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The Cider House Rules

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Author: John Irving

Published: July 1st 2000 by Thorndike Press (first published May 10th 1985)

Format: Hardcover , Large Print , 973 pages

Isbn: 9780786226740

Language: English


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Raised from birth in the orphanage at St. Cloud's, Maine, Homer Wells has become the protege of Dr. Wilbur Larch, its physician and director. There Dr. Larch cares for the troubled mothers who seek his help, either by delivering and taking in their unwanted babies or by performing illegal abortions. Meticulously trained by Dr. Larch, Homer assists in the former, but draws Raised from birth in the orphanage at St. Cloud's, Maine, Homer Wells has become the protege of Dr. Wilbur Larch, its physician and director. There Dr. Larch cares for the troubled mothers who seek his help, either by delivering and taking in their unwanted babies or by performing illegal abortions. Meticulously trained by Dr. Larch, Homer assists in the former, but draws the line at the latter. Then a young man brings his beautiful fiancee to Dr. Larch for an abortion, and everything about the couple beckons Homer to the wide world outside the orphanage ...

30 review for The Cider House Rules

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    I shouldn't be throwing semicolons around too often; and yet, after reading Irving, what do I find myself doing? semicolon, semicolon, SEMICOLON ; ; ; ; I'm not winking at you; those are semicolons.. now you know what I mean. Irving affects me in many ways -- the semicolons are just one example. (And yes, I know I'm probably not using them correctly -- you don't have to point that out. You really don't.) More than a week after finishing, The Cider House Rules, it's still on my mind, still sneaki I shouldn't be throwing semicolons around too often; and yet, after reading Irving, what do I find myself doing? semicolon, semicolon, SEMICOLON ; ; ; ; I'm not winking at you; those are semicolons.. now you know what I mean. Irving affects me in many ways -- the semicolons are just one example. (And yes, I know I'm probably not using them correctly -- you don't have to point that out. You really don't.) More than a week after finishing, The Cider House Rules, it's still on my mind, still sneaking into my brain at different times in the day; still a part of me. Washing my face last night, talking to myself, "Just a light touch there with the wash cloth on the cheeks there, Benny, -- just like Dr. Larch with the Ether, light touch". And trust me, it's not just that: I feel like I know the characters. And I think about them randomly, periodically, throughout the day. The novel takes place in the first half of the 20th century, in Maine. Most of this is at an orphanage hidden away in the remote town of St. Clouds; a former logging camp, now desolate, lifeless, and empty-feeling -- with its past of whores and ruffians still present in its aura. This is the perfect place for savior Dr. Larch’s orphanage, where he also performs abortions, which were illegal at the time. Larch was the only known abortion doctor in the area that didn't provide them in dangerous ways - Doc Larch performed them correctly and safely, with great respect and care for the female’s dignity and health. This is also where protagonist orphan, Homer Wells, spends his childhood and teen years; where he learns to become Dr. Larch's helper. He spent some interesting -- to say the least -- periods of time living with foster families as well, but finds that the St. Clouds orphanage is his real home. And then, true to Homer's odd life, he ends up leaving the orphanage under unique circumstances. The story follows Homer into adulthood where he lives at “Ocean View Orchards”. During this time you get the feeling that Homer’s destiny is unfolding, but into what, you don’t know; you just know that it’s not going as planned. Homer also develops a powerful yet complex and taboo love; finds meaningful work; meets life changing people that are his new family, all while being away from his true father figure, Dr. Larch. There are a lot of interweaving storylines that result in humane, moral lessons that show through beautifully -- if not at the time, then at the end of the book, or after reflection. More than anything, this book got me thinking about abortion. I thought about it hard: more in-depthly and more seriously than I ever had before. It became something other than an abstract concept to me; I felt for the women that needed them, and I felt for the boy who believed that it was murder. It humanized the issue for me, and solidified my formerly tepid belief in a woman's right to choose. It's pretty clear that Irving agrees with this (a woman's right to choose); a major part of the story is in fact, him making the pro choice point; but I could also see someone walking away from this with a pro life stance, or a more adamant belief in that stance. After all, young Homer was an orphan that liked his life and made positive contributions to the world, all of which wouldn't have happened if his mother hadn't chosen life. At the same time though, our story takes place when abortion was illegal, and you see Dr. Larch save lives, and the issue of choice itself is framed almost perfectly. The book made me realize the impact that an abortion, non-abortion, or botched abortion can have on someone's life. You have no choice but to have an opinion on it after reading this book, because you get hit with the weight of its seriousness. The Cider House Rules has all the traits of a good Irving novel: the humane, odd, and likable characters with unusual life experiences; a storyline with moral undertones; profound scenes -- some zany and humorous -- others wise and touching. Don't get me wrong, this book isn't for everyone. It doesn’t take off right away -- someone with fast paced standards may even consider the whole first half slow. If you're adamantly pro-life, you probably won't find yourself enjoying this book -- abortion is too much of an ongoing issue. And abortion isn't the only weighty theme here: betrayal, war, morality, laws-and-rules, the soul, incest, family, death, violence against women; the list goes on. Essentially, The Cider House Rules is about the many rules of life: some written, others not; some meant to be broken; some need to be created. It's about the concept of fate and how our decisions affect both our own lives and the lives of others -- whether they are from playing by the rules, or not. An exchange from the book sums this up quite well: “Every time you throw a snail off the dock,' Ray teased Homer Wells, 'you're making someone start his whole life over.' 'Maybe I'm doing him a favor,' said Homer Wells, the orphan." This may not be John Irving's best novel, but of the four I've read, it's certainly his most important.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Sumi

