Until I Find You

Until I Find You

by John Irving
3.8 57

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Overview

Until I Find You by John Irving

Until I Find You is the story of the actor Jack Burns – his life, loves, celebrity and astonishing search for the truth about his parents.

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, tellingly, a girls’ school in Toronto. His real education consists of his relationships with older women – from Emma Oastler, who initiates him into erotic life, to the girls of St. Hilda’s, with whom he first appears on stage, to the abusive Mrs. Machado, whom he first meets when sent to learn wrestling at a local gym.

Too much happens in this expansive, eventful novel to possibly summarize it all. Emma and Jack move to Los Angeles, where Emma becomes a successful novelist and Jack a promising actor. A host of eccentric minor characters memorably come and go, including Jack’s hilariously confused teacher the Wurtz; Michelle Maher, the girlfriend he will never forget; and a precocious child Jack finds in the back of an Audi in a restaurant parking lot. We learn about tattoo addiction and movie cross-dressing, “sleeping in the needles” and the cure for cauliflower ears. And John Irving renders his protagonist’s unusual rise through Hollywood with the same vivid detail and range of emotions he gives to the organ music Jack hears as a child in European churches. This is an absorbing and moving book about obsession and loss, truth and storytelling, the signs we carry on us and inside us, the traces we can’t get rid of.

Jack has always lived in the shadow of his absent father. But as he grows older – and when his mother dies – he starts to doubt the portrait of his father’s character she painted for him when he was a child. This is the cue for a second journey around Europe in search of his father, from Edinburgh to Switzerland, towards a conclusion of great emotional force.

A melancholy tale of deception, Until I Find You is also a swaggering comic novel, a giant tapestry of life’s hopes. It is a masterpiece to compare with John Irving’s great novels, and restates the author’s claim to be considered the most glorious, comic, moving novelist at work today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781588364791
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/12/2005
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 848
Sales rank: 133,318
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

John Irving was born in New Hampshire. He studied at universities in America and Europe and published his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, at the age of twenty-six. The World According to Garp, published in 1978 to phenomenal acclaim, firmly established him as one of the most inventive and talented novelists in America.

During the 1980s John Irving wrote a series of absorbing and celebrated books: The Hotel New Hampshire, The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany. In these novels his originality and striking vision came brilliantly to the fore, along with his trademark subjects – as wide-ranging as feminism, religion, wrestling, sex and New England life.

More recent novels include the complex bestseller A Son of the Circus, the dark and funny novel A Widow for One Year and The Fourth Hand, a black comedy that was another popular success.

Several of John Irving’s novels have been made into films, and in 2000 he was awarded an Oscar for the screenplay for The Cider House Rules. He described the difficult, decade-long journey from page to screen in My Movie Business. He is also the author of Trying to Save Piggy Sneed and The Imaginary Girlfriend, memoirs of writing and wrestling.

In 1992, John Irving was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2001, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Vermont and Toronto.

Hometown:

Vermont

Date of Birth:

March 2, 1942

Place of Birth:

Exeter, New Hampshire

Education:

B.A., University of New Hampshire, 1965; also studied at University of Vienna; M.F.A., Iowa Writers' Workshop, 1967

