After finishing A Prayer for Owen Meany and enjoying it so immensely, I thought I'd try listening to another book by John Irving. I'd read The World According to Garp several years ago, but was dissuaded after reading so many negative reviews of the audible version. There were many positive reviews for Cider House Rules, so I gave it a go. I remember enjoying the book when I'd first read it and enjoyed the movie as well.
It's a really good book. The story is very unique, with many components that make you think about things you wouldn't normally, i.e. the life of an orphan, people with convictions so strong that their lives are centered around them, the many different types of relationships that exist and some of the not so common ways people express love. I appreciated the technical medical details of obstetrics and also enjoyed one character's perspective of WWII. The topics of pregnancy, abortion and adoption were much more intriguing for me this time, not having been a mother when I first read the book.
It's a great piece of writing, but does not entertain as much as Garp or Owen Meany. I guess I'm forever spoiled! The narration was good, though the narrator sounded a bit like he was speaking in the 1950's or 60's. You may enjoy this book more if you haven't already read (what I consider to be) Irving's best.
Based on great reviews by reputable sources, I really expected to enjoy this book a lot. Not so!
Aside from some fairly sophisticated psychological analyses of the effects of parental emotional abuse and of narcissistic personality disorder, I don't think this book has much to offer. The mother is a largely one dimensional character and thus it became easy for me to predict many of the things that were going to happen next. While there are some mysteries that unfold at a nice pace and a few real surprises, I was mostly bored by this story.
Another reviewer mentioned that if you like Gillian Flynn's writing (Gone Girl), you are likely to enjoy this book. I agree, although I did not enjoy Gone Girl myself. The two books seem similar to me in that one needs to enjoy being a spectator of very calculating, heartless people--along with some big plot twists and turns--to enjoy these books. What I found missing from both books were the more subtle dynamics of relationships that can make a book really great. There just weren't enough layers or shades of grey to make this book compelling for me.
That said, Gone Girl is a very popular book, so Mother, Mother may very well appeal to a large audience. Though I did not find it very interesting or enjoyable, I am probably in the minority. So do read other reviews and take mine with a grain of salt.
I've read many books by John Irving, and while I've really enjoyed most of them (esp. Garp), I think this is my favorite. You should know that it is very long and you might have to make a real investment to enjoy it. There are many bits and pieces to this book, so there is a lot to keep track of, and the story spans a few decades. The narration is the best I've ever heard. I don't laugh out loud too often while listening to books, but I did several times during this one. This is one of the few books that I believe is better listened to (so long as Joe Barrett is the narrator). I don't think that I would have understood the character of Owen as well if I'd read the book myself. If you are an Irving fan it's very likely that you will love this book.
I really thought I was going to like this book, given its high overall reviews. I should have read some of the individual reviews on here more carefully I guess. I will be echoing some of them here, but here goes: I'm on the fence about whether this book would be better read than listened to. At first I was blaming the narrator for my negative reaction, but when I started paying closer attention to the actual words I realized that I had more of a problem with the writing style, which is very old-fashioned (e.g. "Why, Bob Bob! Why ever would you say that?"). I haven't read something of this style since I was a child, and even then it would have seemed outdated. The story is an interesting one, and that's why I stuck with it, but it didn't get any better as it went along. It's written in the 1st person, but the protagonist also tells us about things that are happening to other people, which she logically should have no knowledge of. (One example, which I don't think would be a spoiler, is describing her own birth in detail). When referring to herself she always stays in a little girl's character, no matter what age she is and I found this a little confusing at times. There is not a lot of real reflection, which is too bad given the subject matter. The characters all become caricatures, and that causes the story to become predictable. I hate knowing what is going to happen before the narrator tells me! I was also bothered by the same gruff voice the narrator used whenever she was speaking a male role. I felt like I was at the children's library during story hour, but listening to a story meant for adults. I know lots of people really enjoyed this book, but it obviously wasn't one for me.
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