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Last Night in Twisted River [NOOK Book]

Overview

'We don't always have a choice how we get to know one another. Sometimes, people fall into our lives cleanly-as if out of the sky, or as if there were a direct flight from Heaven to Earth-the same sudden way we lose people, who once seemed they would always be part of our lives.'





In 1954, in the cookhouse of a logging and sawmill ...

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Last Night in Twisted River

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Overview

'We don't always have a choice how we get to know one another. Sometimes, people fall into our lives cleanly-as if out of the sky, or as if there were a direct flight from Heaven to Earth-the same sudden way we lose people, who once seemed they would always be part of our lives.'





In 1954, in the cookhouse of a logging and sawmill settlement in northern New Hampshire, an anxious twelve-year-old boy fatally mistakes the local constable's girlfriend for a bear. Both the twelve-year-old and his father become fugitives - to Boston, to southern Vermont, to Toronto - pursued over the years by the implacable constable. Their lone protector is a fiercely libertarian logger, once a river driver, who befriends them and distantly watches over them like a vast, idiosyncratic guardian...



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  • Last Night in Twisted River
    Last Night in Twisted River  

Editorial Reviews

Michiko Kakutani
Mr. Irving uses coincidences, cliffhanger chapter endings and other 19th-century novelistic devices to hook the reader, while at the same time orchestrating them to underscore the improbable, random nature of real life. Some of his inventions…are ludicrous at first glance, but the reader gradually comes to understand that they are writerly metaphors for the precarious nature of life in "a world of accidents," that the volume we hold in our hands is, in fact, the creation of Danny, who is trying to make sense of the unlikely trajectory of his life through the act of writing. In this respect Last Night in Twisted River emerges not just as a tall tale, but also as an entertaining, if messy and long-winded, commentary on the fiction-making process itself.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Irving (The World According to Garp) returns with a scattershot novel, the overriding themes, locations and sensibilities of which will probably neither surprise longtime fans nor win over the uninitiated. Dominic “Cookie” Baciagalupo and his son, Danny, work the kitchen of a New Hampshire logging camp overlooking the Twisted River, whose currents claimed both Danny's mother and, as the novel opens, mysterious newcomer Angel Pope. Following an Irvingesque appearance of bears, Cookie and Danny's “world of accidents” expands, precipitating a series of adventures both literary and culinary. The ensuing 50-year slog follows the Baciagalupos from a Boston Italian restaurant to an Iowa City Chinese joint and finally a Toronto French cafe, while dovetailing clumsily with Danny's career as the distinctly Irving-like writer Danny Angel. The story's vicariousness is exacerbated by frequent changes of scene, self-conscious injections of how writers must “detach themselves” and a cast of invariably flat characters. With conflict this meandering and characters this limp, reflexive gestures come off like nostalgia and are bound to leave readers wishing Irving had detached himself even more. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Irving's 12th novel—following Until I Find You (2005), also available from Books on Tape and Random Audio—covers five decades in the lives of three highly memorable characters. Most of Irving's usual themes and icons appear here, from bears to wrestling to unseen fears, as he uses the character of a writer to define his own fiction writing process. Narrator Arthur Morey (The Ministry of Special Cases) shows an impressive grasp of the language in his reading of this father-son love story touched with loss and humor; he especially captures well the cantankerous logger Ketchum, who serves as the book's political compass. Long and demanding but highly worth it; recommended for contemporary fiction audiences. [The New York Times best-selling Random hc was described as being "interesting, funny, and original," LJ 11/1/09; the pb will release in June 2010.—Ed.]—Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo
Kirkus Reviews
Irving's new doorstopper (Until I Find You, 2006, etc.) addresses a strong theme-the role accident plays in even the most carefully planned and managed lives-but doesn't always stick to the subject. His logjam of a narrative focuses on the life and times of Danny Baciagalupo, who navigates the roiling waters of growing up alongside his widowed father Dominic, a crippled logging-camp cook employed by a company that plies its dangerous trade along the zigzag Twisted River, north of New Hampshire's Androscoggin River in Robert Frost's old neighborhood of Coos County. The story begins swiftly and compellingly in 1954, when a river accident claims the life of teenaged Canadian sawmill worker Angel Pope, whom none of his co-workers really know. Irving's characters live in a "world of accidents" whose by-products include Dominic's maiming and the death of his young wife in a mishap similar to Angel's. All is nicely done throughout the novel's assured and precisely detailed early pages. But trouble looms and symbols clash when Danny mistakenly thinks a constable's lady friend is a bear, and admirers of The Cider House Rules (1985) and A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989) will anticipate that Large Meanings prowl these dark woods. The narrative flattens out as we follow the Baciagalupos south to Boston, thence to Iowa (where we're treated to a lengthy account of Danny's studies, surely not unlike Irving's own, at the Iowa Writers' Workshop), and an enormity of specifics and generalizations about Danny's career as bestselling author "Danny Angel." The tale spans 50 years, and Danny's/Irving's penchant for commentary on the psyche, obligations and disappointments of the writer's life makes those yearsfeel like centuries. Will entertain the faithful and annoy readers who think this author has already written the same novel too many times.
From the Publisher
“Absolutely unmissable . . . [A] big-hearted, brilliantly written and superbly realized intergenerational tale of a father and son.”—Financial Times
 