Customer Reviews

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Until I Find You 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 58 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked the first third of the book. The tattoo artists and tromping around Scandanavia i found great reading. But as Jack grew older i basically lost interest. Emma was the most interesting character but she died off early. I slogged through the rest of the book because i can't just stop reading a book, i force myself to finish. The Hollywood name dropping and Jack's success as a movie star just didn't do it for me. In the end i didn't care. I enjoyed Hotel New Hampshire, Owen Meany and Garp so i expected more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love John Irving. A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of the most compelling, intuitive and thoughtful novels ever penned. Until I Find You, on the other hand, is an old man's sexual fantasy run amok. The women characters are either flat, two-dimensional, nuts or simply incomprehensible. Jack himself is a dull blank slate. And the gratuitous sexual molestation strains credibility, good taste and interest. By the 50th time Emma took his 'little guy' into her hands and cooed at it I wanted to throw the book at the wall. John, you can do better.
CrisReads More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book because I enjoy John Irving's writing style. The characters were vibrant and quirky as usual. My favorite character was William Burns because of his many layers. He is the mystery of this novel and I very much enjoyed meeting him finally. However, I didn't enjoy the plot all that much. The sexuality in this sometimes seemed far fetched. I can understand a few events happening to one character but everything was over the top. I liked the overall theme of how we all are performers in life and how it affects us but felt this novel fell a tad short of Irving's usual adventure. Expressing the latter, I must also reveal that this novel still falls under an epic novel and will take you for quite a ride. Keep an open mind.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I did not enjoy reading this book. That having been said, I still think it is a good book worth reading. There is something to be said for Irving's ability to envelope the reader into his worlds to the point that we empathize greatly with the characters involved. The ending brought the book back for me because of how the author articulated the father's feelings of joy that his son found him. I agree with several of the reviews I've read that spell out how unattached to Jack we feel throughout the course of the book. However, by the end of the book I felt like I could empathize with the relationship between Jack and his father upon finding each other. The entire book Jack is searching for something (his father, his identity) and at the end Irving provides a conclusion in which that something is found - but from the father's point of view. This was hard to understand during the course of reading the book because it seemed to drag and did not keep me at the edge of my seat like Owen Meany and Cider House did. Looking back, though, Jack's character is supposed to be detached because he himself does not know himself. This is an intelligent literary device that is overlooked as simple poor writing. I'm not sure Irving will ever top Owen Meany, but I look forward to every attempt of his to do so.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hester the molester, Jenny Fields, Garp, even a mention of Binky! And of course Ruth's voyeuristic tendencies with prostitutes. Bears and elephants and wrestlers, OH MY! It is always worth the five year wait for the next John Irving tale. I must say though, that this is the first time I've recognized characters from the past. It was a pleasant reminder of just how gifted Mr.Irving is and why some twenty years ago I fell in love with Garp. For those of you who have never read an Irving novel, get ready for a treat. For all the rest of you, be happy that the past five years are over!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I eagerly anticipate reading any of John Irving's novels and his latest certainly does not disappoint. The characters, as always, are flawed, yet endearingly so. The situations are at once heartbreaking and uplifting. Throughout the novel's pages, every emotion is evoked, leaving you feeling as if you've experienced the characters' joys and pains along with them. As far as the length, who wants to give up new friends quickly?
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this is my favorite Irving. I literally cried, and laughed while reading it, there is something so emotionally raw, all-consuming in it. I am amazed by Irving's original voice, and dizzying talent as always, incredible.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've always enjoyed reading John Irving's novels with his eccentric, but caring characters and wildly implausible incidents that somehow seem both real and satisfying. Irving's humor, intelligence and compassion always insured an engaging experience. All of that is also true with this book, except that these events are more personal and less camoflauged. The author's deliberate vulnerability makes the intimacy painful to the reader. It's difficult to reccomend this book because it deals so thoroughly with child abuse-- sexual abuse, as well as abandonment, neglect and betrayal. Still, the writing is wonderful. The author's strategy in organizing the book has the story weaving in and out and back on itself. By adding new layers of experience and perspective, he transforms the scenes that he'd described earlier, changing the characters, the order, and even the consequences. The whole first half of the book (told in chronological order) is retold in the second half as if it were a puzzle being solved. It is as if the lighting on a familiar set were changed to reveal and highlight subtle, new aspects, redefining the scene. It's also very much about storytelling-- many kinds of storytelling: his purported memories, Emma's scary stories,later, her novels and the screenplay, his acting, his trans-gender roles, his mother's lies, his father's tatoos, his psychiatrist's theraputic journaling. There are as many layers as an onion. It'll take me a while longer to think about and understand it better. It's a wonderful book, but not an easy one to read.
JimRGill2012 10 months ago
Beginnings are hard. Endings are harder. And in the case of “Until I Find You,” both the beginning and the ending are quite rocky. The middle of the book, however (and in a novel of more than 800 pages, the middle is quite hefty) ...well, the middle is rather delightful. Reading this novel is like eating a gourmet sandwich beautifully crafted between slices of two-day old soggy bread. It pains me to fault Mr. Irving for his apparent meandering in the first section of this novel and for the disappointment of the novel’s conclusion. To be fair, no imaginable ending could have lived up to the inevitability of this tale’s conclusion. Irving’s masterful storytelling throughout the bulk of the novel sabotages its own ending. An empathetic reader—and as a lifelong fan of Irving’s work, I consider myself forgiving to a fault—can happily overlook the seemingly random details of the novel’s opening section as their impact and significance emerges clearly through the development of Jack Burns, the novel’s protagonist. But the ending. Not even a writer of Irving’s talent could have wheedled his way out of the trap he set for himself. This novel’s—and its main character’s—resemblance to numerous other Irving novels (most notably TS Garp in “The World According to Garp,” Homer Wells in “The Cider House Rules,” and Owen Meany in “A Prayer for Owen Meany”) is both its greatest strength and its most debilitating weakness. All of the hallmark Irving quirks and issues are there, but he’s handled them more artfully in those earlier novels. Jack—a budding actor with a talent for cross-dressing and a penchant for older women (who are, in fact, molesting him)—is an inscrutably complex character but almost certainly not the most likeable character in the novel. As he grows up without the guidance or support of a father, he becomes a true conundrum—an introverted actor. Halfway through the novel, the narrative pivots dramatically (to provide more details would certainly spoil the plot), but suffice it to say that Jack shifts his focus from constructing identities and stories to reconstructing identities and stories—he realizes that everything he thought he knew about the most important people in his life was a mere narrative construct, and he sets about attempting to reconstruct those narratives in a search for truth—quite an ironic undertaking for a man whose profession relies on his ability to create convincing fictions. In the end, Irving’s prose is—as ever—amusing and poignant (often at the same time), and this novel proves that he has regained his ability to weave a compelling tale around interesting characters, a skill that came into question in “The Fourth Hand,” the novel that preceded this one. While by no means his best work, “Until I Find You” demonstrates an imminent return to form for Irving—a form that I hope continues to evolve in his next novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
His best
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I did not like this book at all and have really enjoyed Irvings other works. I have never written a review before but felt so strongly about how bad this book was that i had to do it. I kept hoping that it would get better as the book progressed but Jack became even more unlikable and uninteresting. Bssically the story revolved around his and everyone else,s obsession with his penis and though i thought there might be some underlying theme or story of value tucked away into the midst of the pages I never found one. I could not finish it. I practically paid someone to take it out of my house.
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