Last Night in Twisted River is the cleverly constructed saga of a family of men (father, son, grandson) surrounded my men-friends, men-coworkers, and men-enemies — and the many women they sleep with, many of them freaks of one kind or another as befits a John Irving novel. As the story moves from the woods of New Hampshire to Boston’s North End, on to Iowa and finally to Toronto, and as the protagonists age, their lives are also retraced and recombined in the son’s novels for a pleasingly complex effect.
The story made me want to keep turning the pages, close to 600 of them, and I found the descriptions of the father’s concern and love for his son, from childhood all the way to late adulthood, affecting and well-rendered. At the same time, the story could have done without so many freaks, freak accidents, and gory encounters — and minus some belabored descriptions of music or other trends at each of the many steps in the half-century saga. We know the author has money to pay many research assistants. Don’t make it so transparent.