Monday, April 22, 2013

The Cider House Rules

by John Irving

I'll give John Irving credit, he can weave a good yarn! I'm not sure why it took me so long to read another of his novels after A Prayer for Owen Meany, which I read years ago (actually twice in one year), loved and would highly recommend! I might even rank Irving's story-telling up there with Stephen King, despite their very different subject matter, they can both keep you turning pages. What is a bit amazing about the two Irving novels that I've read is how he intertwines such deep and controversial subjects into a story, making you truly consider all aspects of the point, while not hammering you over the head with his opinion, yet expressing it nonetheless.

On the face of The Cider House Rules is the subject of adoption and abortion, "the work of God and the work of the devil," "delivering babies or delivering mothers." But the underlying themes of love, faithfulness and rules play a big part as well. How can you really love two people? At what point do you give up hope on someone who's gone missing? When in Rome are you expected to do as a Roman? Whose rules are you following?

Another thing Irving has mastered is character development. When you finish the book you know the characters and you like them (or dislike them as you should). Each person is unique and much care is given even to minor appearances. While the main focus is on Homer Wells and Candy and Wally and Dr. Larch, you get to know the nurses and the orphans and the migrant pickers and not only the current stationmaster but his predecessor, and it wasn't a distraction to have met them all.

Cider House Rules was made into a movie years ago, which I never saw. After reading the book I can't imagine it being done well and I'm not sure I'd want to see it anyway. I saw the Simon Birch movie, which was supposedly based off A Prayer for Owen Meany, and was sorely disappointed in the lack of resemblance to the book.

I liked this book, but would recommend Owen Meany first.

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