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Until I Find You

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  23,632 ratings  ·  1,515 reviews
“According to his mother, Jack Burns was an actor before he was an actor, but Jack’s most vivid memories of childhood were those moments when he felt compelled to hold his mother’s hand. He wasn’t acting then.”

John Irving’s eleventh novel, Until I Find You, is the story of the actor Jack Burns. His mother, Alice, is a Toronto tattoo artist. When Jack is four, he travels wi
Paperback, 848 pages
Published May 30th 2006 by Vintage Canada (first published 2005)
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3.63  · 
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 ·  23,632 ratings  ·  1,515 reviews

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Jun 03, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007books
I have very much enjoyed the other novels by John Irving I have read (Garp, Owen Meany, Widow for One Year), but I did NOT in any way enjoy "Until I Find You." All the classic Irving tropes are here (wrestling, prostitutes, New Hampshire, older women, people of small stature), but all are deployed in an absolutely forced, joyless, airless manner. The best thing I can say about this novel is that Irving's prose is typically readable. That is also the ONLY positive thing I can think to say about t ...more
Aug 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: must-reads
This is the most personal book I have read of Irving's and I am a huge fan. I've read everything save one book, the one that was a very successful movie.

"Until I Find You" is a tough book to get into. The first few chapters are painstaking and seem laborious but you cannot put the book aside. Then in a single moment it becomes essential to know the story, know what happens to this little boy, because you care about him in his over-the-top quirky yet very sad yet oblivous existence.

For an Irvin
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Sep 22, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Help! Some hack has kidnapped John Irving and is publishing novels under his name! As so many, many have said: I've loved John Irving's work for years, but this book is a mess (were there no editors? Or - and here's a scary thought - is this actually the edited version?). Irving is getting up there in years (he was 63 when Until I Find You was published), but one still wouldn't have imagined he'd be capable of writing such a joyless, tic-ridden, self-indulgent, slightly icky-minded shambles of a ...more
Josh Cutting
Jul 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: musicans, tattoo freaks, or any son of split parents
Recommended to Josh by: Persis
This is a case for me of a pure gut/emotional reaction, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

First of all, this book has totally sold me on John Irving. I read "A Prayer for Owen Meany", and had the hardest time getting into it. I really liked about the last hundred pages, but getting there was a chore, to be quite honest.

But this book, this book had me from the first line to the last. And it is directly because of all of the personal parallels. You have the musician (I'm a musician, a pianist actual
Oct 10, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
if you're not into john irving or if you've never read him before, i wouldn't start with this one. but if you're an irving lover, definitely go for it.

no matter what the critics say, for me, irving can do no wrong. reading his books actually take me out of my life. i'm running out of ones i haven't read. maybe i'll have to start rrrrerrrreading.

also, irving can always be counted on for good author photos.
Nov 09, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Irving veterans
I have read 10 of John Irving's books: his first 9, and this one. Clearly, he does something that I keep going back for. Maybe it's no coincidence that I also read all of Dickens' novels in chronological order, back in my twenties. The two are very different -- Dickens is much funnier, for instance -- but they have much in common. It doesn't surprise me to read others' mention of the links between them:

Of the scope, the sheer heft factor of their books, many complain. I like it. It's hard not t
Kristin Myrtle
I have read many many many John Irving books and this one is unequivocally my favorite. It's also the John Irving book that seems to incite the most vitriol. And I don't know why. It's a simple story about a man, a man searching for his father, and searching for himself. It's a road novel, back and forth and back and forth over Europe and America the mother and son characters move. It's also about the history of tattoos and you get to learn all the nifty language and parlance and colloquialisms ...more
Mar 19, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
"It's better than a sore penis," Jack said. — From "Until I Find You."

Well, maybe not ...

John Irving's longest novel also takes the longest to become interesting — if it ever does; I bailed before getting close to page 820, all ambition sapped from me by this strangely uninvolving work that, by my limited reckoning, never would have been published if submitted by an unknown. While containing familiar Irving elements (don't they all?), there is an utter lack of verve and momentum. It's as though
Amanda Patterson
John Irving is an inspirational author and I use many of his books as examples on how to write a good book. A Widow for One Year is in my Top 10 books of all time.