    Hey! I just popped my John Irving cherry with The Cider House Rules! Something strange happened midway through reading The Cider House Rules, my first John Irving book.* I found myself completely immersed in its world. What’s strange is that for the first couple hundred pages, I didn’t particularly believe in this early 20th century Dickensian fable about orphans, surrogate families, an ether-addicted abortionist and the arbitrariness of some rules. But Irving’s storytelling skills eventually won Hey! I just popped my John Irving cherry with The Cider House Rules! Something strange happened midway through reading The Cider House Rules, my first John Irving book.* I found myself completely immersed in its world. What’s strange is that for the first couple hundred pages, I didn’t particularly believe in this early 20th century Dickensian fable about orphans, surrogate families, an ether-addicted abortionist and the arbitrariness of some rules. But Irving’s storytelling skills eventually won me over. His prose is persuasive. Homer Wells is raised in an orphanage in the isolated town of St. Cloud’s, Maine. Although he’s been placed with families four separate times, something has always gone wrong with his adoptions, and so he continually ends up back at the orphanage, where he eventually assists Dr. Wilbur Larch in his unusual obi/gyn practice. Women come to St. Cloud’s to either give their children up for adoption or have the doctor terminate their pregnancies. When Homer is old enough to understand the latter, he decides to stop helping with those procedures. And when Wally Worthington and Candy Kendall, a glamorous young couple who’ve come to terminate their own unexpected pregnancy, tell Homer about the apple orchards back home near the ocean, he leaves with them, planning to stay just for a week or so to learn about orchards for the orphanage. The book essentially recounts Homer’s coming-of-age. Out in the big bad world, he realizes that evil and temptation exist, and that moral choices aren’t so black and white. Having grown up in an old-fashioned world, presided over by Larch and Nurses Edna (who’s secretly in love with Larch) and Angela, he’s been insulated. Choices seem so much easier in the books that he used to read to the orphans: Dickens’s Great Expectations and David Copperfield (for the boys), and Jane Eyre for the girls. In a sense, Homer sets out to realize his own great expectations, working in the orchards that Wally’s mother runs, falling in love with Candy and forging a lasting friendship with Wally. Meanwhile, Dr. Larch, who’s addicted to inhaling ether, is getting older; the board of the orphanage is looking to replace him. Will Homer eventually return? Anyone who’s only seen the film version will be surprised by a plotline about another major character, Melony, an orphan who initiates Homer into sex and feels betrayed by his departure. She’s determined to track him down, but her motivations remain vague. Revenge? Jealousy? Again: because Irving is such a smooth and skilled writer, the Melony sections are always readable and provide a bit of tension in a plot that can sometimes feel loose. A few other quibbles: Homer’s decision to leave with Candy and Wally feels odd, especially since he just meets them. Often the book's humour works, but just as often it feels contrived. And I felt cheated at the end when some big secrets are revealed – things we’ve anticipated for half the book – and we don’t get to see the characters’ responses. But I came to love Irving’s people. I loved seeing them interact with each other, pick up experience, get older, reflect on their earlier selves. They’ll teach you about the female reproductive system or how many bushels of apples it takes to create a vat of cider. They’ll make you consider how something as simple as a Ferris Wheel might seem mysterious and magical, or how it might feel to ride a bicycle if you’ve never ridden one before. I also liked the book's central allegory about blindly following rules. At times the theme felt a bit didactic, but at others times it felt beautifully integrated into the story. The author has great empathy for his characters. And he knows how to create an entire fictional world. The details might not seem true in today’s busy, cynical world, but they do in the world of the book. And that’s enough for me. I’m looking forward to entering another one of Irving’s fictional worlds soon. --- * I almost finished Irving's In One Person for a book club, but still had 60 pages to go before the group met. I should go back and finish it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I just finished reading this novel, and it is so phenominal that I'm almost speechless, and I'm sad that it is over. The story is engrossing, rich, moving, tragic, and satisfying, and the imagery is extraordinarily powerful. The plot takes place during the first half of the 1900's in rural Maine, and tells of Dr. Larch, an obstetrician, founder of an orphanage, abortionist, and ether addict, and his favorite orphan, and heroic figure, Homer Wells. Irving develops the characters superbly, such th I just finished reading this novel, and it is so phenominal that I'm almost speechless, and I'm sad that it is over. The story is engrossing, rich, moving, tragic, and satisfying, and the imagery is extraordinarily powerful. The plot takes place during the first half of the 1900's in rural Maine, and tells of Dr. Larch, an obstetrician, founder of an orphanage, abortionist, and ether addict, and his favorite orphan, and heroic figure, Homer Wells. Irving develops the characters superbly, such that the reader comes to know and love all of them, even those with significant flaws. The abortion issue is handled perfectly; while it becomes obvious what Irving's opinion is, he presents both sides of the issue objectively and refrains from preaching on the subject or becoming overtly political. Normally I recommend reading a book before seeing the movie adaptation, but in this case, the movie is excellent, so by reading the book first, one may not appreciate the film as much as one should. Irving is a storyteller on par with Dickens, and I'm going to add his other works to my future reading list.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    While The Cider House Rules is an undeniably well-written novel, I grew impatient with the lengthy narrative and the idle characters. It was hard for me to feel any sense of connection to the different characters, and I cared very little about Homer's life at Ocean View - I was always anxious to get back to St. Cloud's and the orphanage. For me, the real story was about the relationship between Dr. Larch and Homer Wells, and I lost interest in the story once Larch and Homer ceased to communicate While The Cider House Rules is an undeniably well-written novel, I grew impatient with the lengthy narrative and the idle characters. It was hard for me to feel any sense of connection to the different characters, and I cared very little about Homer's life at Ocean View - I was always anxious to get back to St. Cloud's and the orphanage. For me, the real story was about the relationship between Dr. Larch and Homer Wells, and I lost interest in the story once Larch and Homer ceased to communicate. Though Homer is the protagonist of the story, he remained inscrutable throughout the book. Except for his propensity to interject "right" into any conversation, and his longing for a family, I would not be able to describe any of Homer's other characteristics, his personality, or aspirations. Wally and Candy Worthington, the perfect golden gods, were so flat and dull that I usually couldn't wait for the story to shift away from them. The triangle between Wally, Candy, and Homer could have been interesting, but it is written without any tension between the characters. In fact, Irving completely skips over fifteen years of the trio's life together. I wish the story had skipped completely over Homer's life in Ocean View. Relationships were never explored to their potentials. Even Olive Worthington is so sensible that she never blames or stigmatizes Homer and Candy for their actions; Ray Kendall, who might have had an interesting paternal relationship with Homer (especially since parents are so scarce in this story), dies without confronting either Homer or Candy. In short, a love triangle which could have been an immense source of drama (to characters who actually reacted to events around them) became boring. It was so boring that fifteen years of potential strain was glossed over. The one truly interesting character in the book (besides Dr. Larch) turned out to be the illustrious Melony, whom I hugely enjoyed reading. Melony may have been ridiculous, but she was a well fleshed-out, interesting character, whose life followed a reasonable yet interesting route. I was equally interested in the two nurses at the orphanage, who were only described briefly in the beginning of the novel. Yet these two characters - who have such strong presences in the lives of Dr. Larch and Homer - never have any face time of their own. I couldn't separate Angela from Edna, nor understand why Homer chose Angela as the namesake for his child. Even a few pages on either of the nurses would have been useful and illuminating. Instead, Irving segues into long descriptions of characters such as the stationmaster. While the stationmaster is undoubtedly amusing, I wondered why I cared. And yet I liked the stationmaster passage better than the scenes at Ocean View. It's unfortunate that the 5 pages introducing the stationmaster were more interesting than Homer, Candy, and Wally combined. In the end, finishing The Cider House Rules became a chore. I fail to see the brilliance apparently displayed in this novel. Perhaps it only appears on a second reading; however, I don't think I'll ever pick this up again. (Oh, and can I express my distaste for reading pages and pages about characters named Candy and Angel? One would have been enough.)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jr Bacdayan