“Engrossing . . . Irving’s sentences and paragraphs are assembled with the skill and attention to detail of a master craftsman creating a dazzling piece of jewelry from hundreds of tiny, bright stones.”—Houston Chronicle

“There’s plenty of evidence in Irving’s agility as a writer in Last Night in Twisted River. . . . some of the comic moments are among the most memorable that Irving has written.”—New York Times

“A rich and evocative story.”—Washington Post

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781588369000
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/27/2009
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 83,763
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

John Irving published his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, in 1968. He has been nominated for a National Book Award three times — winning once, in 1980, for the novel The World According to Garp. He also received an O. Henry Award, in 1981, for the short story “Interior Space.” In 1992, Irving was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2000, he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules.

Biography

It was as a struggling, withdrawn student at Phillips Exeter, the New Hampshire prep school where his stepfather taught Russian history, that John Irving discovered the two great loves of his life: writing and wrestling. Modestly, he attributes his success in both endeavors to dogged perseverance. "My life in wrestling was one-eighth talent and seven-eighths discipline," he confessed in his 1996 mini-memoir The Imaginary Girlfriend. "I believe that my life as a writer consists of one-eighth talent and seven-eighths discipline, too."

Certainly, patience and stamina have served Irving well -- in both wrestling (he competed until he was 34, coached well into his 40s, and was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1992) and writing. His first book, Setting Free the Bears, was published in 1968 to respectable reviews but sold poorly. Over the course of the next ten years, he wrote two more unsuccessful novels (The Water-Method Man and The 158-Pound Marriage).

Then, in 1978, Irving hit the jackpot with The World According to Garp, a freewheeling comic saga incorporating motifs he would revisit many times over -- feminism, adultery, violence, grotesquerie, and an overriding sense of impending doom. Garp received a National Book Award nomination and became an instant cult classic. It also paved the way for a string of bestsellers, including The Hotel New Hampshire, The Cider House Rules, A Prayer for Owen Meaney, and The Fourth Hand, to name a few.

While none of his novels are strictly autobiographical, Irving has never denied that certain elements from his life have seeped into his books, most notably the pervading "presence" of his biological father, John Wallace Blunt, a man Irving never knew. Raised by his mother and a stepfather he loved dearly, Irving had denied for years any curiosity about his absent parent, but the figure of the missing father haunted his writing like a specter. In 2005, he laid the ghost to rest with the publication of Until I Find You, a searing story that took shape slowly and painfully over the better part of a decade. Writing the novel also allowed the author to wrestle with a closely guarded secret from his past -- just like the novel's protagonist Jack Burns, Irving was sexually abused as a preteen by an older woman. In an eerily timed coincidence, while he was crafting the novel, Irving was contacted by a man named Chris Blunt, who identified himself as the son of Irving's biological father. Twenty years younger than Irving, his half-brother told Irving that their father had died in 1995. Although Irving was devastated by the experience, he now feels as if he is able to turn the page and move on.

In addition to his novels, Irving has also written a collection of short stories and essays (1995's Trying to Save Piggy Sneed) and several screenplays, including his Oscar-winning adaptation of The Cider House Rules. He chronicled the experience of bringing his novel to the screen in the 1999 memoir My Movie Business.

Good To Know

  • Irving struggled in school with a learning disability that was probably undiagnosed dyslexia. Today, he considers it something of a blessing. Forced to read slowly, he savored each word and literally fell in love with language and literature.

  • In a 2001 interview with the now-defunct Book magazine, Irving confessed, "The characters in my novels, from the very first one, are always on some quixotic effort of attempting to control something that is uncontrollable -- some element of the world that is essentially random and out of control."

  • Although the results have been mixed at best, film versions have been made of several Irving novels, including The World According to Garp, The Hotel New Hampshire, and The Cider House Rules, which won for Irving a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. In addition, the movie Simon Birch was loosely based on A Prayer for Owen Meaney, and the first third of Irving's novel A Widow for One Year became the acclaimed film The Door in the Floor.

  • One of Irving's great literary influences was Kurt Vonnegut, his teacher and mentor at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. The two writers remained close friends until Vonnegut's death in 2007.

  • Irving has two tattoos: a maple leaf (in honor of his Canadian wife) on his left shoulder, and the starting circle of a wrestling match on his right forearm.

  • The influence of Charles Dickens is evident in Irving's novels, sprawling epics with huge casts of colorful, eccentric characters and lots of complex plot points that crop up, disappear for hundreds of pages, then resurface unexpectedly. He writes voluminously and in great detail; he refuses to use a computer; and he begins at the end, writing the last sentence of each novel first. He describes himself as a craftsman and claims that he owes his success more to rewrites, ruthless editing, and infinite patience than to artistic genius.

