The Wikipedia entry for John Irving has a useful anorak’s checklist of the recurring motifs in the author’s eleven novels to date. This diverse array includes bears; severed body parts; New Hampshire; wrestling; absent parents; mortal accidents; and characters who are also writers. All feature prominently in his new, twelfth, novel, as do many other favourites, such as Phillips Exeter Academy (where Irving grew up), sex between young boys and older women (see Irving’s disclosure of his abuse as a preteen), and the city of Iowa (where Irving studied). Along with a good knotty yarn, you know what you’re getting with John Irving.
Last Night in Twisted River opens with a calamity. On a ‘river drive’ in Coos County, New Hampshire, a young boy falls between the logs that are being sent downstream from the sawmill. This perilous method of transportation was still much in vogue in the 1950s, and Irving