    In other parts of the world, they love John Green. Here in St. JR's, we love John Irving. According to my dictionary, Green is of the color of growing foliage, between yellow and blue in the color wheel. While Irving on the other hand, is a genius, hard-working, persevering person who can manage time efficiently; knows how to balance important aspects of life. This has led me to conclude that Irving is a much more suitable name for a writer than Green, and has also solidified my belief that Irvi In other parts of the world, they love John Green. Here in St. JR's, we love John Irving. According to my dictionary, Green is of the color of growing foliage, between yellow and blue in the color wheel. While Irving on the other hand, is a genius, hard-working, persevering person who can manage time efficiently; knows how to balance important aspects of life. This has led me to conclude that Irving is a much more suitable name for a writer than Green, and has also solidified my belief that Irving is a much better novelist than Green. It just struck me that the definition of Irving is so close to Irving's nature as a writer. "knows how to balance important aspects of life" So true. John Green, taking nothing away from him, has much to learn from John Irving. The hordes of teens crying because of John Green's melodramatic deaths will benefit much more if they try reading John Irving. I think I'll feel much better about the collective future of the human race if the crazy teenage obsession towards John Green was given to John Irving instead. Moving on, John Irving's The Cider House Rules is a thought-provoking novel that's both entertaining and affecting. As expected from Irving, the novel is filled with characters to feel for. Characters that have the weirdest backgrounds, the funniest thoughts, the craziest names. Yet they appear more real than the real characters in our lives, the characters we know. It has always been Irving's strength, his characters. Homer Wells, the protagonist, is an orphan boy whose search for identity manifests a richness of the human spirit that is unlike any I have ever read. His story is a marvel to watch as it unfolds. During the first parts of the book, I couldn't help feel that grim aura that enveloped St. Cloud's. That fog-like cloud, that mist that was ever present, that presence of loneliness, of unwantedness, of reckless abandon. That feeling that every orphan felt etched inside their bones. The feeling that every woman had whether their case was that of an abortion or of the orphan conception. I felt it. “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.” That Homer turned to Dickens and Bronte for guidance was fitting. His several experiences with foster homes made him realize that he belonged in St. Clouds. He learned "to be of use". So he became the assistant to Dr. Larch, the director of the orphanage and also his father figure. The relationship between Dr. Larch and Homer Wells has got to be one of the most touching examples of a father-son relationship in literature albeit not by blood. From St. Clouds he would move to Ocean View Orchard. I'm not going to get into specifics, this is not that kind of a review. You need to discover that on your own. I'm just gonna say that his journey towards finding out who he is ultimately ends in a self-discovery that touches the heart. It's a very special book. One of the most important if not the most important point of the book has got to do with abortion. Dr. Larch did abortions in St. Cloud's and wanted Homer to follow in his foot-steps. Homer, though he thought abortion should be legalized, didn't want to perform it. He believed that fetuses have souls. “Here is the trap you are in.... And it's not my trap—I haven't trapped you. Because abortions are illegal, women who need and want them have no choice in the matter, and you—because you know how to perform them—have no choice, either. What has been violated here is your freedom of choice, and every woman's freedom of choice, too. If abortion was legal, a woman would have a choice—and so would you. You could feel free not to do it because someone else would. But the way it is, you're trapped. Women are trapped. Women are victims, and so are you.” “These same people who tell us we must defend the lives of the unborn-they are the same people who seem not so interested in defending anyone but themselves after the accident of birth is complete! These same people who profess their love of the unborn's soul-they don't care to make much of a contribution to the poor, they don't care to offer much assistance to the unwanted or the oppressed! How do they justify such a concern for the fetus and such a lack of concern for unwanted and abused children? They condemn others for the accident of conception; they condemn the poor-as if the poor can help being poor. One way the poor could help themselves would be to be in control of the size of their families. I thought that freedom of choice was obviously democratic-was obviously American!” “If pride is a sin ... moral pride is the greatest sin.” I have come out of this book much more aware of my position towards abortion. Before I read this book, I would have said that I was against abortion. I didn't like the thought of killing babies, but I hadn't really reflected on the gravity of the situation. With the insights I've gotten from the book, and after my struggle with my thoughts. I have finally decided that I am against anti-abortion laws. It actually doesn't matter if you believe that it is wrong or not. What matters is that people who think otherwise should have the choice to avail it. If I have learned anything in my short life, it is never to impose my will upon others. And I believe that anti-abortion laws, is just that. Imposition of self-righteousness. I'm not forcing my belief upon you, I'm not starting a debate. I'm just stating my opinion. Nothing else. This book opened my eyes, if not removed that veil of ignorance around it. It's just saddening that abortion is still illegal in my country. Here's to hoping that it'll change soon. Another important point of the book has to do with rules. The name of the novel, The Cider House Rules, concurs to the idea that rules play a very important role in this novel. Actually, it has more to do with breaking the rules. “We got our own rules.” The words of Mr. Rose, the boss of the apple-picking crew, when Homer asks him why the men don’t follow the rules posted in the cider house. Mr. Rose’s words underscore a major theme of the novel: when the rules don’t make sense, people have to make their own rules. Homer learns this lesson when he begins to perform abortions. Although the procedure is illegal, he feels he must “break the rules” to do what is right. In the end, he chose to be the Hero of his own life. He chose to make his own rules. As I end, let me leave you with an excerpt that I think greatly encapsulates the message of the book: “It´s natural to want someone you love to do what you want, or what you think would be good for them, but you have to let everything happen to them. You can't interfere with people you love any more than you're supposed to interfere with people you don't even know. And that's hard, ..., because you often feel like interfering -you want to be the one who makes the plans.”

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kerri

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 4.5 I found the first 200 pages of this book to be just okay. They flew by fairly quickly and I was more or less enjoying it, but I can't say I cared too much either. It took me a little while to adjust to the writing style too, in particular the way it seemed to jump from one thing to another with little warning. At some point I realised I'd gotten used to this, and had found some sort of firm footing as I read. What's interesting for me about this is that there were many times when I didn't real 4.5 I found the first 200 pages of this book to be just okay. They flew by fairly quickly and I was more or less enjoying it, but I can't say I cared too much either. It took me a little while to adjust to the writing style too, in particular the way it seemed to jump from one thing to another with little warning. At some point I realised I'd gotten used to this, and had found some sort of firm footing as I read. What's interesting for me about this is that there were many times when I didn't really care about what was happening, I wasn't that interested in Homer or his life or Candy, who I had wildly mixed feelings about, but I still liked the book. I was mulling over that as I finished the final pages, when a line ended up summing up perfectly what I felt: ('Here in St. Cloud's,' Wilber Larch had written, 'we learn to love the difficult.') Something that was slightly annoying for me is that the blurb on my copy of the book refers to Homer's, 'strange relationship with the wife of his closest friend.' Which meant that the entire time Wally is missing, I knew he had to be alive and would return and marry Candy! An odd decision to give that away. Dr. Larch is the only character I liked for the entirety of the book, described in the same blurb as, 'a man of rare compassion and with an addiction to ether.' One of my favourite of Larch's observations is this one, regarding croquet: 'From a watercolor of some strange lawn games, he had once imagined that striking a wooden ball with a wooden mallet as hard as he could would be rewarding, but he wanted time to practice this art alone and unobserved.' I feel that way about many things-- I wouldn't mind trying it, but certainly not in front of many people, especially if those people already know what to do! Overall a book I did enjoy. I want to read more by John Irving, especially 'The World According to Garp', since I loved the movie. I will also try to find the movie version of 'The Cider House Rules', since I have heard it is good. 🍎