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      1. Also Known As:
        John Wallace Blunt, Jr.
      2. Hometown:
        Vermont
      1. Date of Birth:
        March 2, 1942
      2. Place of Birth:
        Exeter, New Hampshire
      1. Education:
        B.A., University of New Hampshire, 1965; also studied at University of Vienna; M.F.A., Iowa Writers' Workshop, 1967

    Read an Excerpt

    I.
    COOS COUNTY,
    NEW HAMPSHIRE, 1954


    C H A P T E R 1
    UNDER THE LOGS

    The young canadian, who could not have been more than fifteen, had hesitated too long. For a frozen moment, his feet had stopped moving on the floating logs in the basin above the river bend; he'd slipped entirely underwater before anyone could grab his outstretched hand. One of the loggers had reached for the youth's long hair-the older man's fingers groped around in the frigid water, which was thick, almost soupy, with sloughed-off slabs of bark. Then two logs collided hard on the would-be rescuer's arm, breaking his wrist. The carpet of moving logs had completely closed over the young Canadian, who never surfaced; not even a hand or one of his boots broke out of the brown water. Out on a logjam, once the key log was pried loose, the river drivers had to move quickly and continually; if they paused for even a second or two, they would be pitched into the torrent. In a river drive, death among moving logs could occur from a crushing injury, before you had a chance to drown-but drowning was more common. From the riverbank, where the cook and his twelve-year-old son could hear the cursing of the logger whose wrist had been broken, it was immediately apparent that someone was in more serious trouble than the would-be rescuer, who'd freed his injured arm and had managed to regain his footing on the flowing logs. His fellow river drivers ignored him; they moved with small, rapid steps toward shore, calling out the lost boy's name. The loggers ceaselessly prodded with their pike poles, directing the floating logs ahead of them. The rivermen were, for the most part, picking the safest way ashore, but to the cook's hopeful son it seemed that they might have been trying to create a gap of sufficient width for the young Canadian to emerge. In truth, there were now only intermittent gaps between the logs. The boy who'd told them his name was "Angel Pope, from Toronto," was that quickly gone. "Is it Angel?" the twelve-year-old asked his father. This boy, with his dark-brown eyes and intensely serious expression, could have been mistaken for Angel's younger brother, but there was no mistaking the family resemblance that the twelve-year-old bore to his ever-watchful father. The cook had an aura of controlled apprehension about him, as if he routinely anticipated the most unforeseen disasters, and there was something about his son's seriousness that reflected this; in fact, the boy looked so much like his father that several of the woodsmen had expressed their surprise that the son didn't also walk with his dad's pronounced limp. The cook knew too well that indeed it was the young Canadian who had fallen under the logs. It was the cook who'd warned the loggers that Angel was too green for the river drivers' work; the youth should not have been trying to free a logjam. But probably the boy had been eager to please, and maybe the rivermen hadn't noticed him at first. In the cook's opinion, Angel Pope had also been too green (and too clumsy) to be working in the vicinity of the main blade in a sawmill. That was strictly the sawyer's territory -- a highly skilled position in the mills. The planer operator was a relatively skilled position, too, though not particularly dangerous. The more dangerous and less skilled positions included working on the log deck, where logs were rolled into the mill and onto the saw carriage, or unloading logs from the trucks. Before the advent of mechanical loaders, the logs were unloaded by releasing trip bunks on the sides of the trucks-this allowed an entire load to roll off a truck at once. But the trip bunks sometimes failed to release; the men were occasionally caught under a cascade of logs while they were trying to free a bunk. As far as the cook was concerned, Angel shouldn't have been in any position that put the boy in close proximity to moving logs. But the lumberjacks had been as fond of the young Canadian as the cook and his son had been, and Angel had said he was bored working in the kitchen. The youth had wanted more physical labor, and he liked the outdoors. The repeated thunk-thunk of the pike poles, poking the logs, was briefly interrupted by the shouts of the rivermen who had spotted Angel's pike pole-more than fifty yards from where the boy had vanished. The fifteen-foot pole was floating free of the log drive, out where the river currents had carried it away from the logs. The cook could see that the river driver with the broken wrist had come ashore, carrying his pike pole in his good hand. First by the familiarity of his cursing, and only secondarily by the logger's matted hair and tangled beard, did the cook realize that the injured man was Ketchum-no neophyte to the treachery of a log drive. It was April -- not long after the last snowmelt and the start of mud season -- but the ice had only recently broken up in the river basin, the first logs falling through the ice upstream of the basin, on the Dummer ponds. The river was ice-cold and swollen, and many of the lumberjacks had heavy beards and long hair, which would afford them some scant protection from the blackflies in mid-May. Ketchum lay on his back on the riverbank like a beached bear. The moving mass of logs flowed past him. It appeared as if the log drive were a life raft, and the loggers who were still out on the river seemed like castaways at sea -- except that the sea, from one moment to the next, turned from greenish brown to bluish black. The water in Twisted River was richly dyed with tannins. "Shit, Angel!" Ketchum shouted from his back. "I said, 'Move your feet, Angel. You have to keep moving your feet!' Oh, shit." The vast expanse of logs had been no life raft for Angel, who'd surely drowned or been crushed to death in the basin above the river bend, although the lumberjacks (Ketchum among them) would follow the log drive at least to where Twisted River poured into the Pontook Reservoir at Dead Woman Dam. The Pontook Dam on the Androscoggin River had created the reservoir; once the logs were let loose in the Androscoggin, they would next encounter the sorting gaps outside Milan. In Berlin, the Androscoggin dropped