The 150-word Review: My favorite John Irving novel is whichever one I have in front of me. John Irving first hijacked my reading life when I read A Prayer for Owen Meany, which was immediately followed by The World According to Garp, then The Hotel New Hampshire, and so on through to Irving’s most recent novel, Until I Find You.
This novel is about memory. Jack Burns’ earliest memories are of holding his mother’s hand as they crisscrossed Europe, in search of his transient father, a talented church organist and “ink addict,” who always seemed to be one step ahead of them. These memories, along with those growing up in an all-girls school and his precocious relationships with older women, leave an indelible mark on Jack’s life. Later in adulthood, when Jack finds his long-lost father, he discovers the gossamer nature of memory and the devastating impact its illusions can have on one’s life.
You will like this book if you are a fan of: Scandinavian cathedrals, historical church organs, red-light districts, John Irving at his best, John Irving at his worst, school girl uniforms, esoteric tattoo culture, and autobiographical fiction.
Clavinism (stuff that will not make you look cool in a bar): Until I find You deals fictionally with a secret that John Irving has carried around for years: in 1953, when he was 11, an older woman sexually abused him.