  7. 4 out of 5

    Edward Lorn

    Oof. This is gonna be a tough one to review. First, it should be known that I was not looking forward to this book. Nothing about it called to me. Nothing about the film adaptation ever made me want to watch the movie, either. (Let it be known that I still have no interest in watching the movie.) And if it weren't for this John Irving Challenge I'm doing, where I'm trying to read all of his novels in a year's time, I likely never would have picked this up. Do I regret reading it? Yes and no. Let Oof. This is gonna be a tough one to review. First, it should be known that I was not looking forward to this book. Nothing about it called to me. Nothing about the film adaptation ever made me want to watch the movie, either. (Let it be known that I still have no interest in watching the movie.) And if it weren't for this John Irving Challenge I'm doing, where I'm trying to read all of his novels in a year's time, I likely never would have picked this up. Do I regret reading it? Yes and no. Let's discuss, shall we? I hated the first chapter and a half of The Cider House Rules. I've come to expect that I'm gonna be pretty confused for the first fifty to a hundred pages of an Irving novel. Usually the stuff at the beginning doesn't pay off until halfway through the book, and sometimes he makes you wait until the very end before he returns to why the opening chapter was needed. Here, I never felt like that opening chapter was needed, not to mention the chapter is just fuckin boring to read. We could've easily opened with Chapter Two (Larch's history) and then summarized the info from Chapter One into the beginning of Chapter Three. That's how I would've done it, anyway. I only really liked one of the characters, and it wasn't until Homer started learning from Larch that I really started to care for her. I never once cared about Homer, period. For a main character, dude was surprisingly weak. And him constantly answering everything with "Right" got on my nerves as much as it got on Wally's nerves. I was thrilled when Wally finally decked him in his cocksucker. Which brings me to Authorial Intent. Did Irving mean for Homer to be an annoyingly weak character? I believe he did. Doesn't mean I have to like it, though. It only means Irving possibly accomplished what he set out to do. Bravo, or, you know, whatever. My favorite character throughout the entire mess was Melony. She rocked. I dig a multi-layered strongly-developed female character and Melony checked all of those boxes. Lorna and her love story was beautiful and heartbreaking, and I'm glad Irving took the time to follow Melony's storyline all the way to the end. I was worried that there for a moment the book would end on Homer, and I thought, "Fuck everything about this book." Then Irving brought it all home and I was graciously satisfied. Oddly enough, despite the exclusion of wrestling and bears, this was Irving's most repetitive work. I've read about all of these characters before, some more than once, and I think that's why I didn't give a fuck for any of them. They all felt like carbon copies of better-drawn characters from earlier novels. Irving just changed their names and put them in a different story. Some other aspects of Irving's work has become predictable, too; mainly who will live and die by the end of the book. He sets up character's deaths the same way each and every time, and the formula has become irritatingly obvious. A major character's death was ruined for me in this book because of Irving's signature phoning-in of plot points. This isn't a thriller, the book does not depend on surprises, but I'd still appreciate not being able to see certain things coming. As with all of Irving's novels, this one relies heavily on a strong ending. The middle of the book is a padded mess, detailing long stretches of time I didn't give a single shit about. These lengthy chapters are further rendered pointless when, later in the book, Irving skips ahead in time fifteen years. If he could skip fifteen years of a child's life and still make us care for the kid, why couldn't he find a better way of telling of Wally's time in Burma succinctly? What a clusterfuck of odd details that chapter was. And if Irving's able to skip fifteen years in the life, why drone on and on about the day to day life of orchard workers when, by the end of the book, none of it really matters? Why? Because Irving cares about what Irving cares about. These are, first and foremost, his books, and he will write them how he sees fit. He also know that, (again) by the end of the book, you won't give a shit about the bloated middle. By the time you flip that final page, you will be basking in the glow of an ending so well told that you will let slide all the times you were bored, even if that time was less than a hundred pages ago. Yes, the ending is that strong. Irving's endings always are. In summation: Nowhere near his best work, but much better than his debut novel, Setting Free the Bears. So far in my challenge, I've thought, "I will reread this book at some point in my life," but I will never reread this one. It was a chore just finishing it the first time. Recommended for Irving completionists and fans of apples and abortions. Final Judgment: Show up for the coming-of-age aspects that Irving does so well, and stay for Melony and Lorna's story.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lesley

    Incredible book. You can watch my review here - http://youtu.be/NINrIZE1Dco Incredible book. You can watch my review here - http://youtu.be/NINrIZE1Dco

  9. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte May

    This is a pretty hefty novel, but so worth it! It covers an expanse of characters' history - the main one being Homer, a young boy brought up in an orphanage his entire life. The orphanage is connected to a hospital where secret abortions are performed. Homer becomes assistant to Dr. Larch and learns the trade, before having a moral struggle, and chooses to leave the orphanage to live with a couple who have recently visited. He moves to their farm, where they grow apples to make cider and Homer's l This is a pretty hefty novel, but so worth it! It covers an expanse of characters' history - the main one being Homer, a young boy brought up in an orphanage his entire life. The orphanage is connected to a hospital where secret abortions are performed. Homer becomes assistant to Dr. Larch and learns the trade, before having a moral struggle, and chooses to leave the orphanage to live with a couple who have recently visited. He moves to their farm, where they grow apples to make cider and Homer's life changes for ever. I love this novel, it is one of my favourites and put Irving's books at the top of my list. Anyone who has an interest in American history and in depth character studies - go for it, you won't be disappointed!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I was actually really surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I am VERY Pro-Life and was very skeptical before about picking it up...although I love John Irving as an author. He is excellent at character development and his stories are so multifaceted that you are never disappointed. This is certainly true here in this novel. My surprisingly favorite character was Melony. She was hauntingly creepy, pathetically adorable and demanding of your attention although not a primary character. I loved I was actually really surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I am VERY Pro-Life and was very skeptical before about picking it up...although I love John Irving as an author. He is excellent at character development and his stories are so multifaceted that you are never disappointed. This is certainly true here in this novel. My surprisingly favorite character was Melony. She was hauntingly creepy, pathetically adorable and demanding of your attention although not a primary character. I loved how Irving intertwined her story into the theme of the book. There was a parallel running between Dr. Larch and Homer that Irving carved brilliantly. Although somewhat expected, the ending was tragic and sad. I found myself torn with my own personal feelings about the love triangle of Wally, Candy and Homer. One always wants the orphan to find his/her riches or personal happiness. This novel reminds us that sometimes even the underdog doesn't win although he plays a damn good game. All in all, this was a wonderful read. Hats off to Irving once again for a rich and delectable story...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    I started the Cider House Rules after giving up on 3 novels that just couldn't hold my attention. John Irving will certainly make you love reading again. The Cider House Rules is once again a novel rich with characters so real you forget this is fiction and you care about what happens to them. Why can I only say that about a mere handful of writers? This is a novel about abortion in the 1940s. The dilemmas of abortion are obvious, and this novel does lean towards pro-choice. I think pro-lifers woul I started the Cider House Rules after giving up on 3 novels that just couldn't hold my attention. John Irving will certainly make you love reading again. The Cider House Rules is once again a novel rich with characters so real you forget this is fiction and you care about what happens to them. Why can I only say that about a mere handful of writers? This is a novel about abortion in the 1940s. The dilemmas of abortion are obvious, and this novel does lean towards pro-choice. I think pro-lifers would be well advised to save themselves the ordeal, but that really is too bad since they would miss out on a wonderful read. John Irving is a master writing about the human condition, and given the setting of an orphanage, unwanted children, an elderly ether-addicted doctor, this is every bit as great as you would expect it to be. If you find yourself in the same place I was, where you just can't seem find interest in reading anymore, pick this one up and get to know some wonderful (and not so wonderful) people.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cody | CodysBookshelf

