any of the author's novels, I would start with a different one, then move to this one.
McAusland More than 1 year ago
Ahhhhh......it's so nice to read a good Irving book again. It's been a while since I started one of his books and was drawn in. Very reminiscent of A Prayer for Owen Meany and Cider House Rules. I'm less than 100 pages in and loving every page. Cheers to you Mr. Irving for giving us another wonderful novel.
SuzeJones58 More than 1 year ago
It's an inter-generational tale told in John Irving's own style ... absurd, sexual, and twisted. But there's little redemption to be found in this tale; it's just twisted enough to be gross and not worth reading. Worse yet, the book just goes on and on...an inter-generational tale doesn't have to be this way! I read two-thirds of the book and then skipped to the last chapter where it's obvious how everything has ended up and not a whole lot of surprises there, either.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've been a great Irving fan since his first novel, Setting Free The Bears, when I was one of about 4,000 people who might have read that book. I've enjoyed all of his books since (that I've read) until this one, that just feels like it was written into a tape recorder.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have always loved John Irving's writing but this book fell short of what I've come to expect from him. I felt as though he rambled and went off in 10 different directions about 2/3 of the way through the book. I completely lost interest and really had to struggle to finish it.
old55 More than 1 year ago
This is a very good book. It is one of Irvings better efforts. It is long and typically Irving in its twists and seemingly unrelated events that eventually converge in tragedy, loss and acceptance. It's a good story, but I believe it will be judged to be in the second tier of his works, behind Cider House Rules, World According to Garp and A Prayer for Owen Meany. This falls into the "Widow for One Year" group - loved by some, disappointing to others. I personally wouldn't classify this as disappointing, but this book does seem to fall a little short of Irving's A list. Read it and decide for yourself.
SugarCreekRanch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A logging camp cook and his son become fugitives. This novel has many truly excellent sections, but it strayed far from the main storyline and became a chore to finish. If it had been editted to about half the length, it would've been great.
ZoharLaor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was my first John Irving novel and the word "operatic" comes to mind. Even though this novel is long, the plot is tight and interesting. I never thought I'd read a novel which has a tight plot, but still manages to ramble on and on as well as keep my interest - but there you have it.The premise of the novel seems, at least to me, is the making of a writer. Daniel Baciagalupo and his father flee a 1950's New Hampshire logging town after Daniel accidentally killed his father's lover. On the run the Baciagalupo rediscover their Boston roots and spend a large part of the novel dodging a vengeful and crazy New Hampshire sheriff.After attending some very exclusive schools, Daniel becomes a successful writer, has a son and keeps in touch with Ketchum, an extinct species of Americans who embodies New Hampshire's motto of "Live Free or Die". Ketchum manages to rant against everyone and anyone, the hippies, Catholics, conservatives and liberals; ironically the embodiment of extreme libertarian hates all other extremes - yet, in my opinion, his character is the glue that holds the story together.The story moves back and forth in time, despite Irving's weird sex scenes, violent actions and some funny (and not so funny) deaths, the plot revolves around Daniel becoming a writer and gives Mr. Irving the opportunity to take out his ire on "dimwitted" book reviewers and sensationalistic media, which I thought was hilarious given the context.This is one of those books that I, personally, really like. The book is polished (but not overdone), the characters are very engaging and each one, even the minor ones, has their own history full of prose as well as many insights into parenthood and the joys and pains that come with it.
kris_onken on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really wanted this book to work, particularly since I invested 554 pages. t just wasn't great. Too contrived, a lot of dead wood Ketchum was a delightful character but he made his exit with an ax, aspirin and some booze. Give me a break.
atlantic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel harks back to his earlier novels (Garp, Owen Meany). Excellent storytelling and engaging characters. Enjoyed immensely.
comato on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'll start by saying that I've only read one other of Irving's books, "A Prayer for Owen Meany." I think Irving is an author with die-hard fans and I don't have enough experience with his work to count myself among them. I had a lot of trouble with this book. The beginning, where we're introduced to the characters and their logging camp home, is very bleak. Once the setting changed, I found the reading a little easier, but the book did not consistently keep my attention. Maybe if I had more context, were more familiar with Irving, I would appreciate all the self-referential in-jokes that the other reviewers delighted in, but I found my mind wandering as I tried to keep reading. It felt self-indulgent to me, and contrived, instead of playful and engaging. At over 550 pages, this is a long book, and I felt like I struggled through a lot of it. And it's not that I don't like long books; this year, I read Les Miserables. I finished it more quickly than I did this book--and I enjoyed it more. Meh.