two hundred feet in three miles; two paper mills appeared to divide the river at the sorting gaps in Berlin. It was not inconceivable to imagine that young Angel Pope, from Toronto, was on his way there. Come nightfall, the cook and his son were still attempting to salvage leftovers, for tomorrow's meals, from the scores of untouched dinners in the small settlement's dining lodge -- the cookhouse in the so-called town of Twisted River, which was barely larger and only a little less transient than a logging camp. Not long ago, the only dining lodge on a river drive hadn't been a lodge at all. There once was a traveling kitchen that had been permanently built onto a truck body, and an adjacent truck on which a modular dining hall could be taken down and reassembled -- this was when the trucks used to perpetually move camp to another site on Twisted River, wherever the loggers were working next. In those days, except on the weekends, the rivermen rarely went back to the town of Twisted River to eat or sleep. The camp cook had often cooked in a tent. Everything had to be completely portable; even the sleeping shelters were built onto truck bodies. Now nobody knew what would become of the less-than-thriving town of Twisted River, which was situated partway between the river basin and the Dummer ponds. The sawmill workers and their families lived there, and the logging company maintained bunkhouses for the more transient woodsmen, who included not only the French Canadian itinerants but most of the river drivers and the other loggers. The company also maintained a better equipped kitchen, an actual dining lodge- the aforementioned cookhouse -- for the cook and his son. But for how much longer? Not even the owner of the logging company knew. The lumber industry was in transition; it would one day be possible for every worker in the logging business to work from home. The logging camps (and even the slightly less marginal settlements like Twisted River) were dying. The wanigans themselves were disappearing; those curious shelters for sleeping and eating and storing equipment had not only been mounted on trucks, on wheels, or on crawler tracks, but they were often attached to rafts or boats.The Indian dishwasher -- she worked for the cook -- had long ago told the cook's young son that wanigan was from an Abenaki word, leading the boy to wonder if the dishwasher herself was from the Abenaki tribe. Perhaps she just happened to know the origin of the word, or she'd merely claimed to know it. (The cook's son went to school with an Indian boy who'd told him that wanigan was of Algonquian origin.) While it lasted, the work during a river drive was from dawn till dark. It was the protocol in a logging operation to feed the men four times a day. In the past, when the wanigans couldn't get close to a river site, the two midday meals had been trekked to the drivers. The first and last meal were served in the base camp- nowadays, in the dining lodge. But out of their affection for Angel, tonight many of the loggers had missed their last meal in the cookhouse. They'd spent the evening following the log drive, until the darkness had driven them away -- not only the darkness, but also the men's growing awareness that none of them knew if Dead Woman Dam was open. From the basin below the town of Twisted River, the logs -- probably with Angel among them -- might already have flowed into the Pontook Reservoir, but not if Dead Woman Dam was closed. And if the Pontook Dam and Dead Woman were open, the body of the young Canadian would be headed pell-mell down the Androscoggin. No one knew better than Ketchum that there would likely be no finding Angel there. The cook could tell when the river drivers had stopped searching-from the kitchen's screen door, he could hear them leaning their pike poles against the cookhouse. A few of the tired searchers found their way to the dining lodge after dark; the cook didn't have the heart to turn them away. The hired help had all gone home -- everyone but the Indian dishwasher, who stayed late most nights. The cook, whose difficult name was Dominic Baciagalupo -- or "Cookie," as the lumberjacks routinely called him -- made the men a late supper, which his twelve-year-old son served. "Where's Ketchum?" the boy asked his dad. "He's probably getting his arm fixed," the cook replied. "I'll bet he's hungry," the twelve-year-old said, "but Ketchum is wicked tough." "He's impressively tough for a drinking man," Dominic agreed, but he was thinking that maybe Ketchum wasn't tough enough for this. Losing Angel Pope might be hardest on Ketchum, the cook thought, because the veteran logger had taken the young Canadian under his wing. He'd looked after the boy, or he had tried to. Ketchum had the blackest hair and beard-the charred-black color of charcoal, blacker than a black bear's fur. He'd been married young-and more than once. He was estranged from his children, who had grown up and gone their own ways. Ketchum lived year-round in one of the bunkhouses, or in any of several run-down hostelries, if not in a wanigan of his own devising-namely, in the back of his pickup truck, where he had come close to freezing to death on those winter nights when he'd passed out, dead drunk. Yet Ketchum had kept Angel away from alcohol, and he'd kept not a few of the older women at the so-called dance hall away from the young Canadian, too. "You're too young, Angel," the cook had heard Ketchum tell the youth. "Besides, you can catch things from those ladies." Ketchum would know, the cook had thought. Dominic knew that Ketchum had done more damage to himself than breaking his wrist in a river drive. The steady hiss and intermittent flickering of the pilot lights on the gas stove in the cookhouse kitchen -- an old Garland with two ovens and eight burners, and a flame-blackened broiler above -- seemed perfectly in keeping with the lamentations of the loggers over their late supper. They had been charmed by the lost boy, whom they'd adopted as they would a stray pet. The cook had been charmed, too. Perhaps he saw in the unusually cheerful teenager some future incarnation of his twelve-year-old son-for Angel had a welcoming expression and a sincere curiosity, and he exhibited none of the withdrawn sullenness that appeared to afflict the few young men his age in a rough and rudimentary place like Twisted River. This was all the more remarkable because the youth had told them that he'd recently run away from home."You're Italian, aren't you?" Dominic Baciagalupo had asked the boy."I'm not from Italy, I don't speak Italian -- you're