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The Cider House Rules by John Irving

The Cider House Rules (1985)

by John Irving

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8,967108334 (4.08)231
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Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
LMIC book, fair; First published in 1985, The Cider House Rules is John Irving's sixth novel. Set in rural Maine in the first half of this century, it tells the story of Dr. Wilbur Larch--saint and obstetrician, founder and director of the orphanage in the town of St. Cloud's, ether addict and abortionist. It is also the story of Dr. Larch's favorite orphan, Homer Wells, who is never adopted. ( )
  nancynova | Sep 12, 2015 |
A very powerful and dark drama of an orphanage, its founder/director, and a boy who grew to manhood there. Dr. Wilbur Larch was a young medical intern who did not believe in abortion. In the 1920s, when this novel begins, most of the country did not either. A series of events (one in particular) changed his opinion. The plight of many unwanted and ill-cared-for children led him to found an orphanage in an abandoned logging town. He soon combined obstetric, abortion,and orphanage services into one entity, St. Cloud's Orphanage and Hospital. Desperate women found their way to St. Cloud's to deliver their babies that they would leave at the orphanage, or to have abortions. The boy was Homer Wells. He had been placed in four different adoptive homes at different times in his life, but non of them worked out. He always returned to St. Cloud's. Finally Dr. Larch accepted the inevitable and agreed that Homer could stay as long as he was "of use." As he grew, his responsibilities grew, from errand boy and message taker to Dr. Larch's assistant in the operating room.
The Cider House Rules is an intergenerational saga, taking us from the youth of Dr. Larch, through the boyhood and manhood of Homer, and into the youth of Homer's son, Angel - from the 1920s to the 1970s. In some ways, Homer seemed a sort of type of Dickens's David Copperfield, and the parts of the story that took place in the orphanage were Dickensian dark and gloomy. In sharp contrast, the events of the apple orchard were infused with bright sky and sunlight, growing trees and the apple harvest (except for the secret horrors of Mr. Rose). The title "cider house rules" were not the list of rules on the wall of the cider house, but the unwritten and unspoken rules that Mr. Rose enforced with his knife.
There was so more to this story, too much to relate: the nurses, Edna and Angela; the other orphans, particularly Melony, Curly Day, and Fuzzy Stone; Dr. Larch's ether addiction; the Worthington "family". As a person who is strongly pro-life, I was bothered by the constant theme of abortion. It is central to this story. I also did not care for the strong language and the off-color limericks that some of the characters quoted. But, the part that bothered me the most was Dr. Larch's lack of records concerning the orphans. He kept no record of the mothers, nothing to identify the individual children with the mothers who had given birth to them. Didn't the state of Maine require birth certificates? (This is very important to me, an adult adoptee who fought for legislation in my state - Alabama - to open the birth records and original birth certificates to adoptees 18 years and older.) I know this is a work of fiction, but the details of medical procedures and apple growing are so true, so meticulously researched that the supposed lack of records is hard to accept. While I can't say I "enjoyed" this book, I am glad I read it. Mr. Irving is an excellent writer, and I felt deeply involved with the characters, and cared what happened to them. ( )
  FancyHorse | Apr 24, 2015 |
Russo. King. Rash. Updike. Doctorow. Irving. I'm beginning to notice a similarity amongst east coast writers (mostly from New England) who are usually male and born in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. They like narratives. They like description. They like slow build up. And all of these likes show how much they love being wordy. I wonder how many of these authors grew up on Dickens? The more I read of these authors, the more I'm convinced that I'm not a fan of the style. The problem for me is that most of these writers write really good stories. In order to find the story, however, one has to dig through a considerable amount of wordage. It's not the wordage that bothers me (I enjoy Tolstoy after all) so much as the style of wordage: descriptive narratives do not turn me on. At all.

So now I have to decide—do I always let my personal dislike for the style taint my opinion of the book? Should I grant a little leniency to the era that brought us such great stories? Perhaps a little, but I doubt any of these authors will ever see five stars from me. (So take that you prize-winning multi-millionaires who were published before I was born!) So, wordiness aside (wordiness that includes too frequent mentions of “pubic hair,” “vuval pads,” and that unforgettable “pony's penis” *shudder*), The Cider House Rules is a good story. It had its moments of beauty. Many of the characters were interesting and memorable, though there were certainly a fair share of two-dimensional stock characters (again with the Dickens). The plot was structured well, but heavy-handed at times. I liked the story, but I would've liked a condensed version better—sacrilege, I know.

