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Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

Last Night in Twisted River (2009)

by John Irving

Other authors: Halvor Kristiansen (Translator)

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I love John Irving he is so quirky and interesting but have to say that this book wasn't my cup of tea!
Domonic Baciagalupo is a cook in a logging and Sawmill settlement in Northern New Hampshire, his son Daniel who is 12 years old lives with him. They are close as Daniel's Mom has died in a dreadful accident, (which in itself is peculiar, as we later find out!)
One night in a confused and tragic event Daniel mistakes Domonic's lover for a bear! Domonic loves his son so much this event starts a lifetime of running and fear.
A determined (unstable, drunk) police officer is on their trail and they have to avoid him at all costs.
Ketcham, Domonic's one true friend (and who is tied up tight as a kipper to the pair!) with plenty of nouse and attitude is doing his best to see that this happens.
There are complications and twists thoughout the story, but it does seem to be very slow in places.
Irving I have noticed with most of his books manages to (randomly!!) get a bear in the story somewhere and it is no different with this book!!
As I say I really like John Irving's style of writing, but this book just didn't click with me personally. ( )
  Glorybe1 | Mar 5, 2016 |
The novel opens in 1954 in the small logging settlement of Twisted River on the Androscoggin River in northern New Hampshire. A log driving accident on the river has just claimed the life of a young logger, Angel, who slipped and fell under the logs. Dominic Baciagalupo is the camp's Italian-American cook who lives above the kitchen with his 12-year old son, Daniel. Dominic lost his wife, Rosie, ten years previously when a drunk Dominic, Rosie and a logger and mutual friend, Ketchum, were dancing on the frozen river, and the ice broke and Rosie went under. Later another accident happens that changes the lives of Dominic, Daniel and Ketchum. "Injun Jane", the kitchen's dishwasher and girlfriend of the local law officer, Constable Carl, is having an affair with Dominic. One night, mistaking her for a bear attacking his father, Daniel kills her with an eight-inch cast-iron skillet. Dominic takes Jane's body and deposits it on the kitchen floor of Carl's house, knowing that Carl will be passed out drunk and will probably believe he killed her, as he often beat her up. Early the next morning Dominic and Daniel tell Ketchum what happened and flee Twisted River in case the bad-tempered Carl finds out what really happened.

Dominic and Daniel head for a restaurant in the Italian North End of Boston to tell Angel's mother of her son's death. Dominic gets a job as a cook in the restaurant and changes his surname to Del Popolo (Angel's mother's surname) to hide from Carl. During this time Daniel attends Exeter, a private school in southern New Hampshire, followed by the University of New Hampshire. While at university Daniel starts writing his first novel. He also meets Katie Callahan, a radical art student, whom he agrees to marry. Katie has one mission in life: to make potential Vietnam War draftees fathers, thus enabling them to apply for paternity deferment.[nb 1] Daniel and Katie have a son Joe, but when Joe is two, Katie leaves Daniel to find another young man to rescue from the war. Daniel moves to Iowa with Joe, where he enrolls in the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He also changes his name to Danny Angel to hide from Carl, and uses this nom de plume to publish his novels. After graduating from the Writers' Workshop in 1967, Danny and Joe move to Putney, Vermont.

Danny Angel's novels
1.Family Life in Coos County (ca 1967)
2.The Mickey (1972)
3.Kissing Kin (1975)
4.Kennedy Fathers (1978)
5.The Spinster; or, The Maiden Aunt (1981)
6.East of Bangor (1984)
7.Baby in the Road (1995)
8.In the After-Hours Restaurant (2002)
Ketchum keeps in touch with both Dominic and Danny via telephone and letters, and warns them that Carl is looking for them. On Ketchum's advise, Dominic leaves Boston to join Danny in Vermont. He changes his name to Tony Angel, father of the writer Danny Angel. While Danny teaches writing at Windham College, Tony opens and runs his own restaurant. After the publication of his fourth and most successful novel, Kennedy Fathers (based on Katie), Danny stops teaching and focuses on writing. Then in 1983, two of the sawmill's wives in Twisted River are passing through Vermont and stop for a meal at Tony's restaurant. They recognize Tony and later tell Carl where "Cookie" is. Again, on Ketchum's advise, the father and son are forced to flee, this time to Toronto.

With their cover blown, Tony and Danny revert back to their original names. Dominic finds another restaurant to work in, while Danny continues writing, still under his pseudonym. Joe remains in the United States while at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Danny meets a Canadian screenwriter Charlotte Turner who is writing the screenplay of Danny's abortion novel East of Bangor. They decide to marry, but only after Joe graduates. But Joe dies in a car accident in 1987, and Danny, who cannot face bringing up another child, leaves Charlotte.