not much of an Italian if you come from Toronto," Angel had answered. The cook had held his tongue. Dominic knew a little about Boston Italians; some of them seemed to have issues regarding how Italian they were. And the cook knew that Angel, in the old country, might have been an Angelo. (When Dominic had been a little boy, his mother had called him Angelù-in her Sicilian accent, this sounded like an-geh-LOO.)But after the accident, nothing with Angel Pope's written name could be found; among the boy's few belongings, not a single book or letter identified him. If he'd had any identification, it had gone into the river basin with him -- probably in the pocket of his dungarees -- and if they never located the body, there would be no way to inform Angel's family, or whoever the boy had run away from. Legally or not, and with or without proper papers, Angel Pope had made his way across the Canadian border to New Hampshire. Not the way it was usually done, either-Angel hadn't come from Quebec. He'd made a point of arriving from Ontario -- he was not a French Canadian. The cook hadn't once heard Angel speak a word of French or Italian, and the French Canadians at the camp had wanted nothing to do with the runaway boy -- apparently, they didn't like English Canadians. Angel, for his part, kept his distance from the French; he didn't appear to like the Québécois any better than they liked him. Dominic had respected the boy's privacy; now the cook wished he knew more about Angel Pope, and where he'd come from. Angel had been a good-natured and fair-minded companion for the cook's twelve-year-old son, Daniel-or Danny, as the loggers and the saw-mill men called the boy.Almost every male of working age in Twisted River knew the cook and his son- some women, too. Dominic had needed to know a number of women-mainly, to help him look after his son-for the cook had lost his wife, Danny's young mother, a long-seeming decade ago. Dominic Baciagalupo believed that Angel Pope had had some experience with kitchen work, which the boy had done awkwardly but uncomplainingly, and with an economy of movement that must have been born of familiarity -- despite his professed boredom with cooking-related chores, and his penchant for cutting himself on the cutting board. Moreover, the young Canadian was a reader; he'd borrowed many books that had belonged to Dominic's late wife, and he often read aloud to Daniel. It was Ketchum's opinion that Angel had read Robert Louis Stevenson to young Dan "to excess" -- not only Kidnapped and Treasure Island but his unfinished deathbed novel, St. Ives, which Ketchum said should have died with the author. At the time of the accident on the river, Angel had been reading The Wrecker to Danny. (Ketchum had not yet weighed in with his opinion of that novel.) Well, whatever Angel Pope's background had been, he'd had some schooling, clearly-more than most of the French Canadian woodsmen the cook had known. (More than most of the sawmill workers and the local woodsmen, too.)"Why did Angel have to die?" Danny asked his dad. The twelve-year-old was helping his father wipe down the dining tables after the late-arriving loggers had gone off to bed, or perhaps to drink. And although she often kept herself busy in the cookhouse quite late into the night, at least well past Danny's bedtime, the Indian dishwasher had finished with her chores; by now, she'd driven her truck back to town."Angel didn't have to die, Daniel-it was an avoidable accident."The cook's vocabulary often made reference to avoidable accidents, and his twelve-year-old son was overfamiliar with his father's grim and fatalistic thoughts on human fallibility -- the recklessness of youth, in particular. "He was too green to be out on a river drive," the cook said, as if that were all there was to it. Danny Baciagalupo knew his dad's opinion of all the things Angel, or any boy that age, was too green to do. The cook also would have wanted to keep Angel far away from a peavey. (The peavey's most important feature was the hinged hook that made it possible to roll a heavy log by hand. ) According to Ketchum, the "old days" had been more perilous. Ketchum claimed that working with the horses, pulling the scoots out of the winter woods, was risky work. In the winter, the lumberjacks tramped up into the mountains. They'd cut down the trees and (not that long ago) used horses to pull the timber out, one log at a time. The scoots, or wheelless drays, were dragged like sleds on the frozen snow, which not even the horses' hooves could penetrate because the sled ruts on the horse-haul roads were iced down every night. Then the snowmelt and mud season came, and-"back then," as Ketchum would say -- all the work in the woods was halted. But even this was changing. Since the new logging machinery could work in muddy conditions and haul much longer distances to improved roads, which could be used in all seasons, mud season itself was becoming less of an issue -- and horses were giving way to crawler tractors. The bulldozers made it possible to build a road right to a logging site, where the wood could be hauled out by truck. The trucks moved the wood to a more central drop point on a river, or on a pond or lake; in fact, highway transport would very soon supplant the need for river drives. Gone were the days when a snubbing winch had been used to ease the horses down the steeper slopes. "The teams could slide on their haunches," Ketchum had told young Dan. (Ketchum rated oxen highly, for their steady footing in deep snow, but oxen had never been widely used.) Gone, too, was railroad logging in the woods; it came to an end in the Pemigewasset Valley in '48 -- the same year one of Ketchum's cousins had been killed by a Shay locomotive at the Livermore Falls paper mill. The Shay weighed fifty tons and had been used to pull the last of the rails from the woods. The former railroad beds made for firm haul roads for the trucks in the 1950s, although Ketchum could still remember a murder on the Beebe River Railroad -- back when he'd been the teamster for a bobsled loaded with prime virgin spruce behind a four -- horse rig. Ketchum had been the teamster on one of the early Lombard steam engines, too-the one steered by a horse. The horse had turned the front sled runners, and the teamster sat at the front of the log hauler; later models replaced the horse and teamster with a helmsman at a steering wheel. Ketchum had been a helmsman, too, Danny Baciagalupo knew -- clearly, Ketchum had done everything.
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    Table of Contents

