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In One Person

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  20,288 Ratings  ·  3,069 Reviews
His most daringly political, sexually transgressive, and moving novel in well over a decade" (Vanity Fair).

Winner of a 2013 Lambda Literary Award

A New York Times bestselling novel of desire, secrecy, and sexual identity, In One Person is a story of unfulfilled love—tormented, funny, and affecting—and an impassioned embrace of our sexual differences. Billy, the bisexual nar
Hardcover, First Edition, 425 pages
Published May 8th 2012 by Simon & Schuster (first published May 2012)
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Nancy Aside from the fact that they both begin as "coming of age" stories, and cover a life span (as all lives do), I think they very different stories.…moreAside from the fact that they both begin as "coming of age" stories, and cover a life span (as all lives do), I think they very different stories. Irving has an incredible talent for uncovering the history of important issues in an imaginative way. In Owen Meany he addresses the Vietnam war, religious belief (and perhaps the American obsession with sports - given that there are several spectacular deaths related to various sports!). And with In One Person, he addresses the cultural issues surrounding human sexuality (in its various expressions), and the AIDS pandemic. Irving's books are emotionally true to life - while still managing to be wildly imaginative with the events taking place. He puts his characters in situations and settings that he knows, so perhaps they often have the same feel....but the stories follow their own paths, and the characters - well they are all human (and we humans are more the same than we are different from one another), but they all reflect very individual perspectives on life and the circumstances they encounter. I find each one quite brilliantly unique.(less)
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John IrvingThe World According to Garp by John IrvingThe Cider House Rules by John IrvingA Widow for One Year by John IrvingThe Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving
Best of John Irving
11th out of 60 books — 299 voters
The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenDivergent by Veronica RothMockingjay by Suzanne CollinsGone Girl by Gillian FlynnClockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Best Books of the Decade: 2010's
228th out of 4,019 books — 6,211 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Will Byrnes
Aug 17, 2016 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it
There is a scene near the end of John Irving’s latest novel, In One Person,
in which a character who is a writer is confronted:
…I’ve read all your books and I know what you do—I mean, in your writing. You make all these sexual extremes seem normal—that is what you do. Like Gee, that girl, or whatever she is—or what she’s becoming. You create these characters who are so sexually ‘different,’ as you might call them—or ‘fucked up,’ which is what I would call them—and then you expect us to sympathize
Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 06, 2014 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it
”Look, here it is--I just have to say this,” young Kittredge said; he almost couldn’t look at me. “i don’t know you, I admit--I don’t have a clue who my father really was, either, But I’ve read all your books, and I know what you do--I mean, in your writing. You make all these sexual extremes seem normal--that what you do. Like Gee, that girl, or what she is--or what she’s becoming. You create these characters who are so sexually ‘different,’ as you might call them--or ‘fucked up,’ which is what ...more
Gary  the Bookworm
Aug 13, 2016 Gary the Bookworm rated it liked it
John Irving is a unique force in contemporary fiction. He can be a brave and bold voice for fairness and common sense. The complexity of his plots is matched by the quirkiness of his characters. Sexual identity, with all its twists and permutations, would seem like a perfect fit for the Irving treatment. Sadly, it is not. This story is narrated by Bill Abbott, an impressionable adolescent who is struggling with his bisexuality at a repressive boarding school in the waning days of the 1950's. He ...more
Richard Derus
Dec 14, 2013 Richard Derus rated it really liked it
TODAY 14 DECEMBER 2013! In One Person is only $1.99 today! [[John Irving]] told the tale of a young man's coming to terms with his bisexual desires with great delicacy.

Rating: 3.75* of five

The Publisher Says: A compelling novel of desire, secrecy, and sexual identity, In One Person is a story of unfulfilled love—tormented, funny, and affecting—and an impassioned embrace of our sexual differences. Billy, the bisexual narrator and main character of In One Person, tells the tragicomic story (lasti
Sep 09, 2012 Melissa rated it it was ok
As a graduate student I had a great interest in gender studies; I thought that domain was where both the most interesting fiction and scholarship was happening.