Then in 2001, Ketchum gets careless and unwittingly leads Carl to Dominic and Danny's house in Toronto. Carl shoots and kills Dominic and Danny retaliates by shooting and killing Carl. Ketchum is devastated at having failed to protect his friends and takes his own life at Twisted River. Danny, who has now lost his mother, father, son and their friend, tries to focus on writing his next book, a follow-up to his previous eight semi-autobiographical novels. Then his last hope, Amy ("Lady Sky"), arrives on his doorstep. When Joe was two, Amy had parachuted naked onto a pig farm Danny and Joe were visiting. Danny rescued Amy from the pig pen and Joe, awe-struck by this event, called her "Lady Sky". Amy in turn offered to help Danny whenever he needed it. Having read all about the famous writer and his misfortunes, Amy tracks Danny down and moves in with him. Happy now, Danny finds the opening sentence of his new book: "The young Canadian, who could not have been more than fifteen, had hesitated too long

Dominic Baciagalupo ("Cookie") / Dominic Del Popolo / Tony Angel – An Italian-American logging company cook in Twisted River in northern New Hampshire. His father, who had absconded before he was born, had the name "Capodilupo" ("Head of the Wolf"), but his mother named him "Baciacalupo" ("Kiss of the Wolf"), which later became "Baciagalupo" due to a clerical error. He damaged his ankle in a logging accident at the age of 12, giving him a permanent limp, after which his mother taught him how to cook to keep him away from the logs. He changes his name to "Del Popolo" in Boston, and to "Tony Angel" (father of the famous writer) in Vermont, to escape the attentions of Constable Carl from whom he and his son are fleeing. He is overprotective of his son, Daniel, and later his grandson, Joe.
Daniel Baciagalupo / Danny Angel – Dominic's son and kitchen assistant in Twisted River. He is a "Kennedy father"[nb 1] and a famous writer of eight semi-autobiographical novels. He writes under the pseudonym of Danny Angel (after Angel, the young logger who died in Twisted River), a name he also assumed in real life to foil Constable Carl. He is attracted to large older women and is overprotective of his father, Dominic, and his son, Joe.
Ketchum – A logger in Twisted River who lives permanently in the northern New Hampshire logging camps. His first name is never revealed. He was once married, but is estranged from his children, and had no education beyond the age of 12. He is Dominic's best friend, and is overprotective of Dominic and Daniel; he is their self appointed "advisor" at Twisted River, and when they are abroad, via telephone, letters, and later, fax (he never discovered email).
Rosina Calogero ("Rosie") – Dominic's mother's cousin's daughter and "not-really-a-cousin" wife. She was exiled to Berlin, New Hampshire by her family because she was pregnant, and taken in by Dominic's mother. After his mother died, Dominic (aged 17, he lied about his age) and Rosie (aged 24) married and moved to Twisted River. She was a teacher college graduate, and taught at the school in nearby Paris, Maine.
"Injun Jane" – A 300-pound American Indian dishwasher in the Twisted River cookhouse and Daniel's part-time "babysitter". Her real name is not known. She lost her own son years previously and is fond of Daniel. She is Constable Carl's girlfriend and who regularly beats her up when he is drunk.
Constable Carl ("Cowboy") – The local law officer in Twisted River who spends his time breaking up bar-fights and sending French Canadians looking for work back to Quebec. He is often drunk, foul-mouthed and regularly beats up his girlfriends. He acquired the nickname "Cowboy" because of his erratic and unpredictable behaviour.
Katie Callahan – Daniel's wife while at the University of New Hampshire. They met while posing nude as models in life-drawing classes when Daniel was a junior undergraduate and Katie a senior. She is an anti-war activist and a sexual anarchist. She "rescues" young men from the Vietnam War by marrying and fathering a child with them.[nb 1] She sleeps around and is not a dedicated mother.
Joe Baciagalupo – Daniel and Katie's son, named after Joe Polcari, the maître d' at the Vicinodi Napoli restaurant in Boston where Dominic worked as a cook. He retained the Baciagalupo name, despite his father and grandfather changing theirs. He inherited his mother's "wild side" and is known to be careless and take risks.
Charlotte Turner – Daniel's intended wife in Toronto. She is a Canadian screenwriter Danny meets while she is writing the screenplay for his abortion novel, East of Bangor. After they split up she goes on to win an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay of Danny's novel.
Amy Martin ("Lady Sky") – Daniel's last love in Toronto. She is given the name "Lady Sky" by Daniel's two-year old son Joe after she parachuted naked into a pig pen in Iowa. "Martin" is her maiden name she reverted back to after a failed marriage and the death of her son.
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Didn't enjoy this as much as some of his others.
  LindsayCal | Feb 15, 2016 |
I tried this years ago but I'm glad I gave it another shot. Vintage Irving...elaborate plot, lots of crazy characters. Wonderful last chapter. ( )
  bearette24 | Nov 26, 2015 |
I've read a few Irving novels, though not lately - and not enough of them to have a "sense" of Irving's style. I like his stuff enough that he's on my "read all of his books" list, so this is one more on my checklist of "done."