    I.
    Chapter 1. UNDER THE LOGS Chapter 2. DO-SI-DO Chapter 3. A WORLD OF ACCIDENTS Chapter 4. THE EIGHT-INCH CAST-IRON SKILLET
     
    II .
    Chapter 5. NOM DE PLUME Chapter 6. IN MEDIAS RES
     
    III .
    Chapter 7. BENEVENTO AND AVELLINO Chapter 8. DEAD DOG; REMEMBERING MAO'S Chapter 9. THE FRAGILE, UNPREDICTABLE NATURE OF THINGS Chapter 10. LADY SKY Chapter 11. HONEY
     
    IV.
    Chapter 12. THE BLUE MUSTANG Chapter 13. KISSES OF WOLVES
     
    V.
    Chapter 14. KETCHUM'S LEFT HAND Chapter 15. MOOSE DANCING
     
    VI.
    Chapter 16. LOST NATION Chapter 17. KETCHUM EXCEPTED
     
    Acknowledgments Sources
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    Interviews & Essays

    A special note to you from John Irving:

    Dear Readers,

    In January 2005, I was driving north to Rutland, Vermont, on a snowy road. An old Bob Dylan song was yowling away on the car CD-player.

    I was thinking about my next novel, my twelfth. It's about a cook and his son. They live in a rough place, a sawmill and logging-camp kind of town. Something awful happens; they have to leave town in a hurry. But something else happens later; the cook's son is compelled to go back to the town he and his father ran away from. That's all I knew. I didn't know what made the son return to the scene of the crime, or what made the father and son leave in the first place. The Bob Dylan song on my car CD-player was "Tangled Up in Blue." I've probably heard that song a hundred times, but on that cold, early morning one stanza jumped out at me.

    "I had a job in the great north woods / Working as a cook for a spell / But I never did like it all that much / And one day the ax just fell."

    By the time I got to Rutland, I knew the last sentence of my novel -- that's where I begin a book, with the last sentence. From there, I work my way back to where the story begins. In eleven out of twelve novels, the last sentence has come first.

    I wrote the last sentence of my next novel on a pad of prescription paper in my orthopaedic surgeon's office. Here it is: "He felt that the great adventure of his life was just beginning -- as his father must have felt, in the throes and dire circumstances of his last night in Twisted River."

    And there, too, of course, was the novel's title: Last Night in Twisted River.

    --John Irving
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    Customer Reviews

    Average Rating 3.5
    ( 273 )
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    See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 273 Customer Reviews
    • Anonymous

      Posted November 23, 2009

      I Also Recommend:

      This is a truly satisfying read!

      I loved every word of this wonderful saga; not only the finely crafted story and the loveable, flawed characters, but the sound of it, the voice, the phrasing and cadence. The language carries us through improbable events and across the decades. By the writer's device and the lives of his characters we experience love and joy, sorrow and regret, fear and loneliness. Irving's grim humor lets us laugh at the capriciousness of fate and our own folly. In the face of overwhelming loss, right beside our fictional heros, we continue to live and work and accept our circumstance. In the end we find hope and redemption. What more can you ask for in a novel? The tale is perfection.

      7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted November 17, 2009

      more from this reviewer

      I loved Garp, Owen Meaney, and Son of the Circus-- This is the Kings new Clothes

      I feel like I have been sucker-punched. I get repeating themes and I have always appreciated it in Irving's writing. This feels like some creative writing assignment gone awry "How many of these themes can you get into 500+ pages?". I think Irving's time has past- Irving is a caricature of himself- terrible book.

      7 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted January 28, 2011

      I Also Recommend:

      Irving fan or not, don't waste your time with this one.

      I noticed on the cover of this novel that the author's name is most predominant, which was the reason I and many other John Irving fans (I presume) selected this book. After reading it however, that very same reason may keep many fans of Irving (and new readers who tried this one) from ever selecting one of his novels again.

      Unlike others who threw in the towel early, I did read the entire book only out of respect for Mr. Irving's previous work (I resorted to skimming the last few chapters out of respect for myself). But I found myself constantly struggling "not" to put this one down for good. It is quite possibly one of the worst novels I have ever read.