    By now, every person I associate with on a regular basis knows how big a John Irving fan I am. It’s no secret that I think he is, arguably, the greatest living writer (with respect to Thomas Pynchon, Joyce Carol Oates, Toni Morrison, etc), and he has penned a number of modern American classics. I had read all the works from his “classic” period, except for one. The Cider House Rules. It was time to get rid of this blindspot. I spent almost a week within the pages of this long novel. I spent a lot By now, every person I associate with on a regular basis knows how big a John Irving fan I am. It’s no secret that I think he is, arguably, the greatest living writer (with respect to Thomas Pynchon, Joyce Carol Oates, Toni Morrison, etc), and he has penned a number of modern American classics. I had read all the works from his “classic” period, except for one. The Cider House Rules. It was time to get rid of this blindspot. I spent almost a week within the pages of this long novel. I spent a lot of time trudging the halls of St. Cloud’s orphanage with Doctor Larch and the nurses; my hands feel almost calloused from the months and years (or so it felt, at times) picking apples at the Ocean View orchard, with Homer and Angel and the migrants. Irving’s 1985 release almost totally took me back to the time he writes about: the first half of the twentieth century, in rural Maine country. The sense of setting perfectly evoked, able to swallow almost any reader. Like every Irving novel, this is not a quick read. It unspools slowly — and Cider House seems to unspool even slower than this author’s other works; maybe it’s the long chapters — and forces the reader to have patience. All is worth it in the end. I want to reread this book, or at least read about a world similar to this one. Maybe I’ll pick up another Dickens. My heart is left aching, knowing I’ve just experienced another modern classic as penned by John Irving. ”It’s natural to want someone you love to do what you want, or what you think would be good for them, but you have to let everything happen to them. You can't interfere with people you love any more than you're supposed to interfere with people you don't even know. And that's hard, because you often feel like interfering—you want to be the one who makes the plans.”

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    In our daily live we’re constantly confronted with rules, conventions, and arrangements; a lot of them are formal (laws or coded regulations), but most are informal. It is a very important part of a process of growing up to get to know these rules and learn to cope with them. It is also a never ending job, because the rules constantly change, as there is a lot of contradiction between them, but especially as people tend to disregard the rules and live their own lives. Even more, it is almost imp In our daily live we’re constantly confronted with rules, conventions, and arrangements; a lot of them are formal (laws or coded regulations), but most are informal. It is a very important part of a process of growing up to get to know these rules and learn to cope with them. It is also a never ending job, because the rules constantly change, as there is a lot of contradiction between them, but especially as people tend to disregard the rules and live their own lives. Even more, it is almost impossible not to break or “bend" any rule, and sometimes a life is built upon the decision to deliberately go against the rules. In essence, this is what this novel is about. ‘The rules of the cider house’ are the admonitions that are listed on a paper, in the house of the black pickers in an apple-orchard in the American state Maine. The illiterate men do not understand the list, but follow their own set of rules and cope with their difficult situation; for example: “a little violence between them is acceptable, but not so much that authorities have to come in”. It takes a while for the main character of the novel, Homer Wells, to become aware of this situation. Homer grew up in an orphanage, run by the stubborn and unruly doctor Larch. Larch is specialized in deliveries and abortions, combining this “Work of the Lord” with a growing ether-addiction. He trains his favorite orphan Homer to do deliveries and he becomes a surrogate father for him; though Homer refuses to do abortions because for him fetuses have souls, he does not contest the right of women to a free choice; in other words, he’s wrestling with the rules and making his own choices. After some twists and turns Homer ends up in the Maine orchard, gets entangled in a kind of love triangle and as a result has a son; in these human relations also there’s a lot of wrestling with the rules (although here Homer prefers to “wait and see”). But in the end, Homer succeeds in making his own choices, developing his own rules. I had some trouble getting through the first third of the novel because Irving only very slowly puts the pieces of the puzzle on the table, but after that moment the story and the main characters captivate you and never let you go. I was happy that the classic Irving-ingredients (bears and other circus-elements, sudden events that change the whole setting) were not included; only the iconic doctor Larch and the violent orphan Melony introduce some absurd-hilaric elements. In this sense, this novel is far more homogeneous than Irvings other books; and consequently, this gives the message (about the rules) more power. A special note deserves Irvings militant view on the question of abortion: the author does not conceal his pro-choice-stand, although he describes the medical interventions with such detail, which could shock some readers. But, even here he leaves room for other points of view. On top of that there is the ever present wisdom, the very mild, tolerant way to judge people’s actions, the comical situations… Typical Irving, I guess. I really loved to read this novel.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Skip Green

    I really can't stand John Irving's style of writing. This was a six hundred page novel that should have been three hundred. Also, I found it to be a little heavy-handed. He admits that it is deliberately didactic, but I think he pushes it the the point that it starts working against him. Any character opposing his ideals is put up as a two-dimensional straw man that he villainizes and knocks down, which doesn't help convince anyone of his views. I was surprised to learn that he wrote the screenp I really can't stand John Irving's style of writing. This was a six hundred page novel that should have been three hundred. Also, I found it to be a little heavy-handed. He admits that it is deliberately didactic, but I think he pushes it the the point that it starts working against him. Any character opposing his ideals is put up as a two-dimensional straw man that he villainizes and knocks down, which doesn't help convince anyone of his views. I was surprised to learn that he wrote the screenplay for the film, which I thought was excellent. If he had employed half the discretion or subtley in the novel that he did in the film it would be a great book. As it is I found it tedious and self-indulgent.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dianne

    this may be my favourite john irving book. i like his deceivingly lighthearted style, and the deadpan humour he gives his characters. the cider house rules in particular seems more real than the others, the orphanage and apple orchards seem more tangible, the emotions less idiosyncratic and the characters more human. the direct issue here is abortion. the medical procedures to, the right to, the choice to...it's enough to make me want to cross my legs to prevent any traffic in or out. the less dir this may be my favourite john irving book. i like his deceivingly lighthearted style, and the deadpan humour he gives his characters. the cider house rules in particular seems more real than the others, the orphanage and apple orchards seem more tangible, the emotions less idiosyncratic and the characters more human. the direct issue here is abortion. the medical procedures to, the right to, the choice to...it's enough to make me want to cross my legs to prevent any traffic in or out. the less direct issue is the idea of rules. the title refers to a list of regulations posted in the cider house (where they make cider) of an apple orchard. general things like keeping the place clean, no operating heavy machinery when intoxicated, etc. it later turns out that most of the labourers can't read, rendering the rules useless. likewise, the protagonist homer welles (played by tobey maguire in the movie) has a crush on his best friend's fiancee, the director of the orphanage is pro-abortion despite its illegal status, homer's dilemma whether to follow the director's dream for him to become a obstetrician (and fellow abortionist), the town's underlying racism, homer's white son's attraction to a female labourer, all these (and more that would clearly give the game away if i were to list them) dance around societal rules that are much less clearly defined. it's all very wittily written, disguising the very disquieting, severe themes. i wonder why they decided to make a movie out of it. i'm all for seeing tobey maguire play charmingly awkward characters, but the movie falls far short of the complex web of events and relationships of the book. why bother if that's the case?