I liked this book. It's not a perfect novel, and there were some things that irritated me (the narrator asides, the repeated details from one chapter to the next, that sort of thing). The irritants weren't enough to throw me off, though, and Irving hits my sweet spots enough to warrant the four stars.

I love how Irving crafts characters. Ketchum is marvelous, and I have to say I really dig Six Pack Pam. He does "rough" in a manner that is in on way disrespectful. I love that his backwoods people are every bit as (or, really, more than) wise as the others. Danny is fine, as is Dominic, but really - it's Ketchum who rules this novel. I don't know that I'd want him as an uncle, though... Ketchum isn't big on niceties, and I'm not sure I'd dig having Ketchum telling me all the ways that I'm doing it wrong.

I may enjoy hearing "Constipated Christ!" at emphatic moments of my day, though.

The arc of this novel is odd to me. It's like the novel is about Ketchum, even though it actually follows Danny from age 12 to 60. And at the end, when Irving does his writerly reveal, I found myself spinning a bit. I do not mean that it's a bad ending; I was pretty satisfied when I finished the last page. It's just that... I don't know. It's a thinker.

I liked the afterward, too. Irving talks a bit about his writing process, so of course that's a little dessert on top of the meal. ( )
  ThePortPorts | Nov 4, 2015 |
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The coy hints of connections between the author and the narrator have been forced onto a plot that can’t accommodate them, and the fact that Danny is a famous novelist too often seems a mere contrivance, giving Irving a convenient opportunity to include rambling background information and to air his own ideas about writing. In his bid to make something “serious,” Irving has risked distracting readers from what otherwise could be a moving, cohesive story.
I thought I was heading for another “The Cider House Rules,” my personal favorite of his novels. But the full reading experience ended up being more like “A Widow for One Year,” where one outstanding section has to carry the weight of the whole book. And at 554 pages, that’s a lot to carry.
Irving playfully invents a story that’s as much about the pleasures of reading one of his novels as it is anything else, until it poignantly turns into a paean for a dying art and a plea for the idea of the story. This could all seem self-indulgent. Instead, it’s Irving’s best since the ’80s.
Irving's story is engrossing, and he gives us a satisfying assortment of fully realized characters: Carl, a cruel, ignorant police officer; Ketchum, a hard-drinking, violent logger who devotes himself to protecting the cook and his son and whose favorite exclamation is “Constipated Christ!”; Six-Pack Pam, whose name pretty much says it all; and Lady Sky, the aforementioned parachutist, who becomes the love of the cook's son's life.
Mr. Irving uses coincidences, cliffhanger chapter endings and other 19th-century novelistic devices to hook the reader, while at the same time orchestrating them to underscore the improbable, random nature of real life. Some of his inventions — like a murderous blue car that appears to have zeroed in on Danny’s son — are ludicrous at first glance, but the reader gradually comes to understand that they are writerly metaphors for the precarious nature of life in “a world of accidents.”

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Irvingprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kristiansen, HalvorTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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"I had a job in the great north woods/ Working as a cook for a spell/ But I never did like it all that much/ And one day the ax just fell" -Bob Dylan, "Tangled Up in Blue
"For Everett-my pioneer, my hero"
First words
"The young Canadian, who could not have been more than fifteen, had hesitated too long."
Constipated Christ!
Don't get your balls crossed.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Une mustang bleue fantôme bleue , un chien héroïque , une ange atterrie dans la fange : le chef Irving nous réserve toutes les surprises de son art consommés dans un roman qui se dévore et se déguste jusqu'à la dernière page . Bombe glacée pour tout le monde au dessert .

In 1954, in the cookhouse of a logging and sawmill settlement in New Hampshire, an anxious twelve-year-old boy mistakes the local constable's girlfriend for a bear.  Both the boy and his father become fugitives, forced to run from Coos County--to Boston, to southern Vermont, to Toronto--while pursued by the implacable constable.  Their lone protector is a fiercly libertarian logger who befriends them.

In a story spanning five decades, Last Night in Twisted River depicts the recent half-century in the United States as "a living replica of Coos County, where lethal hatreds were generally permitted to run their course."
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In 1954, in the cookhouse of a logging and sawmill settlement in northern New Hampshire, an anxious twelve-year-old boy mistakes the local constable's girlfriend for a bear. Both the twelve-year-old and his father become fugitives, forced to run from Coos County-to Boston, to southern Vermont, to Toronto-pursued by the implacable constable. Their lone protector is a fiercely libertarian logger, once a river driver, who befriends them. A tale that spans five decades.… (more)

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