      Best described, "Last Night at Twisted River" is part cookbook, part political rant (mindless liberal hatred of G.W Bush and general vitriol towards conservatives), and most of all rehashing old ideas - deranged bears, teen's death while driving on a snow covered highway, loss of a hand, an adolescent's infatuation with an older woman, and (believe it or not) even a tragic accident in the midst of receiving fellatio. To make matters worse, not a single character had any redeeming qualities at all.

      For Irving's sake, this novel is completely forgettable (if not for how bad it is). I still highly recommend his old work for those unfamiliar with him, but as his last few novels have shown, he has sadly lost some of his gift for story telling. That may be enough to keep some fans interested, but in my opinion, this novel was a complete waste of time.

      4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted August 22, 2010

      The thing I love most about this book is that it creates interest for me, rather than tension. It doesn't need to keep you on the edge of the seat to keep you there

      This is a tale of tragedy, loss, love and friendship. John Irving has a knack for making the outlandish and the horrific, the extraordinary and the traumatic, seem mundane. Even the most awful moments are reduced to a matter of fact ordinariness.
      I thought that the characters in Last Night At Twisted River, seemed naïve and stuck in a time frame which seemed to have more in common with the days of the wild West in the 1800's, with its lawlessness, than the 50's in New Hampshire. Their backwoods mentality stays with them even as they move to more cosmopolitan locations and their naivete and/or inability to fit in or anticipate the dangers of their world, seems to govern their lives.
      For me all of the dysfunctional characters became more endearing as the book progressed, even as some events and coincidences become stranger and stranger. They are not lucky in love or in life, though, hard as they try. There always seemed to be a cloud of disaster following all of them. Even the short fused, illiterate, at first, Paul Bunyanesque character of Ketchum, (a logger with a mouth like trash, who insists on saying whatever he likes, in whatever manner he likes, regardless of where he is), becomes more and more lovable as he ages, although his old age does not soften him and he becomes even more recalcitrant.
      The story takes place over a period of 60 + years and three generations. The meat of it pretty much begins and ends with the tale of a bear and a hand. An accidental murder propels the main characters into a world of constant fear and running, trying to escape the wrath of Carl, the constable of Twisted River. Fear of being caught forces them to relocate many times when they are accidentally discovered. They are not afraid of being caught by the law, primarily but rather by the corrupt constable from Twisted River, who is hell bent on revenge for the murder of his lover, Injun Jane, whom he has abused in the past and at first thought he had killed, in a drunken stupor. He is an abusive beast of a man who uses his extraordinary size and strength to often take the law into his own hands meting out punishment as he chooses, which basically means in Twisted River, he is the uncontested law of the land. No one wants to cross him except perhaps, Ketchum, the recalcitrant logger who is Dominick Baciagalupo and his son's dearest friend and protector.
      Dominick, a cook, is a gentle man with an identifying limp. He is devoted totally to his son Daniel who is a thoughtful, well spoken obedient young man, who accidentally kills Injun Jane whom he adores, when he is a child. He mistakes her for a bear when he catches his dad and her in a compromising situation. He has awakened from sleep and the sounds he heard, coupled with her size and massive bulk and her unusually long hair, made him panic. He hits her with a skillet, rumored to have been used to strike and frighten a bear attacking his mother, Rosie. He believes this time that it is his father under attack. That incident begins their life on the run.
      Tragedy follows this family from the first. Although they keep starting over someplace new, each time they settle in, they are somehow coincidentally discovered and are forced to move on again. The peaceful life eludes them while tragedy continues to chase them.
      Although it may take about 50 pages to get into the story don't give up. As the book continues, it gets better and better except for the political bias. It was unnecessary.

      4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted November 3, 2009

      more from this reviewer

      Back to what works best!

      Ahhhhh......it's so nice to read a good Irving book again. It's been a while since I started one of his books and was drawn in. Very reminiscent of A Prayer for Owen Meany and Cider House Rules. I'm less than 100 pages in and loving every page. Cheers to you Mr. Irving for giving us another wonderful novel.

      4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted November 21, 2010

      Great story, some annoying characters, unforgivable political screed

      I enjoyed 420 pages of this book, then I started hitting something I have never seen before in an Irving novel: polarizing political diatribes. I for one don't want to hear the same old liberal shibboleths about recent elections, even if spoken by a "character". If Daniel Baciagalupo is so apolitical, why does his love for John Kerry advance the story? Even as controversial as The Cider House Rules were, the explosive issues of abortion were handled sensitively and gently by Irving. I enjoyed the latter story even though I am firmly pro-life myself. How are these fictional events furthered by dragging out the same personal attacks on certain politicians and those who happen to agree with them? It's disappointing, but I'll have to watch reviews on future Irving books more carefully before I buy.

      3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted March 26, 2010

      more from this reviewer

      I Also Recommend:

      Not Bad

      I love John Irving and I think he is a great writer, however, this book was not his best. The beginning and end were the best parts but the middle became tedious to get through. Some of his content was very political and he touched on things like the Vietnam War and September 11th. If you are a John Irving fan, it is worth reading because of how great of a writer he is but some who have not read him before might find it boring and too long.

      3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted October 10, 2009

      more from this reviewer

      I agree with the first comment!

