Chloe's Reviews > The Cider House Rules

The Cider House Rules by John Irving
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Aug 31, 08

bookshelves: fiction, 1001-list, not-owned
Recommended to Chloe by: Jeremy
Read in August, 2008

I've always struggled with Irving and Cider House Rules is no exception. It's not that Irving is a poor writer, no one can argue that. His characters are always fully-fleshed and alive on the page and each sentence drips with so much detail that you think you're going to get splinters when Homer and Melony are messing around in the abandoned millworker's dorm. I just think that most of the time when I put the book down I feel like I've read the equivalent of cotton candy: really pretty but not much substance as far as plot is concerned.

Another aspect of Irving's writing is his tendency to deliver sentences in blanket pronunciations (i.e.- "An orphan is a child, forever; an orphan detests change; an orphan hates to move; an orphan loves routine"). Far too often they seem like shallow blanket judgments used to convey a character trait but which instead seem to make Irving's characters seem like cardboard cutouts.

What Cider House Rules does provide is a very even-handed look at the pro-choice vs. "pro-life" debate. Told from the point of view of Dr. Wilbur Larch, who came into his own while working in Boston's South End, abortion seems like a necessary option to those who would seek one from any potential provider, no matter how unqualified or injurious. In Larch's view it's far better that women get an abortion from a trained and caring provider than a backroom butcher with no compassion for the patient.

Contrasting this view is the book's hero, Homer Wells, an orphan who has never experienced the results of a botched abortion and, from his perspective as an orphan, tends to view aborted fetuses as playmates that just never were. Through Homer and Larch's conflict regarding abortion, Irving manages to shine an insightful light on a subject which has pulled hard at America's edges for as long as the nation has been extant.

All in all, I think I enjoyed Cider House Rules. Sure, there were definitely moments when I wondered whether Irving was as lost in the story as Dr. Larch was lost in an ether dream, but the moment I closed the book for the final time it took hold of my imagination and left me thinking for quite a while after. By any measure that should be a sign of a good read.

Finally, I feel the need to mention the following quote which grabbed me early in the novel:
"Dr. Larch pointed out that Melony had taken Jane Eyre with her; he accepted this as a hopeful sign- wherever Melony went, she would not be without guidance, she would not be without love, without faith; she had a good book with her. If only she'll keep reading it, and reading it, Larch thought."
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