suetu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I may as well come out and say it: I love John Irving. My love is unconditional. I will defend his lesser novels against all defamers. Happily, I will not be put in that position anytime soon, because Last Night in Twisted River is his strongest novel in years. It¿s a wonderful read!I recently told a friend, ¿It¿s so good it hurts.¿ Reflecting on what I had said, I realized I was right. Sometimes reading his books hurts. He populates his novels with sweet, sentimental, anxious men, and then he tortures them. Mr. Irving¿s signature blend of comedy and tragedy is again on display. Only in his world does an oft-repeated tale of whacking a bear on the nose with a frying pan lead to an accidental death.The novel opens in rural New Hampshire in 1954. Widower Domenic Baciagalupo is the cook at a logging camp, where he is assisted by his 12-year-old son, Danny. It¿s a rough and tumble world, personified by the gruff and rugged logger, Ketchem, who becomes the closest thing to family that either Baciagalupo has. Last Night in Twisted River is an epic novel, spanning some 50 years. The aforementioned accidental death is the novel¿s catalyst. It causes Domenic and Danny to go on the run, sought for decades by a vigilante sheriff. But aside from being the tale of this truncated family¿s life in exile, this is a story about how you become the person you are.Specifically, Mr. Irving is looking at how a writer becomes a writer, because that, indeed, is what Danny Baciagalupo becomes¿a successful one, too. In fact, Danny Baciagalupo¿s career is¿ John Irving¿s career. There is no attempt to disguise the obviousness of the career trajectory, the subject matter of the books, the literary criticism¿all are identical to Irving¿s. It seems clear that the author is having some fun with the self-referential material, but for fans like me, Irving gives us unusual insight into his process, and possibly some of his own attitudes on the life of a writer. Though, perhaps we can¿t assume that is so, as Danny has much to say about readers¿ assumptions about the autobiographical nature of fiction, and the value of what is borrowed versus what is imagined. In a recent review, I commented on the way that Pat Conroy returns again and again to certain themes and plot elements in his fiction, but ¿jumbles them up in new and interesting ways.¿ Certainly this is true, too, of Mr. Irving. In this novel we again find bears, writers, absent parents, endangered children, New England settings, prep schools, and so forth. It¿s easy to compare different aspects of this latest novel to what has come before. A dash of Garp and a soupçon of Owen Meany. But right from the start, the work of which this reminded me the most is The Cider House Rules. Not in subject matter, but in the period setting and the span of the story being told. And probably in the nature of the male relationships in this novel.Last Night in Twisted River is a long, heart-wrenching story. You won¿t be racing through it. You may learn more about logging than you ever wanted to know. But Irving¿s language is magnificent and you won¿t soon forget these characters and their epic journey. This book is a must read for all fans of John Irving and of great literature.
Doondeck on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It was a joy to read another Irving novel. There were so many references to past Irving novels: a bear, tattoos, a missing hand, an abortion clinic. Although this book tended to bog down in the middle with too many geographic switches between Iowa and Vermont, it still ranks as one of the best of last year.
strongstuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
John Irving is a first-rate story-teller and he does not disappoint with 'Last night in Twisted River.' From the backwoods of northern New Hampshire, to mid 20th-century Boston, to contemporary Canada, Irving steers the reader through more than 50 years of the Baciagalupo's history. In this "world of accidents" we come to learn how quickly people can appear and disappear from our lives. Although a bit lengthy, the novel satisfies with rich details and quirky characters - not to mention glimpses of the author's own writing habits and history. Well done.
TooBusyReading on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't like telling much about plots in my reviews because when I read a review, I want to know what people think of the book, not much detail about the story itself. This story begins in a logging camp in New Hampshire with the drowning of a young logger and ends a half a century later in Ontario with a writer who had been at the camp as a child. In between are three generations of family, unforgettable characters, both enemies and friends, and a story that ultimately captured my imagination and appreciation. Enough plot. I love most of John Irving's novels, and A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of my all-time favorite books. That's why I was disappointed when I initially didn't love Last Night in Twisted River. While it started on a high note, the story bogged down for me. I was annoyed by what seemed to me an overuse of italics to emphasize certain single words within sentences. I thought the novelist in the story, who published successful novels, complained too much about how the media wanted to know about the autobiographical nature of novels while he, most unconvincingly, denied it at the same time he was revealing plots that mirrored his own life. The book was divided into sections of time and place, and there was quite a bit of time shifting that was initially hard to form into a congruous whole. There was repetition, so much repetition. Eventually, all of this began to fall into place for me, and became like the proverbial snake swallowing its own tail. By the end of the book, I loved the whole story and, once again, truly appreciated Mr. Irving's style of storytelling.