Unfortunately while reading this novel, it seemed like it was intended a be political statement on gender studies filled with maxims about sexual difference. The actual story was meandering and flat; it needed to be about 150 pages shorter. It should not take a novel 350 pages to become compelling. I kept going because I knew Irving had
May 21, 2012 Tony rated it it was ok
IN ONE PERSON. (2012). John Irving. **.
I never thought that an Irving novel would get less than four stars, but this one, in my opinion, did. I had lots of trouble with this novel right from the start. We meet Billy, the hero of the novel. Billy leads us along through his early life in the small town of First Sister, Vermont, where he grew up and met his first group of sexual rebels – although that isn’t apparent from early descriptions. Billy, it turns out, is bisexual. His problem is that he
Jennifer D.
Jan 04, 2016 Jennifer D. rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: petra, cait
john, john, john!!
you suck me in.
every time!

there's this matrix on wikipedia (now deleted, but preserved here: i am sure you have seen it. the matrix makes me sigh and amuses me. it's a conundrum.

near the end of the book, I felt like you were ticking boxes. giving readers a list of socially important things to mull. i don't take issue with the issues...they are important and need to be written about so that tolerance and acceptance become the norms...i take issue
Sep 22, 2012 Trish marked it as put-aside
Shelves: fiction
Got to page 102 and it was a struggle. John Irving is a fine writer, but like many men his age, John Updike among them, he goes into his later years with one foot in the grave and one hand on his genitals. I never read so much about breasts and penises in one place without anyone having actual sex. This is fair: he's the author and he can do what he wants. But I'm getting too old for this.
B the BookAddict
Feb 12, 2016 B the BookAddict rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all who like John Irving
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Goodreads recommendations

In One Person is the tragi/comedic rollicking ride through the life of Bill Abbott; a boy who “has crushes on the wrong people", bisexual writer, graduate of Favourite River Academy in Vermont and finally successful novelist. As is usually the case in John Irving's novels, it features a family of quirky characters, wrestling and tackles the subject of sexual identity. Full of the usual suspects, the novel includes one with a speech impediment, a cross-dresser, a lifelong best friend/sometime lov
Jan 29, 2012 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
I am the editor and publisher of this novel. Here's what I think about it:

We use the word "great' so often that we've degraded its meaning. Great haircut! Great idea! Great casserole! So what can I say, without committing sins of hyperbole, about an author who truly does possess greatness?

IN ONE PERSON is John Irving's thirteenth novel. Having closely read all of the others, I can say with some confidence that it is as relevant to our time and as satisfying a story as were THE WORLD ACCORDING TO
Jun 15, 2012 Janice rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
I'm going to have to say that this book is my least favorite of Irving's. I can sum it up in three words:

Wash, Rinse, Repeat!

There were times when I thought I was reading A Prayer for Owen Meany. Change the name of the narrator and the town, and instead of focusing on friendship and the Vietnam War, focus on homosexuality and the Aids Epidemic.

Like I said - wash, rinse, repeat.
May 17, 2016 BrokenTune rated it did not like it
DNF @ 36%

I have decided to move on from this one. There is just nothing in this story that keeps me interested, and that is a huge shame because the premise of the book - a coming of age story of a young guy who discovers he is not fitting in with the people around him because of his outlook on life and his sexuality - sounded somewhat intriguing.

I have no idea what to expect, but after just over a third in the book, I just cannot buy into the story or the characters. This is meant to be a tragi
Mar 06, 2014 Gary rated it it was amazing
I can remember the first time I heard anything about John Irving. I was in college, at a family reunion. My Dad had two cousins, spinsters, sisters ,never been married. In their 70's.

They were in something called a "bookclub". (This was the early 80s.) I'd never heard of a "bookclub"? What was that? They were talking about the different books they had been reading in their club,and all their members were about their age. Except this one "girl" as they called her. Now considering their age this
May 18, 2012 lana rated it liked it
I am conflicted in my feelings about this book. The tone of the story is everyday, and that serves to normalize the "deviant" sexualities on display. This is sucessful, and in many ways, the point.