Until I Find You is far from brilliant. It's tedious, self-indulgent and boring.

As much as I like to see authors making money and winning Oscars (The Cider House Rules), I'm not in favour of the power they weild afterwards. No first-time author would be indulged in this way.

Typical John Irving characters. I was hoping for more typical
May 20, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people with father issues, people with mother issues, people into tattoos/tatto art/maritime art
What John Irving does best- creates a very detailed history, starting with Jack as a young boy and taking you with him into adulthood. But the childhood portion of this book is told from the perspective of his memory, which will have you having all sorts of bits of nostalgia in relating to the way Jack remembers things and reasons he mis-remembers them. It's especially heartbreaking because as an adult he is searching for his father he never knew, and discovers that some memories he has involve ...more
Carlos Velez
Feb 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jack Burns!

I can't hear the name without the exclamation point in my head. He leads an interesting life. John Irving weaves his childhood, teen years, and adult life into a strange and fascinating tale. Much of what John Irving writes about revolves around sex, especially for Jack Burns. I've read two of Irving's novels, the other being A Widow For One Year and he has a few consistencies. Taboo sex is a major factor in the lives of the main characters, for instance, a middle aged woman and a tee
Apr 06, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who has plenty of time to kill - maybe a prisoner?
What a shame when a decent story idea is mangled by diarrhea writing and non-existent editing. I plowed through all 800-some pages of this book, hoping that Irving would somehow redeem himself in the end. No such luck. It managed to even get worse at the end - quite a feat. This book was a real disappointment, and I give it two stars only because the basic story itself was intriguing; it was the execution of the story that fell far short.
Jan 24, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting story. Way too long. Not my favorite Irving.
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Briefly, all I can say is that I absolutely fell in love with this book.
May 26, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2006-2010
"When he is four years old, Jack travels with his mother Alice, a tattoo artist, to several North Sea ports in search of his father, William Burns. From Copenhagen to Amsterdam, William, a brilliant church organist and profligate womanizer, is always a step ahead – has always just departed in a wave of scandal, with a new tattoo somewhere on his body from a local master or “scratcher.”

Alice and Jack abandon their quest, and Jack is educated at schools in Canada and New England – including, telli
Kathy Tempesta
Apr 18, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is either the culmination of John Irving's life's work of the result of a bar bet. Those are the only two explanations I can come up with for a book where the protagonist is 4 years old at the start and yet the word "penis" is used at least once on every page. This book really should be called, "I Love My Penis" because that is the driving theme of every chapter.

This should not come as a shock to anyone who has read anything written by John Irving before but the degree of passion for
Mar 09, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
I enjoyed the first section of this book, which seems almost like a return to the Irving of 'The World According to Garp' or 'The Hotel New Hampshire', about the young Jack and his tattooist mother wandering through assorted European cities searching for his elusive father. However, I feel the book deteriorates disastrously after that - the writing style seems to go downhill and there is a lot about child abuse which I just didn't want to go on reading.
May 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chronotope is one of the words coined by language philosophers and philologists to denote a spatial and temporal unity and their co-dependence in the novel. This is a way a literary continuum of a certain novel is defined and categorized. John Irving is one of the names in the world literature whose novels share not only identical chronotopes (the turn of the century and Maine/New Hampshire/ Canada), but his characters are trapped in the well of the same plots and issues: the search of the lost ...more
Jan 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One thing I like about John Irving is that even though his protagonists are male, he seriously considers the women in his stories. Women are always more than objects, even when they are not The Subject.

This time, Jack Burns is the protagonist, but at first, his mother's life is front and center. Alice Stronach is so heartbroken and angry after William Burns leaves her that it distorts her personality. At times, I wasn't sure if she loved William, Jack, both, or neither. And by the way--Jack bea
Feb 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is only my second John Irving novel, but I can already see he has abandonment issues. And problems with relationships. Of all kinds.

I really liked the first section, describing Jack's childhood memories of his search, with his mother, for the father that abandoned them. But I got bogged down in the middle sections; I didn't like Jack, or his mother, or the girls and women who abused him, or the women and girls he abused. There was very little that was "functional" going on in the relationsh
Dec 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I first met with my thesis advisor in graduate school and told him I wanted to do my thesis on John Irving, he told me two things. The first was a sort of snobby view of Irving and all his work, which was, my advisor said, "the practice of writing the same book over and over again."

