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In One Person

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  24,639 ratings  ·  3,323 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
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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. Irv…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)
Kumari de Silva I think it is meant to be purposefully vague, because Elaine never actually cops to there being any woman in the photos- - but Billy sees the woman. *…moreI think it is meant to be purposefully vague, because Elaine never actually cops to there being any woman in the photos- - but Billy sees the woman. ******SPOILER ALERT***********

there is a parallel scene to this close to the end of the book. Billy and Elaine spend the night in the house Billy inherits from his Grandpa Harry, and Elaine sees ghosts. Billy, however, never sees any ghosts in the house. The ghosts Elaine sees are women.

As the book rounds to a close we see how many of the characters are imprints of earlier selves: Al Frost is a prototype of Kittredge. Grandpa Harry is an older version of Billy's bio dad. Billy starts working at the school much like his stepfather, Richard Abbott did in the past. The ghosts are real? Maybe, or maybe it's just a symbol of people and their continuing unseen influence.(less)

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Average rating 3.68  · 
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Will Byrnes
Jun 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
There is a scene near the end of John Irving’s 2012 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 w
Jeffrey Keeten
Jan 09, 2014 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
Richard Derus
Jul 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 (lasting more than half a century) of his life as a “sexual suspect,” a phrase first used by John Irving in 1978 in his landmark novel of “terminal cases,” The World Accordin
Gary  the Bookworm
May 12, 2012 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
May 06, 2012 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.
Jul 03, 2012 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 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: petra, cait
Shelves: owned, 2012-books
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 iss
Jan 13, 2012 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
Apr 17, 2012 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
B the BookAddict
Apr 27, 2013 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
Apr 30, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: z-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 16, 2016 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
May 17, 2012 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 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
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Irving is known to tackle the tough issues of our times, sexuality, Vietnam, abortion, and in this novel: gender crossing.

Billy, the bi-sexual narrator, is a successful author in his late sixties, who has had an upbringing and career not unlike Irving’s, who is reflecting on his life and his “outsider” status. His theatrical family helped confuse gender for him right from the get-go: his grandfather was a cross-dresser, so was his absentee father, the Shakespearean theatre productions put on by
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
Mar 27, 2012 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
Aug 20, 2012 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
switterbug (Betsey)
Mar 09, 2012 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
May 07, 2012 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
Apr 12, 2014 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
May 05, 2012 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
May 15, 2013 rated it liked it
3stars......some very funny and poignant bits but also rather preachy and self indulgent.....I miss the outstanding qualities that were in a prayer for Owen meaney and a son of the circus
May 18, 2012 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
Apr 02, 2012 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 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 novel, an
Sharon Metcalf
Feb 23, 2016 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 15, 2013 rated it liked it
I wish I could give this another star or two, just because it's Irving, but really he is not wearing well. The infinite parenthetical commentary (like there's always something else to add) becomes very irritating. So why (I ask) doesn't he just construct a full sentence and add it into the flow? The resultant prose (if one could call it that) becomes very choppy (making one almost seasick) with the rising and falling of voice. Add to that -- hmmm -- well that irritating -- and disturbing -- perp ...more
Jun 03, 2012 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
May 10, 2012 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
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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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