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Summary

The reason Homer Wells kept his name was that he came back to St Cloud's so many times, after so many failed foster homes, that the orphanage was forced to acknowledge Homer's intention to make St Cloud's his home.

Homer Wells' odyssey begins among the apple orchards of rural Maine. As the oldest unadopted child at St Cloud's orphanage, he strikes up a profound and unusual friendship with Wilbur Larch, the orphanage's founder - a man of rare compassion and an addiction to ether. What he learns from Wilbur takes him from his early apprenticeship in the orphanage surgery, to an adult life running a cider-making factory and a strange relationship with the wife of his closest friend.

©2020 John Irving (P)2020 Orion Publishing Group

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A masterpiece.

If this was a cake it would be a marvellous, brandy soaked, fruit filled and fully matured fruit cake.
Jared Zeus would be the brandy butter poured over it, lit in blue flames and presented on a Christmas table.
I can not recommend highly enough.

4 people found this helpful

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Irving always delivers

At once intimate and humane, this book gets to the heart of love, life and all the moral dilemmas we can face, and as a consequence the messy ‘imperfect’ lives we lead. How we all rub almond together, accepting or fighting one another, trying to do the best we can.
The narrator was brilliant, at times I thought we had a bigger group of readers... a prayer for Owen Meaney remains my favourite Irving.

4 people found this helpful

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One of those listed 'must read' titles.

One of those listed 'must read' titles. Glad I did, but it was a long'un.

This felt overlong, the story was more slight than the running length, but as I was listening to this as a new audiobook version, I didn't mind as it helped pass long drives and walks. The narrator managed the voices of several very old and young character, male and female, well, without their own gender and age intruding on the listener.

With two main characters, the first part mainly gives us the life of Dr Wilbur Larch, abortionist, while the rest is more on his protege and surrogate son, Homer Wells (almost always referred to by his full name).

Over two generations, Larch and Wells both live and work at an orphanage. Women unable to care for their children leave them there, or beg for abortions (illegal operations at the time). Homer Wells is one such child, and grows up bounced around at less-than-happy foster homes, meaning he is raised with Larch and under his medical supervision. Later leaving the small world of his childhood, his journey brings him full circle back to his childhood ‘home’.

Some memorable characters, the time and place is quite strongly portrayed and easy to picture, there's a lot of poverty, hardship and pain. But there's also a good dose of love. Strong themes, which may upset, but I thought they were handled realistically.

Glad I’ve read it, but I’m also glad it was an audiobook that I could follow while doing other things. Ponderous in places.

With thanks to Nudge Books for providing a sample Audible copy of this new edition.

2 people found this helpful

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Brilliant!

One of my favourite books. Jared Zeus sounded like he really enjoyed reading it too!

1 person found this helpful

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Amazing

Brilliant. One of the best audiobooks I’ve had. Everything about it is just a fantastic experience...

1 person found this helpful

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Those characters will stay with me forever

I can’t believe I’ve missed out on reading this book for so long. With the state of woman’s rights being so trampled on in the US now it’s a sad indication of things that may have to occur again.
Leaving that aside the story is absolutely charming and the author is so subtle and brought me to tears in the most unexpected places.
Amazing

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SCOTUS essential reading

it's unbelievable that we are in a world that has made the subject of this great novel, a subject it had presumed was confined to history, relevant again.

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Modern masterpiece

I have enjoyed and reread this book many times over the last 40 years. This reading is wonderfully delivered with elegance, understanding and emotion.
If you have half a heart as you listen to this you will have both a gentle smile and a gentle tear throughout.

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  • Ms
  • 23-01-22

Pro-choice essay wrapped up in a fabulous story

Whoops, my review headline is very off-putting but this is one of my favourite ever books. I always love John Irving's understated writing style as he tells overblown Dickensian tales. As in many other of his books, he wraps his message up in a compelling and entertaining read. Set about 100 years ago and written about 35 years ago, the book's central theme of women's right to choose abortions, is still a very current topic. I love the tenderness of many of the relationships between John Irving's characters, especially those between parents and children.

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John Irving is a master of character

Disclaimer. I love John Irving books. This is no exception. The characters he creates and the narrative of the story keeps you captivated throughout.