The next comment was full of envy and the desire to do exactly what Irving had done with Garp and The Cider House Rules. "If only I could do that myself," he said.

Well, yeah. And the truth is, I don't care what J
Aug 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an excellent writer we have in John Irving. While this was not my favorite Irving book, it is still miles above most contemporary writers' most ambitious efforts. Anyone can read the inside of a book cover and get the "plot", but suffice it to say the plot will suck you in. What will keep you thinking about the book even when you aren't reading it, or make you want to read it every second you are able, are his characters, the symbolism, his humor, and, most adoringly, the author's "voice".
Thom Swennes
Apr 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Are lives predestined or do people have the choice to determine their futures? Are we bound to follow in the steps of one or both of our parents and have neither the powers nor abilities to change or even influence the ultimate outcome? What our early beliefs are tainted with deceit? Will this have an influence on our eventual futures? These and other questions are asked, explored and sometimes even answered or was Jack the lover his father supposedly was or was it a question of androgyny that c ...more
Apr 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: True fans of John Irving

John Irving has a new novel coming out in May, 2012: In One Person. Since I had fallen behind on his releases, I took the plunge on this long novel. The general consensus, according to readers' stars and critics, seems to be that Irving's last two novels were not up to snuff. I disagree.

Granted, it would be hard to top Cider House Rules or A Prayer From Owen Meany. Somehow, ever since I read The World According to Garp about 18 years ago, I have felt a kindred spirit in John Irving. I'm not con
Mrs. Reed
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was touted as the most autobiographical of John Irving's books, and if that's true, it explains why so many of them are so incredibly weird. I adored this book when I wasn't trying to read while simultaneously averting my eyes from it.

I loved what Irving had to say about the unreliability of memory, and how memory can be shaped by the stories others tell you (obviously not for me, as I remember everything in perfect detail and am a perfectly reliable narrator). For Jack, his memory is
Oct 22, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I imagine one's appreciation of Until I Find You will depend in large part on an ability to get through the first couple hundred pages, which mainly consist of a mother and Jack, her four-year-old son, traveling to various Scandinavian churches and tattoo parlors in search of the boy's father. The true story of Jack's father, and how the man's absence ultimately contributed to flaws in the son's character, is the main focus of the book, but holy cow does it take a long time to get there. In the ...more
Agnieszka Mlynarczyk-Mikos
It’s a book of my life... literally! I was looking for a love of my life when I started reading it. I could not put it away during the first 400 pages. But then something happened, I made some life changing decisions and was too busy to read.
I ended my relationship, changed my job, moved in with my girlfriends and shortly after met my husband. Moved again, had two kids, while this book patiently waited on my bedside table. I got busier and busier, took it with me on several holidays (it travele
David Jordan
In fiction-writing classes, a tenet receiving much emphasis is that you can’t craft a compelling story around a passive character. John Irving, a grad of the famed University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop, must have missed school the day(s) that rule was taught, because the central character of Irving’s “Until I Find You” practices passivity as a way of life. Everything -- an itinerant youth, lots of sex, movie stardom -- happens TO Jack Burns, not because of his actions. Eventually, a reader wants ...more
Sep 08, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I usually love John Irving, "The World According to Garp" and "A Prayer for Owen Meany" are two of my favorite books ever, and I usually like whatever else he writes. I found this book to be kind of a meandering dud peppered with the some of the least titillating sex scenes ever put to paper. There are some bright spots (though I forget them now, the book is freakin' long), but mainly the whole thing is basically a chronicle of Irving's love affair with his own penis. Sex has always been a major ...more
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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
“In increments both measurable and not, our childhood is stolen from us -- not always in one momentous event but often in a series of small robberies, which add up to the same loss.” 193 likes
“The desire to never leave your side, the desire to never see you again. The desire to see your face asleep on the pillow beside my face and to see your eyes open in the morning when I lie next to you—just watching you, waiting for you to wake up.” 103 likes
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