Being a John Irving fan, I eagerly awaited his new novel “In One Person.” Having been disappointed with two of his last three novels, I didn’t even attempt to read “Until I Find You,” I so wanted to like this one. Irving does not disappoint. He is back the groove that produced “The World According to Garp,” “Cider House Rules,” “A Widow For One Year,” and, of course, “A Prayer for Owen Meany.”
Not one to shy away from taboo subjects–abortion, religion, sexuality, Irving has created in his newest novel a sexually brave story that is funny, outlandish, and extremely insightful. William Abbott is bisexual. Irving has said, …”life is so hard for sexual outsiders,” and, therefore, it makes him love them more. We follow Billy from his New England prep school days to his time in Europe, NYC, San Francisco, and finally back to Vermont and the same school he graduated from in the early 1960s.
The characters that inhabit Billy’s world are straight, gay, transgender, men, women, girl friends, boy friends, tolerant and intolerant. The AIDS crisis is an import backdrop, and Irving does not shy away from very graphic descriptions of the symptoms and treatment of HIV experienced by many of his characters.
Irving’s writing flows so fluidly that reading his words is easy even though many of the events depicted are tragic. This time around there are no overblown plots, the characters are tightly drawn and the hidden secrets gradually unfold and in the end, which for Irving is the beginning because he writes the last sentence before he begins a book, William Abbott comes home and truly knows not “to make me a category before you get to know me.”