  16. 4 out of 5

    dely

    The book started really very well. I liked the first part, I had also a lot of laugh-out-loud moments and I was curious to see what would happen next. I was totally in the story and also liked the characters, they were all so particular and eccentric. But going on with the reading I get bored by the story and, above all, by the characters. These never changed, they always said the same things and behaved the same way. It is as if they didn't have a development: they were the same from the beginn The book started really very well. I liked the first part, I had also a lot of laugh-out-loud moments and I was curious to see what would happen next. I was totally in the story and also liked the characters, they were all so particular and eccentric. But going on with the reading I get bored by the story and, above all, by the characters. These never changed, they always said the same things and behaved the same way. It is as if they didn't have a development: they were the same from the beginning of the book till the end, at least 30 years later. Also, from the second part of the story every event and every behaviour of the characters was predictable. I already could foresee what would happen and what they would have done. Maybe the only character that had a small change in her personality and that surprised me was Melony. I arrived at the end of the book that I had enough of the characters and their lives.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cathy DuPont

    Fortunately all readers all the time do not like the same book. (Just finished a book of the bestsellers the past century and publishers do not favor that opinion.) Tastes and opinions differ which, of course, is a good thing. There are a handful of books though which I simply love because of the way the author uses the English language and/or the story itself and how it unfolds. Other times there's just that "indescribable something" which makes me love a book. This book which made the bestsell Fortunately all readers all the time do not like the same book. (Just finished a book of the bestsellers the past century and publishers do not favor that opinion.) Tastes and opinions differ which, of course, is a good thing. There are a handful of books though which I simply love because of the way the author uses the English language and/or the story itself and how it unfolds. Other times there's just that "indescribable something" which makes me love a book. This book which made the bestseller list in 1985, has all those reasons and some of which are simply undefinable to me. There are many social issues John Irving bravely writes about in a way to allow us, his readers, discuss how we feel about the world around us. At times Cider House Rules spells those issues out like a big slap in the face. Issues which allow readers to discuss openly the rights and/or wrongs in living our lives. Societal issues are brought to the forefront as they reflect the happenings within these families: issues such as race, incest, sexual orientation, adoption and abortion during the period when it was completely illegal;* and when many women performed self abortions with wire hangers and numerous other dangerous methods. These issues surely included how they were affected by the "haves" and the "have nots." There are rules to live by but not all the rules are for all the same people. *NOTE: (In my opinion, it's almost illegal now with the number of U. S. state legislatures making laws which prohibit the safe legal procedure so unattainable that it is gradually becoming more and more difficult (especially for the poorest of our society) to obtain the lawful procedure of abortion.) I determined many years ago that women, as difficult a decision as it is, will self abort a fetus or have an abortion safely according to the law. And unfortunately men the majority of whom make these laws, are not the ones which are mostly affected by the laws; i.e. the majority of men do not raise children from birth to adulthood. If I made a list (I'm into lists these days) of the top 10 books I love and admire, this book would be one of the 10. John Irving is a courageous man to bring together so many social problems in America and leave our citizens (through our lawmakers) to make those difficult decisions. After reading this book which took about four days, I thought of the issues brought up by John Irving and his character Homer Wells for days on end. And thought about what to say here for days on end. It's taken three months and I still think about this book. It had a deep and lasting effect on me, one which will be with me for years to come. My only regret is I didn't read it in 1985.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chloe

    I've always struggled with Irving and Cider House Rules is no exception. It's not that Irving is a poor writer, no one can argue that. His characters are always fully-fleshed and alive on the page and each sentence drips with so much detail that you think you're going to get splinters when Homer and Melony are messing around in the abandoned millworker's dorm. I just think that most of the time when I put the book down I feel like I've read the equivalent of cotton candy: really pretty but not m I've always struggled with Irving and Cider House Rules is no exception. It's not that Irving is a poor writer, no one can argue that. His characters are always fully-fleshed and alive on the page and each sentence drips with so much detail that you think you're going to get splinters when Homer and Melony are messing around in the abandoned millworker's dorm. I just think that most of the time when I put the book down I feel like I've read the equivalent of cotton candy: really pretty but not much substance as far as plot is concerned. Another aspect of Irving's writing is his tendency to deliver sentences in blanket pronunciations (i.e.- "An orphan is a child, forever; an orphan detests change; an orphan hates to move; an orphan loves routine"). Far too often they seem like shallow blanket judgments used to convey a character trait but which instead seem to make Irving's characters seem like cardboard cutouts. What Cider House Rules does provide is a very even-handed look at the pro-choice vs. "pro-life" debate. Told from the point of view of Dr. Wilbur Larch, who came into his own while working in Boston's South End, abortion seems like a necessary option to those who would seek one from any potential provider, no matter how unqualified or injurious. In Larch's view it's far better that women get an abortion from a trained and caring provider than a backroom butcher with no compassion for the patient. Contrasting this view is the book's hero, Homer Wells, an orphan who has never experienced the results of a botched abortion and, from his perspective as an orphan, tends to view aborted fetuses as playmates that just never were. Through Homer and Larch's conflict regarding abortion, Irving manages to shine an insightful light on a subject which has pulled hard at America's edges for as long as the nation has been extant. All in all, I think I enjoyed Cider House Rules. Sure, there were definitely moments when I wondered whether Irving was as lost in the story as Dr. Larch was lost in an ether dream, but the moment I closed the book for the final time it took hold of my imagination and left me thinking for quite a while after. By any measure that should be a sign of a good read. Finally, I feel the need to mention the following quote which grabbed me early in the novel: "Dr. Larch pointed out that Melony had taken Jane Eyre with her; he accepted this as a hopeful sign- wherever Melony went, she would not be without guidance, she would not be without love, without faith; she had a good book with her. If only she'll keep reading it, and reading it, Larch thought."