      I agree that John Irving is a wonderful writer and anything he writes is bound to be good. Once I find a writer I like, I will read everything they publish!

      3 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted March 13, 2010

      I Also Recommend:

      John Irving: Last Night

      I've been a great Irving fan since his first novel, Setting Free The Bears, when I was one of about 4,000 people who might have read that book. I've enjoyed all of his books since (that I've read) until this one, that just feels like it was written into a tape recorder.

      2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted December 22, 2009

      I loved the repeated themes

      This book was good; not John's best, but an excellent read. I think my favorite aspect of the book was Mr. Irving's repeated themes. I really feel like I know the author through the themes he uses from novel to novel. The characters are excellent; each with truly distinct personalities. The plot also excellent - not too out there, but not too "in there" either. If you're a John Irving fan, it is, of course, a must read. If you've never read any of the author's novels, I would start with a different one, then move to this one.

      2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted July 24, 2009

      more from this reviewer

      If it follows his previous offerings it will be a 5 star

      I came across John Irving back in 1984 while visiting my husband's cousin in Ohio. It was truly a man's weekend so I sat in the house reading and found The Hotel New Hampshire. Well, the husband is now an ex but I still love John Irving!

      2 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted October 28, 2010

      Skip over this 'River'

      It's an inter-generational tale told in John Irving's own style ... absurd, sexual, and twisted. But there's little redemption to be found in this tale; it's just twisted enough to be gross and not worth reading. Worse yet, the book just goes on and on...an inter-generational tale doesn't have to be this way! I read two-thirds of the book and then skipped to the last chapter where it's obvious how everything has ended up and not a whole lot of surprises there, either.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted February 21, 2010

      My least favorite John Irving to date

      I have always loved John Irving's writing but this book fell short of what I've come to expect from him. I felt as though he rambled and went off in 10 different directions about 2/3 of the way through the book. I completely lost interest and really had to struggle to finish it.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted January 9, 2010

      I Also Recommend:

      John Irving at 90% is better than others at 100%

      This is a very good book. It is one of Irvings better efforts. It is long and typically Irving in its twists and seemingly unrelated events that eventually converge in tragedy, loss and acceptance.
      It's a good story, but I believe it will be judged to be in the second tier of his works, behind Cider House Rules, World According to Garp and A Prayer for Owen Meany. This falls into the "Widow for One Year" group - loved by some, disappointing to others. I personally wouldn't classify this as disappointing, but this book does seem to fall a little short of Irving's A list. Read it and decide for yourself.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted November 18, 2009

      more from this reviewer

      I Also Recommend:

      Irving is an American Great!

      Irving still has it. This novel is reminiscent of Garp. To say Irving is past his prime is ignorant, un-American and wrong :) OK, so I'm a little taken by John Irving's literature; how could I not Be? READ THIS BOOK!

      1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted October 27, 2009

      Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

      Just listened to his comments on this new book. My daughter introduced me to Mr. Irving's very unique style many years ago and I admit it took me a few years to really delve into his writings. My one objection has always been to the difficult names he uses in his novels. And, they are prolific and unpronounceable. And, I cannot skip over these names, just isn't my style of reading, picture me laughing here. Other than that, I find his books to be real treasures and his comments always inciteful. I will never forget seeing him on a panel, on the internet, when he did a passage from "A Prayer For Owen Meany." Hysterical, I am still laughing. He was on with Stephen King, whom I have never been able to read due to the graphic content of his books, but he, also was hysterical. The one book I have read and own, of Mr. King's is "On Writing," his explanation of how he became the writer he is. Fabulous.
      Please, Mr. Irving, keep 'em coming. You are one in a million and I do so enjoy your tomes. Herman Melville, on the other hand, not so much.
      I look forward to the unique experience of reading your new book, and owning it, also. Probably will give to said daughter for Christmas.
      Thank you and God Bless.

      Teculah

      1 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted August 5, 2009

      I Also Recommend:

      Irving is Incredible

      John Irving has written my favorite books of all time, The World According to Garp and A Prayer for Owen Meany. His other books are great as well. I am sure this will be another fantastic story.

      1 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted July 19, 2009

      I Also Recommend:

      Time to get my fix!

      Like a dried out alcoholic, stranded on a deserted island who learns that that the Budweiser tanker has just crashed into his island- I am drunk with anticipation to read the new John Irving novel! This is the cycle of emotions that happens every time he writes a new book: I eagerly await and count down the days until it is released. Then I savor every page and I'm on cloud nine while living with the novel until unfortunately, like all good things it must end. Finally, I wait 2,3, maybe 4 years until his next masterpiece, moping around and reading subsititues that never live up to the greatness of John Irving. Let the new cycle begin- Oct 27th can't come soon enough!!

      1 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted July 14, 2009

      I Also Recommend:

      Oh God, please let me live to read this book. I'll be counting the days.

      Irving is a national treasure. If you haven't read this author- start! Let Owen Meany reel you in and I promise you'll keep wanting more.

      1 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted February 22, 2014

      Another good read from John Irving

      Anicetale from John Irving. Not as good as The World According to Garp, but still an interesting tale filked with humor and tragedy.

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