I’ll admit it: I’m a huge John Irving fan (you might have previously read my “Staff Fave” for A Son of the Circus). And I was thrilled to be one of the first internal readers of his newest novel, In One Person, when it was first submitted to Knopf Canada. And let me tell you, as an Irving fan, it does not disappoint. Everything you want is there: the expertly crafted yet easy-to-read language, the beautifully-wrought cast of unique characters (you’ll fall in love with Ms. Frost), and the beautiful blend of the immersive feel of a specific time and place with a kind of timeless relevance that I know will keep readers coming back to this novel for decades to come.
In One Person is also simultaneously a departure from Irving’s most recent novels and a return to some of his older material. The novel’s narrator and protagonist, Billy Abbott, grows up in a small Vermont town that so wonderfully mirrors the setting of A Prayer for Owen Meany that Irving fans will feel right at home, and new readers will get a brand-new taste of Irving at his finest. But In One Person is also Irving’s most politically charged book since The Cider House Rules: whereas the latter took on the abortion debate, Irving’s new novel tackles the issue of sexual diversity by telling the story of a bisexual man’s coming-of-age in the second half of the twentieth century, culminating in the 1980s and the AIDs epidemic.
This novel is personal and panoramic; it’s quirky and witty and funny and deadly serious; it will make you laugh and it will make you cry; and you won’t be able to put it down. (I sure didn’t: I read it non-stop over two evenings!)
This is a guest review by Caleb Snider – Editorial Assistant and Assistant to the Publisher, Random House of Canada