  19. 4 out of 5

    Book Concierge

    Digital audiobook performed by Grover Gardner From the book jacket: Irving’s sixth novel is set in rural Maine, in the first half of the 20th century. It tells the story of Dr Wilbur Larch – saint and obstetrician, founder and director of the orphanage in the town of St Cloud’s, ether addict and abortionist. It is also the story of Dr Larch’s favorite orphan, Homer Wells, who is never adopted. My reactions I love Irving’s writing, and don’t know why this one languished on my TBR for so long. I saw Digital audiobook performed by Grover Gardner From the book jacket: Irving’s sixth novel is set in rural Maine, in the first half of the 20th century. It tells the story of Dr Wilbur Larch – saint and obstetrician, founder and director of the orphanage in the town of St Cloud’s, ether addict and abortionist. It is also the story of Dr Larch’s favorite orphan, Homer Wells, who is never adopted. My reactions I love Irving’s writing, and don’t know why this one languished on my TBR for so long. I saw the movie back when it first came out (1999), but never read the book. The movie left out a lot and compressed the timeline. The span of the novel is about 70 years, taking Dr Larch from a young man to his death in his 90s. Much changes in the world, and yet his little corner of the world sees little difference. Pregnant women come to give birth, their children coming into the care of the orphanage, with every effort made to place them in loving families. Other women come seeking an end to their pregnancies, and Dr Larch accommodates them with compassion and skill. What I really like about the novel is how the characters are portrayed. The reader gets a clear idea of how Dr Larch came to his decision to perform abortions, the social and moral responsibility he felt he owed the women (and girls) who came to him for help. The reader also clearly understands why Homer makes a different decision, how he struggles to love this man who is like a father to him, once he makes that decision. And the reader watches the painful separation that all parents face when they send their offspring out into the world to make their own way. How a parent’s hopes and dreams may not always be embraced by that child. Grover Gardner does a fine job narrating the audiobook. He sets a good pace and manages to differentiate the many characters.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke" In what many consider John Irving's masterwork, we're asked to consider abortion and the rights of society in imposing laws on its citizens. Even the title, The Cider House Rules is an allusion to this idea of rules and the authority to impose them. The Cider House Rules were posted by well intentioned people who didn't live in the cider house and who didn't really understand what life there was like The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke" In what many consider John Irving's masterwork, we're asked to consider abortion and the rights of society in imposing laws on its citizens. Even the title, The Cider House Rules is an allusion to this idea of rules and the authority to impose them. The Cider House Rules were posted by well intentioned people who didn't live in the cider house and who didn't really understand what life there was like. It's also unclear just exactly what gives them the authority to impose and/or enforce them. One of the nurses working with "Saint Larch" sums it up rather well at one point..."It's because even a good man can't always be right, that we need ... rules.” Even if it were not for these important themes, this is a worthwhile read. The characters are charming, and even the villains are understandable, and for the most part forgivable. The storytelling is first rate, engaging and entertaining. There are even some comedic moments that are overwhelmingly ironic and at the same time laugh out loud funny. And as to the movie version... Irving did the screen adaptation himself. He made it gentler and more endearing, and though he eliminated several interesting characters to make a simpler, movie friendly plot, I've seen the movie (before and after reading the book) and it's still eminently watchable. It doesn't feel like it's missing anything too critical. I'm sure that the cameo by Irving as the stationmaster is a salute to one of the characters who was cut though I felt sorrier to see no hint of Melony. However, a book can be more detailed and darker than a movie without losing its audience, and given that the film won Irving an Oscar for best screenplay, apparently the movie community agrees that this adaptation was well done. John Irving has been called the American Dickens and it's probably because of that that so many Dickens titles were featured in this story but they worked quite well and the quotes that were pulled added to the overall effect quite well. No matter what your stand on abortion, whether you're pro-life or pro-choice, I'm sure that if you read "the Cider House Rules" you'll be pro-Irving.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dem

    I had been recommended this book numerouse times by friends and when I read it I realised its actually one of those books that I wish I had not finished and given up halfway. This was the first Irving novel that I have read and it will be the last as I found this novel totally overwritten and boring, I did not like and feel anything for any of the characters and the reason I did finish the book I wanted to find the reason that this book is such a big hit, sadly I didn't and therefore only a 2 st I had been recommended this book numerouse times by friends and when I read it I realised its actually one of those books that I wish I had not finished and given up halfway. This was the first Irving novel that I have read and it will be the last as I found this novel totally overwritten and boring, I did not like and feel anything for any of the characters and the reason I did finish the book I wanted to find the reason that this book is such a big hit, sadly I didn't and therefore only a 2 star read for me.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Fee

    I don't know how Irving does it. Again, in this book nothing spectacular happens. We just follow some very human characters in their everyday lives, with all its ups and downs, with its beautiful sides as well as its sad ones. But I just loved to read this, mainly because I cared for the characters. Most of them are so kind and warm, they have so lovable quirks and their passion sometimes leads them to make stupid mistakes. It's easy to connect with them and in my opinion, that is the particular I don't know how Irving does it. Again, in this book nothing spectacular happens. We just follow some very human characters in their everyday lives, with all its ups and downs, with its beautiful sides as well as its sad ones. But I just loved to read this, mainly because I cared for the characters. Most of them are so kind and warm, they have so lovable quirks and their passion sometimes leads them to make stupid mistakes. It's easy to connect with them and in my opinion, that is the particular beauty of this story.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    I finally finished The Cider House Rules this morning; I've been working on it since mid-August. Usually if I take that long to read a book it's because the book isn't very good, I've gotten bored with it, or the writing is hard to comprehend. None of those things are true of The Cider House Rules. Instead I found the book to be wonderfully written with rich and complex characters (not to mention a moving and controversial storyline). I think the main reason I took so long to finish it (aside fr I finally finished The Cider House Rules this morning; I've been working on it since mid-August. Usually if I take that long to read a book it's because the book isn't very good, I've gotten bored with it, or the writing is hard to comprehend. None of those things are true of The Cider House Rules. Instead I found the book to be wonderfully written with rich and complex characters (not to mention a moving and controversial storyline). I think the main reason I took so long to finish it (aside from the usual business of work and school and whatever else), was its grand scale. It's a fairly hefty book that follows one character throughout most of his life, from birth until middle age. The book centers around St. Cloud's, an orphanage in Maine where the resident obstetrician, Dr. Larch, not only delivers babies but performs abortions as well. Homer Wells, the book's protagonist, is an orphan born at the establishment. Despite three attempts at being adopted, he somehow always ends up back at St. Cloud's, and considers the place to be his true home. Larch, deciding that Homer should be "of use" if he is to stay at the orphanage, begins training Homer in obstetrical procedure. By the time Homer is in his late teens, he is a skilled obstetrician. I won't detail the rest of the events in the book, but the story follows Homer until middle age, when he eventually replaces Dr. Larch at the orphanage. The book has a definite pro-choice slant, however, I didn't feel as though it had a strong political agenda. That's what I love about good fiction: it tells the story of a few people's unique experiences in life, no matter what those experiences might be. Homer's unique experience, among other things, had to do with the moral problem of abortion. So agree or disagree with the issue as you will; it doesn't change that the book itself was moving and beautiful. I would even venture to say that it was less about abortion and more about one man's journey through life to find out what his purpose is. In some ways I feel that although reading is a solitary act, it has prepared me to be a worldly person. When we take controversial issues like abortion and put them in a novel; when we read about characters who seem as foreign to us as a martian and yet could live in our same city; when we look through the eyes of someone else as if they were our own, what we are essentially doing is humanizing something. All too often we read about things from an objective, divorced point of view. It's supposed to help us make decisions. It's supposed to help us be rational. But dehumanizing something is how people have made some of the most inhumane and gruesome decisions in history. Fiction is an excellent way to make people not only consider an issue from both sides, but to feel for both sides as well; to create acceptance. To me, that kind of writing is more powerful than anything else will ever be. And that's what I feel like I've found in The Cider House Rules. Is it trying to change anyone's mind? Not necessarily. But through its humanity it just might.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Negin