I've heard many good things about several of Irving's stories, so I'll certainly give him another go one of these days. I hope to find a similarly good story, but without so much padding. It's a long shot, but it doesn't hurt to hope. ( )
  chrisblocker | Apr 21, 2015 |
The Cider House Rules is the tale of Dr. Wilbur Larch, his orphanage that also serves as an underground abortion clinic, and Homer Wells, the orphan that failed to find a home. I loved Dr. Larch's character, equally committed to housing and finding good homes for orphans as he is to offering mothers a safe place to go for the less legal alternative. He's a little rough around the edges but with a heart of gold. The orphanage at St. Cloud's is populated by a totally rich cast of characters from the nurses that assist the doctor to the orphans themselves to the couple that comes seeking an abortion that is the family that will finally "adopt" Homer. This book, to me, read a little like Dickens, with numerous well-drawn characters fanning out in all directions. As in my experience with Dickens, The Cider House Rules gets a little slow in the middle while Irving is lining up his characters just right for the final denouement, but as with Dickens, the payoff is perfectly executed and beautifully satisfying. ( )
  yourotherleft | Feb 7, 2015 |
“Life is an X-rated soap opera” (p. 470 in the Ballantine Books, © 1978 edition of The World According to Garp).

True enough. Unfortunately, The Cider House Rules is more of “soap” than of “X.” I wish I could be more positive about it. I can’t. It didn’t live up to my expectations after having read The World According to Garp. In fact, it fell far short.

The major premise of the story (the management of an orphanage) is extremely interesting. All of the characters in this story are also well drawn and appropriately sympathetic (or unsympathetic, as the case might warrant). One certainly can’t fault Irving’s story for that.

Where then do I find fault? The story is too neat…too cute…to nicely wrapped up in something like a Hollywood (albeit, East Coast) ending. At the same time, I find much of the author’s attempts at humor to be downright adolescent. They might well appeal to many adolescent or late-to-bloom adult readers. They didn’t appeal to me. Instead, I found myself silently appealing to Irving in my subway readings to and from work: “Stop it, John! You know better than to do this.”

All of the above notwithstanding, if a reader wants to get a better understanding of what the real Maine is all about—and not the glittery seacoast that wealthy Bostonians and New Yorkers invade every summer, only to abandon it come Labor Day—this is a most worthwhile read. The late-spring, summer and fall seasons in New England are one thing—as any Hallmark calendar will make fantastically and nostalgically clear. You may notice, however, that not a single one of those Hallmark calendars includes pictures of people. There’s a good reason for the omission.

John Irving’s Cider House Rules may help to make clear why Maine is often called ‘the Mississippi of the North.’

Brooklyn, NY

( )
  RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
For ''The Cider House Rules'' has greater force and integrity than either of its two immediate predecessors. It's funny and absorbing, and it makes clever use of the plot's seeming predictability.

» Add other authors (36 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Irving, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rikman, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last." ~ charlotte bronte (1847)
"For practical purposes abortion may be defined as the interruption of gestation before viability of the child." ~ h.j. boldt, m.d. (1906)
For David Calicchio
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In the hospital of the orphanage--the boys' division at St Cloud's, Maine--two nurses were in charge of naming the new babies and checking that their little penises were healing from the obligatory circumcision.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345387651, Mass Market Paperback)

"AN OLD-FASHIONED, BIG-HEARTED NOVEL . . . with its epic yearning caught in the 19th century, somewhere between Trollope and Twain . . . The rich detail makes for vintage Irving."
--The Boston Sunday Globe

"The Cider House Rules is filled with people to love and to feel for. . . . The characters in John Irving's novel break all the rules, and yet they remain noble and free-spirited. Victims of tragedy, violence, and injustice, their lives seem more interesting and full of thought-provoking dilemmas than the lives of many real people."
--The Houston Post

"John Irving's sixth and best novel . . . He is among the very best storytellers at work today. At the base of Irving's own moral concerns is a rare and lasting regard for human kindness."
--The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Entertaining and affecting . . . John Irving is the most relentlessly inventive writer around. He proliferates colorful incidents and crotchets of character. . . . A truly astounding amount of artistry and ingenuity."
--The San Diego Union

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:38 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Set in rural Maine in the first half of this century, it tells the story of Dr. Wilbur Larch--obstetrician and director of the orphanage in the town of St. Clouds. It is also the story of his favorite orphan, Homer, who is never adopted.

» see all 8 descriptions

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