One of the best and worst things about New York City public transportation is the lack of cell phone reception. An annoyance when you have a meeting and get stuck underground, but a luxury when you’re knee deep in a book that physically pains you to put down. By taking the subway to work, I’m guaranteed almost an hour of daily reading time and let me tell you, it’s really changing my book game. I’m over halfway through my New Year’s reading resolution and it’s only August!
My latest literary venture has been with John Irving’s classic The Cider House Rules. The story follows the life of Homer Wells, an orphan raised at the orphanage/clinic St. Clouds by doctor and abortionist Dr. Larch. Determined to always “be of use,” Homer learns — and for a time, rejects — the life of medicine, finding he must leave the world of St. Clouds to truly understand what will carry him back. The book is beautifully written — as always Irving, you babe! — and in typical Irving style, takes readers through a character’s entire life using such a creative storyline that 600 pages go by in the blink of an eye. This also rings true for A Prayer for Owen Meany, Widow for a Year, and The World According to Garp.
And can we talk about the religious imagery throughout the text! Whew! It had my English major senses tingling in all the right ways as Irving contrasts his use of the Christ character, the allusions to God, and the ultimate sacrifice within a story centered around abortion, life, death, and what it really means to be of use in this world. Despite being written in 1985, the book’s depiction of the abortion argument still rings true today, and is the driving force of tension between Dr. Larch and Homer as they navigate their changing views of “the Devil” and “the Lord’s” work.
A wonderful and dense read, The Cider House Rules is a book after every bibliophile’s heart and best accompanied with an enormous leather reading chair, an even bigger ice tea, and a cat close by for you to yell your literary epiphanies to when the symbolism of an object is just too much.