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The World According to Garp by John Irving

By Kriegerfrau | Books | September 7, 2010 |

By Kriegerfrau | Books | September 7, 2010 |

I always feel as if I’ve read John Irving. I suppose it’s because his works have become such a part of popular culture—this one, The Cider House Rules, A Prayer for Owen Meany.

But I hadn’t. When I saw The World According to Garp at a thrift store for a buck in good shape, I knew I had to get it. Most people are familiar with the film starring Glenn Close and Robin Williams, and I did see it several years ago. But the book is always better.

And it was. This one is a great edition, because it has an afterward by Irving written 20 years after the book was published. The main question he attempts to answer is what Garp is about. People have guessed it’s about fear, what war does to us, the life of boys, the sexual revolution, lust.

I’m getting ahead of myself. We start with Garp’s mother, Jenny Fields, and the very unusual way she manages to have a baby without having a husband. Garp grows up in a boy’s private school, where his mother is a nurse. After his graduation, mother and son set off for Europe so that he can become a writer, but she begins to write as well (your hints that she is unhealthily close to her son come earlier than this).

It’s an entire span of life novel, as we watch Garp get married, have his own children, struggle with his marriage, then struggle with the tragedies that befall him.

In the afterward, Irving admits the book is mostly about lust, but when he really thinks about it, underneath that surface theme of lust is fear, mostly a fear of what might happen to your children. That gave me chills as I read. If you’ve only seen the movie and liked it, give the book a go. I think I’ll move on to more of this fantastic author.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of Kriegerfrau’s reviews, check out her blog.

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