However , there is a strange tension between the hard-to-believe and the boring. I found it hard to accept the high percentage of gay, cross-dressing, or transgender people (there is just one lesbian woman, Gerry) in a small town, all of whom are connected somehow to Billy, the bisexual narrator. Bill
Robyn Roscoe
Sep 29, 2012 Robyn Roscoe rated it did not like it
I was a John Irving devotee for much of my life. Since I first read Garp, I have been an avid fan of Irving's writing, and have enjoyed much of it. But since The Fourth Hand, I've been feeling somewhat cheated, and this latest novel was the last straw. I confess I have not finished it, but I am so completely detached and disinterested in the story and characters I am not compelled to spend my time slogging through to the end.

On top of the familiar people and places (New England town with a boys
I loved this big-hearted novel that portrays the life trajectory of boy growing up bisexual in a small Vermont town in the 50's and his erotic and personal transformations to old age.

Coming of age for Bill begins to veer in disturbing fashion by crushes on "the wrong people". These include a fellow private school student, who is a champion wrestler and actor in the town drama group, and older women such as the town librarian, Miss Frost. Despite the usual homophobic repression and antagonism fr
Aug 11, 2013 Meg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Despite reading a couple of good reviews I was still pretty skeptical of this book. I hold a couple of Irving's novels in very high esteem. I enjoyed Last Night in Twisted River enough, but remember it taking me a long time to get into it. I know I struggled through the first half of Until I Find You and absolutely loved the second half (the first half being around 400 pages). The Fourth Hand was pretty much disappointing but A Widow for One Year I adored. I remember how hard I fell for John
Sally Wilson
Oct 06, 2012 Sally Wilson rated it it was ok
Let me preface this review by saying I am reading this book for my book club. And now let me say I would rather be reading anything but this book. Okay, perhaps not Toni Morrison's 'Beloved' but pretty much anything else.
Good golly, this book is tedious. Very. I don't care about the main character and the 'storyline' is meandering and boring. Literally counting down the pages and then I'll be giving this book away to the first taker. Anyone want it after this glowing review? It probably burns pr
May 30, 2012 Suzanne rated it liked it
John Irving's newest novel has a strong voice. It reads like a memoir. I'm having a difficult time reviewing this book, though I've been reading it for almost two weeks. It feels like four. This is not a good sign.
There were several characters who shape Bill Abbot, the protagonist, but not the hero. This epic begins when Bill is a child and follows him until he is almost seventy, but not in a linear fashion. Bill's lfe journey takes him from Vermont to N. Y. to San Francisco to Europe and final
Sharon Metcalf
Feb 24, 2016 Sharon Metcalf rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I'd heard of John Irving naturally but I'd never read any of his books, quite possibly never would have either if not for GoodReads. The number of ratings and high average scores told me enough to know he's a popular author. So when I saw some of his books at bargain prices I decided to give him a try. I bought two titles but in all honesty they could have remained unread for months or years given the huge backlog of TBR titles on my shelves. Then a couple of ladies in BT were commenting on how ...more
Apr 19, 2014 Rebecka rated it it was ok
Shelves: read_in_english
This book seriously annoyed me. This review may make me seem somewhat fanatic, but once I get hung up on something in a book, that's it, I can't really let it go. The low rating for this book is based on one huge pet peeve of mine: authors not doing their research - combined with ridiculous stereotypes. Also, I might throw in "extremely unrealistic and weird-sounding dialogue", "unrealistic events Hollywood movie style" and "generally zero credibility". I never for a second while reading this bo ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Mar 17, 2013 switterbug (Betsey) rated it it was ok
Too self-conscious and heavy handed. It read like a freshman author's overreaching or a trunk novel. There were times I even squirmed because it was so twee. Way too earnest, melodramatic, and repetitive. It borders on doddering.

