Stephanie's Reviews > In One Person

In One Person by John Irving
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's review
May 30, 2012

it was ok

The narrator of Irving's latest novel is the almost 70 year old Billy, an accomplished writer and a man of mutable sexuality, who relives more than one-half century of his history. Like Irving, Billy writes about "the same old themes," and this novel, like its predecessors, includes Irving standards, like fatherless children, prep schools, small towns, wrestling, Vienna, and even bears. Sadly, this is no "Garp," "Cider House," or "Owen Meany," and I was surprised and disappointed that a book about gender identity by the acclaimed Irving wasn't more interesting. Irving populates First Sister, Vermont with a variety of idiosyncratic characters, including Grandpa Harry Marshall, the cross-dressing sawmill owner, and Miss Winter, the "statuesque" librarian who is the object of young Billy's first crush, but these characters wear thin. The book also suffers from an unconventional structure where the narrative curiously jumps forward in the middle of an anecdote. Perhaps most disappointing is Irving's failure to fully address the tensions of growing up as a sexual outsider -- maybe because the entire town and the prep school seems to have an unusually high percentage of gays, lesbians, and transgenders. Despite my lukewarm reception, there are two chapters towards the end of the novel in which Irving describes the dawn of the AIDS crisis and the untimely deaths of Billy's friends and lovers that are simply heartbreaking. Those chapters alone may be worth reading this novel.
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Lisa Miss Frost.

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