Book Review- Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

10 years ago Shaili Desai 2

Yesterday, I finished reading Last night in Twisted River. The foodie that I am, what I remember most about the book were the descriptions of food!

“Today the cook was working on a red wine reduction for the braised beef short ribs, and he had both a light and a dark chicken stock on the steam table. In the ‘Something from Asia’ category, he was serving Ah Gou’s beef satay with peanut sauce and assorted tempura-just some shrimp, haricots verts, and asparagus. There were the usual pasta dishes-the calamari with black olives and pine nuts, over penne, among them-and two popular pizzas, the pepperoni with marinara sauce and a wild-mushroom pizza with four cheeses. He had a roast chicken with rosemary, which was served on a bed of arugula and grilled fennel, and a grilled leg of spring lamb with garlic, and a wild-mushroom risotto, too.”

Pg 275, Last night in Twisted River (John Irving)

That just sounds yummy, no?

Book Cover
Book Cover

The book revolves around two persons- Dominic Baciagalupo and his son, Daniel and the two most important things in their lives- cooking and storytelling. Mainly, this is a story of Daniel Baciagalupo and how his life changes when he accidentally kills Injun Jane, his dad’s lover cum local constable’s girl friend at the age of twelve. What follows is their flight from Coos County which ultimately ends in Canada. The book spans across four decades, finally ending with the constable catching up to them.

From the description on the back page, you’d think it’s a speedy thriller with a pace like a sinusoidal wave, and we’d have a story of how they run from the constable at every point in their lives. But no, it’s not a very fast book. It’s more of a story of the two fellows and how they set up their life at each new location. They spend at least a decade at Boston, Vermont and Toronto, to forge new friendships and cultivate new experiences much of which influences Daniel and his writing. The book chronicles their joy and the sadness they face in their lives. The fear of the cop catching them is almost invisible through the entire book although it is predictable that he will, in the end.

What I did not like was the pace at which the book moves. I started reading this when I went to Goa, and it took me some while to finish it although some major events like the convocation and the moving out took much of my time. However, I liked some things about the story that are the lessons in cooking and writing that the author provides by way of telling the story and memorable characters like Ketchum, Lady Sky and little Joe. At the same time, the author critiques world events which form the backdrop of the story like the Vietnam War, and 9/11 terrorist strikes. I like an author with an opinion and John Irving clearly takes a stand through his characters like Ketchum. Sometimes, the story almost seems autobiographical.

On the whole, it’s a good read, even though it’s slow. It becomes interesting though if you have a passion for food and writing. The description of the food that Cookie (Dominic) makes is enjoyable and encourages the taste buds in your mouth to churn up huge amounts of saliva. At the same time, the book aptly records the growth of a writer and gives some food for thought to the reader.

If you read the book, I would like to know what you think! I love discussing books and would be glad to know of your opinion. 🙂

Note: This book was provided by Random House for review.

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