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Until I Find You: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, July 12, 2005
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Jack Burns, the hero of the tale, is four years old when it all begins. He is the illegitimate son of Daughter Alice, a tattoo artist and, guess what, daughter of a tattoo artist. She takes Jack on a pilgrimage to find his womanizing father, William, a church organist and "ink addict." By seeking out church organs and tattoo parlors, she expects to find him. She doesn't, and by now we have spent more than a hundred pages in Northern European cities doing an imitation of Groundhog Day. Same story, different day: a little prostitution for Alice, a few questions asked; alas, no daddy.
Alice and Jack return to Toronto so that Jack may enter a previously all-girls school, which will admit little boys for the first time. There begins another 200 pages of the girls and the teachers abusing Jack, over and over again. By now, he is five and is, for some unfathomable reason, eminently interesting to girls and women. His "friend" Emma keeps careful track of "the little guy," as she calls Jack's penis, looking for signs of life. The worst part of all this is that none of it is funny or sad or even clever. There are wrestling vignettes, of course, and prep school tedium, but no bears. Maybe bears would have saved it. There were funny parts in The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules as well as poignant, horrific parts in both of those and other Irving novels. This story is flat. The voice never changes; it just drones on.
Jack becomes an actor. First, he is a boy in drag because he is so pretty, then he takes transvestite parts. He and Emma, now a published novelist, live together in LA, which provides endless opportunity for name-dropping. His career eventually takes off and he gets recognition and awards, but still no daddy. Irving, it turns out, never knew his father, either. Perhaps this exercise will exorcise that demon once and for all and Irving's next book will be about something more compelling than a little boy's penis and his trashy mother's antics. If you do make it through to the book's snapper of an ending, you deserve to find out what it is on your own. Call it a reward. --Valerie Ryan
From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
Jack Burns, a famous actor, searches for the father who abandoned he and his mother when he was a small boy. In classic Irving style there are a myriad of colorful characters who populate the novel, but having read everything else he's written, so many themes from previous novels are re-worked (sexual abuse the most dominant)that it feels like Irving is trying to wrestle his own demons and needs to take advice given to Jack and, "Forgive and move on."
However the biggest problem for me was I felt no connection with Jack. For the first time I felt I was reading about someone I couldn't care less about, so any supposed emotional wallop at the end was lost. I never felt there was an Owen or Wilbur in the whole book. Even Emma Oastler,who is one of the novel's best characters, pales in comparison to the very similar Hester Eastman, from Owen Meany.
The book has some great laugh out loud moments, (in particular Jack's attending an all girl school in Toronto),if you can get beyond the strong sexual abuse and misuse that occurs rather frequently in the first 400 pages. Anyone who is a rabid Irving fan will want to read it and judge for themselves, but for a first timer, I'd strongly suggest the two superb novels I mentioned earlier.
The book gets off to a pretty good start with 4-year-old Jack travelling to Scandinavia with Alice, his mother, supposedly in search of his womanizing father William. This turns out to be untrue for the most part. The pace at this point is good as Irving takes the reader to Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, and Amsterdam (which should be familiar to Irving readers from "A Widow for One Year") where we meet lots of interesting tattoo artists, organists, choirgirls, and the obligatory prostitutes. By the time Jack and Alice board the ship for Canada, there could be an interesting story about the relationship between Jack and his parents.
But then it takes Irving about 600 pages to really get back to this story. For those 600 pages we have a lot of filler and the obligatory private schools and wrestling lessons that have become Irving staples. In the case of his earlier works, they add to the story, but in "Until I Find You", it does little more than fill the reader in on each year of Jack's life.Read more ›
Despite the weighty moroseness and risqué portions of the book, which others have described, there are some other aspects of the story I found appealing. I found the minor characters to be very useful in fleshing out the living world around the main character and though some might think the number to be excessive, I think it actually helped.
Also, the masterful usage of flashbacks and a certain prevailing sincerity of conviction in telling the tale over all, kept me reading its 800+ pages.
It's a fine addition to his body of work and I eagerly await the next.
Also recommended, Anna's Trinity by Howard Cobiskey.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If this had been the first John Irving I read, it would have been the last and for so many reasons. Number one: too long!!! It began to feel like a punishment. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Kindle Customer
This book is emotionally poignant and well written. Made me smile with tears running down my face.Published 5 months ago by Jason Brewster
Good start and good ending but too long. Should be 200 pages shorter. This is my first John Irving. I wifi read more.Published 7 months ago
When I was midway through this novel, I seriously considered abandoning it. But I had complete faith in John Irving as one of the most masterful storytellers of the times. Read morePublished 8 months ago by DONNA
Kept my interest throughout, but it helped being familiar with some of the venues but character development was great, with unexpected twists all along the way. Read morePublished 9 months ago by James C. Buttery
Book was missing a section close to 100 pages long. The section prior to the missing pages was duplicated. Printing error, I guess - but still somewhat disappointed.Published 11 months ago by SpoiledRottenweilers
To some extent, “Until I Find You” provides some thought-provoking prose on how one’s early years can influence their life. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Dirk M. Langeveld
Where do I start? I consider a John Irving my favorite author, with that said, no one is perfect. I bought this in hardcover and after about 200 pages I forced myself to finish... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Ona Fiona