SamSattler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Last Night in Twisted River" is not quite the comeback John Irving needed to make readers forget, or to forgive, the dreary "Until I Find You," but it is a giant step in the right direction. One of things Irving has always done best is to create remarkably detailed and realistic settings in which to place his larger-than-life characters and he uses that skill to great effect here. Irving also touches on so many of his familiar themes (wrestling, single-parent homes, New England locales, sudden loss of those closest to you, and bears, among them) that his longtime readers will recognize the territory. This story of the Dominic Baciagalupo family, spanning more than five decades and three generations, begins in the remote logging environment of 1950s New Hampshire, very near the Canadian border. Dominic, known to everyone in the logging camp as ¿Cookie,¿ is in charge of feeding all those involved in the formidable task of harvesting the riches of the New Hampshire forests. He has lived alone above the cookhouse with his twelve-year-old son Danny ever since losing his wife to the tragic river accident that claimed her so suddenly one winter night. Dominic, having experienced or witnessed numerous crippling, if not always fatal, accidents in Twisted River over the years, knows that he lives in ¿a world of accidents¿ and he lives in dread of the next moment someone close to him will be snatched away.Even in his wildest imagination, however, Dominic could not have imagined the accident that would force him to flee Twisted River with his son in a desperate attempt to keep the two together. Nor could he have imagined that what happened in the cookhouse that night would haunt Dominic and Danny Baciagalupo for the next fifty years. The pair may have left Twisted River behind forever but they still had to reckon with a man who wanted revenge so badly that he would never stop searching for them. Over five decades, and three generations, Dominic and Danny would live in several states and Canada, moving every time their tormentor seemed to be catching up with them.Dominic and Danny are lucky to have the help of their old friend, Ketchum, a giant of a man who still lives near enough Twisted River to keep an eye on the man filled with such hate for Dominic and his son. Several times over the decades, Ketchum convinces Dominic and Danny that it is again time for them to abandon their new life in favor of avoiding the man who wants to see them dead. Several geographic moves will culminate finally in Danny and his father living in Toronto where Dominic works in a popular restaurant while Danny pursues his career as the bestselling author Danny Angel. Ketchum, Dominic and Danny are not the only memorable characters in "Last Night in Twisted River," however. The book is filled with women that are large in every sense of the word and each of them plays a significant role in the lives of the Baciagalupo men. Among others, there are ¿Injun Jane,¿ Dominic¿s one-time lover who weighs in at more than 300 pounds; ¿Six-Pack Pam,¿ Ketchum¿s lover who is large enough to intimidate most men with malice on their minds; and ¿Lady Sky,¿ the naked skydiver who literally falls into Danny¿s lap."Last Night in Twisted River" is an intriguing story but there is a bit of a problem in the way that Irving tells it. At over 550 pages in length, its repetitiousness becomes tedious, especially, but not limited to, the chapters following the book¿s climax. Too, numerous pages toward the very end of the book are used as a political rant of sorts (an extremely mean-spirited and vulgar rant, at that) against all things Republican, conservative, George W. Bush, or religious right. Similar, but more concise, expressions made earlier in the book fit the voices of the characters making them, but one feels that the rant at the end of the book is there strictly for the benefit of Irving, not his characters. It makes for a jarring change of tone and, because it o
LBM007 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wanted to give this book more stars since I don't often read anything this deep and liking it proves and I am intelligent enough to appreciate real literature. Towards the end, though, I really didn't care anymore what happened to the characters. Which is good, I guess, because otherwise I probably would have given it even fewer stars for the improbable ending.
goddesswashu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Last Night In Twisted River" is another beautifully written masterpiece by John Irving. Although it took me a while to get hooked and I put it down many times, I found myself loving it. John Irving has a beautiful writing style that I have yet to find with any other author, and a unique way to touch your heart that is all his own. I have greatly enjoyed every book that I have read by him, and I look forward to many more. I would recommend "Last Night In Twisted River" to any John Irving fan, or to anyone who is interested in becoming one.