I was actually able to finish this book recently: The Cider House Rules by John Irving. My mom had told me about it and I'm so glad that I took her up on her recommendation because this book is one of the best I've read in a long time. I wouldn't so much call this post a review because a "review" implies that I'm critiquing the book on its strong and weak points. I think what I'm trying to do here is explain why I liked it.
The story spans about thirty or forty years, between the 1920s and the 1950s. It follows the stories of two men: Dr. Wilbur Larch, an obstetrician who heads up the boys division of an orphanage in a remote part of Maine. However, Larch is also secretly an abortionist. The women who come to the orphanage, St. Cloud's, have the choice to either have an abortion or to leave their child in the care of Larch and his two nurses, Nurse Angela and Nurse Edna. The other main character is Homer Wells, an orphan who changes the lives of Larch and his nurses. Homer and Dr. Larch, two starkly different characters, are both lovable in their own ways.
Okay, so...orphans. Abortion. That doesn't sound like such a fun book, does it? There's a lot more to it, trust me. However, as someone who believes in a "woman's right to choose," I think the way this book deals with the contentious topic of abortion is really quite productive and progressive. It takes great care to acknowledge both sides of this issue. There are characters in this book who each feel strongly about each position, and Irving is able to make his characters express their stances in such a way that it could make someone with an opposing view say, "Okay. I get it now. I haven't changed my mind, but I get where you're coming from." And I think that's the best way to discuss any kind of "hot button issue," but alas, the world does not work that way.
The tone of this book is very quirky, witty, and sharp, but I feel like these words don't do it justice, nor do they really explain what I mean. Its tone has left me grasping for words...I can't seem to articulate what I'm thinking. The only way to know is to read it yourself. It's a book about love, death, science, religion, virtue, parenthood, and the definition of family and the many forms a family can take.
So what does the title of this post have to do with the book? Every night when Dr. Larch said good night to the boys of St. Cloud's, he said, "Good night Princes of Maine, Kings of New England!"
What have you read lately? I need some recommendations!
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