I am a huge heartfelt fan. I met him, too, when he came to speak in Austin, and I snuck into the stiff collar party afterwards. He was deliciously friendly. I have a pic with him on my bookshelf. He's one of my literary heroes, ever since I discovered Garp while in colle
Jun 03, 2012 Don rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
Irving has written two great novels (Owen Meaney and Cider House), but he became one of my favorites with a couple of preceding works that were bigger, more boisterous, definitely more outrageous, but somewhat flawed--Garp and Hotel New Hampshire. These are the novels I come back to again and again. These have characters I've never forgotten about. With his new novel, I think he's back in that territory. The novel has it's problems--it pushes the coincidences, it forces humor in places (although ...more
Apr 02, 2012 DT rated it it was amazing
If I judge IN ONE PERSON by how fast I read it (just under a week, fast for me), it rates five stars; but if I judge it solely by the quality of the characters and whether or not the plot is compelling, I'd have to give it 5 and a half stars. In the “pantheon” of undeniably memorable Irving characters, Billy Abbott is right up there with Bogus Trumper, Jenny Fields, T.S. Garp, Franny Berry, Dr. Larch, Owen Meany, Ted and Ruth Cole, Doris Clausen, Jack Burns and Ketchum, the irascible logger from ...more
May 07, 2012 Jessica rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: literary fiction fans
Recommended to Jessica by: ARC from Simon & Schuster
Shelves: arc, master-writers
(ARC received from Simon & Schuster via Barnes & Noble. Review crossposted to

John Irving doesn't really write books. He writes journeys. I once read a director (I believe) quoted regarding adapting A Widow for One Year for film (The Door in the Floor) that adaptations of John Irving novels ought to be considered an art forum unto themselves. Certainly, the scope alone makes adaptation difficult--we meet William "Bill" Abbott at age fifteen in the beginning of the n
Jul 02, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it
This is a very John Irving John Irving book. He has elevated "write what you know" to an art form. There's a boy with a single mother and an absent father (see also Owen Meany, Garp). He grows up to be a writer (Garp). (view spoiler) It's set in New England (Owen Meany, Hotel New Hampshire, Cider House Rules, um, almost all of his books?) with a boys' boarding school (Hotel ...more
Jun 11, 2012 Melissa rated it liked it
This book started off strong, but ultimately was dissatisfying. It was really fun to read, but I have to admit that there were plenty of parts where I was saying to myself, "WHAT?? That doesn't make sense!"

First of all, much of the structure of the book is related to our narrator Bill's inability to say words that made him uncomfortable. Sometimes the words were something like "penis," but other times, it was a word like "shadow." Fine. That's interesting and unusual. Most people's speech impedi
Dec 14, 2012 Kata rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kata by: John
I'll tell you something we already know. John Irving likes to repeat a lot of things in his books. Wrestling, transvestites, writers, etc. I could keep going but I'll stop. As I said we already know this as avid Irving readers. And if you're not an avid reader of Irving you should be ashamed of yourself. Go to the bookstore this very instant!

But now I need your help with something. I have a crazy debacle in my head. I need you to tell me something. The image on the cover of this book, which clea
Jan 30, 2012 Edie rated it really liked it
Only John Irving can take Aids, cross-dressing, homophobia, sexual identity problems and bullying and make you laugh out loud as well as tear up as you read along. While this book might have gone on a "little too long" (and it pains me to say that as a long-time John Irving fan), I was caught up in the lives of most of the characters and I cared deeply about the protagonist, his friend Elaine, some of his lovers and definitely Big Al and his grandfather whom you can look forward to meeting. I al ...more
Laurie Larson-Doornbos

My love affair with John Irving began nearly 25 years ago when I discovered Hotel New Hampshire, following it with The World According to Garp and then Owen Meany. I've continued to read nearly everything Irving publshishes (even the odd little Trying to Save Piggy Sneed) though I've found that few books carry the magic that his earlier work did. So In One Person landed on my stack of books.

Billy Abbott lives in First Sister, Vermont, is 13, and frustrated that he always seems to crush on the wr
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JOHN IRVING was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1942. His first novel, Setting Free the Bears, was published in 1968, when he was twenty-six. He competed as a wrestler for twenty years, and coached wrestling until he was forty-seven.
Mr. Irving has been nominated for a National Book Award three times—winning once, in 1980, for his novel The World According to Garp. He received an O. Henry Award
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“We are formed by what we desire” 39 likes
“Don't forget this, too: Rumors aren't interested in the unsensational story; rumors don't care what's true.” 31 likes
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