    I really, really wanted to like this book, and I thought it was very good initially, but the more I read, the less I liked it. Unlike many others, the subject matter (abortion) didn’t bother me at all. What bothered me was an overall lack of connection with the characters and the fact that I honestly felt that this more than 600 page book was never going to end! I think that he could have written this in 300 pages or less. I found myself frequently checking to see how much there was left to read I really, really wanted to like this book, and I thought it was very good initially, but the more I read, the less I liked it. Unlike many others, the subject matter (abortion) didn’t bother me at all. What bothered me was an overall lack of connection with the characters and the fact that I honestly felt that this more than 600 page book was never going to end! I think that he could have written this in 300 pages or less. I found myself frequently checking to see how much there was left to read. One thing that annoys me quite a bit with Irving is his obsession with weight, specifically, with regards to women and weight. It seems to be a major issue with him. I don’t like that sort of crap at all. Many years ago, I read a terrible book by him, “The 158-Pound Marriage”, named after one of the characters who weighed the “dreaded” 158-pounds. How could she?! Quelle horreur! To be that obese! The story line for that one was the absolute worst – about two couples who swapped partners, swingers basically. I’m giving it two stars, because I feel a wee bit generous and because I have to be honest in that I liked it at first.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

    What I love about John Irving's novels is how they chronicle ordinary people living mostly ordinary lives, but somehow manage to come off as great, sweeping epics. I don't know how he does it - The Cider House Rules contains no epic journeys, no great battles, no romances for the ages, and no heroes. It's an ordinary story, but Irving's writing makes it seem just as incredible and important as The Odyssey. Maybe it's the time span - the book covers a period of over 50 years, and centers on two c What I love about John Irving's novels is how they chronicle ordinary people living mostly ordinary lives, but somehow manage to come off as great, sweeping epics. I don't know how he does it - The Cider House Rules contains no epic journeys, no great battles, no romances for the ages, and no heroes. It's an ordinary story, but Irving's writing makes it seem just as incredible and important as The Odyssey. Maybe it's the time span - the book covers a period of over 50 years, and centers on two central characters. They are Dr. Wilbur Larch, who performs illegal abortions at the St. Cloud's orphanage, which he runs; and Homer Wells, the orphan who is never adopted. Dr. Larch delivers babies who are to be left at the orphanage, and performs abortions on the women who request them. As Homer grows up, Dr. Larch teaches him to deliver babies and perform abortions, planning to make Homer his successor. Instead, Homer leaves the orphanage and goes to live and work on an apple farm. A lot happens. Most of it isn't very happy, some is disgusting, and some of it is beautiful. Since the issue of abortion is a big part of the story, there's a lot of time devoted to arguing each side of the debate. Although Irving is pretty plainly pro-choice, there's ample evidence within the book to support a pro-life stance as well. For instance, the moment when Homer Wells decides that he won't perform abortions: "In eight weeks, though still not quick, the fetus has a nose and a mouth; it has an expression, thought Homer Wells. And with this discovery - that a fetus, as early as eight weeks, has an expression - Homer Wells felt in the presence of what others call a soul. ...You can call it a fetus, or an embryo, or the products of conception, thought Homer Wells, but whatever you call it, it's alive. And whatever you do to it, Homer thought - and whatever you call what you do - you're killing it." I find it very interesting that Homer Wells reaches his decision not to perform abortions by looking at a fetus. Dr. Larch, on the other hand, decides to perform abortions by looking at a mother. A young girl dies because he won't perform an abortion on her; later, he agrees to do the procedure on another underage girl and saves her. "By the time he got back to Portland, he had worked the matter out. He was an obstetrician; he delivered babies into the world. His colleagues called it 'the Lord's work.' And he was an abortionist; he delivered mothers, too. His colleagues called this 'the Devil's work,' but it was all the Lord's work to Wilbur Larch. ...He could quite comfortably abstain from having sex for the rest of his life, but how could he ever condemn another person for having sex? He would remember, too, what he hadn't done for Mrs. Eames's daughter, and what that had cost. He would deliver babies. He would deliver mothers, too." It's heavy stuff. There's also a lot of really detailed, anatomical descriptions of the process of delivery and abortion, and the squeamish should be forewarned: if you can't handle the following passage, give this book a pass: "'I have made this observation about the wall of the uterus,' Dr. Larch told the ghostly young man. 'It is a good, hard, muscular wall, and when you've scraped it clean, it responds with a gritty sound. That's how you know when you've got all of it - all the products of conception. You just listen for the gritty sound.' He scraped some more. 'Can you hear it?'" On a lighter note, the book also contains a frankly delightful selection of dirty limericks, and to end this downer review on a funny note, I'll share one. Send the kids to bed and enjoy, folks: "Oh pity the Duchess of Kent! Her cunt is so dreadfully bent, The poor wench doth stammer, 'I need a sledgehammer To pound a man into my vent.'" Aw yeah. Keepin' it classy.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    I was all over the place with this book. I think every star was represented. But all things considered, I think three stars is all it was for me. The beginning was the worst part. The author seemed to have a pubescent obsession with a certain piece of male anatomy. This word was so overused in the first 20% of the book that I started keeping track and even before I hit the 20% mark, I had lost count. I am not exaggerating. He continued to use this word throughout the whole entire book,(causing m I was all over the place with this book. I think every star was represented. But all things considered, I think three stars is all it was for me. The beginning was the worst part. The author seemed to have a pubescent obsession with a certain piece of male anatomy. This word was so overused in the first 20% of the book that I started keeping track and even before I hit the 20% mark, I had lost count. I am not exaggerating. He continued to use this word throughout the whole entire book,(causing much eye rolling) but thankfully he did so without the zest used in the beginning. I started this book yesterday, and when I put it down, I could not fathom why on earth anyone would turn this into a movie. No doubt, the writing of John Irving was absolutely beautiful. His descriptive style was rich and detailed. I just wish he used his talent to describe some good things, but this was truly a most depressing book. Nothing good happens. It is sadness followed by more sadness. There are very few books that I can actually walk away from, and since I was half way home with this book, I continued reading the next day. As far as the characters go, they were very well drawn. John Irving brought them to life in such a vivid way. I liked Homer and Wilbur and the nurses at the hospital. By the middle I was hooked, mostly because of the characters and their development. I loved the writing style. That part was a definite 5 stars for me. But I can't say I liked the story nearly as much.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Katerina

    I think it's probably the best book about kindness I have read. It's about people so truly kind, so very gentle (not to be confused with humble), that you amazingly feel like a better person yourself. It kinda gives you hope in humanity. The book portrays the world that is definitely not a very good place: it's cruel, it's lonesome, it's messy, bloody, and unjust, and you have no right to choose, and you have very few opportunities, and everyone is either an orphan or a deeply unlucky man, but in I think it's probably the best book about kindness I have read. It's about people so truly kind, so very gentle (not to be confused with humble), that you amazingly feel like a better person yourself. It kinda gives you hope in humanity. The book portrays the world that is definitely not a very good place: it's cruel, it's lonesome, it's messy, bloody, and unjust, and you have no right to choose, and you have very few opportunities, and everyone is either an orphan or a deeply unlucky man, but in this stupid, unfair world kind, self-effacing people like Dr Larch and Homer Wells somehow manage to bring glory. The most honorable thing about their self-sacrifice is that it feels completely natural. Seems like they're just doing their duty, and they stay where they are simply because they belong there (this feeling of belonging in the book is outstanding.) This is a book about those incredible people who serve the mankind, without remorse or resentment, with dignity and love, lots of love. And no, despite this noble message, it's not like the Bible: there are some pretty gruesome details and extremely naturalistic descriptions which could make a lady faint, but it's witty and extremely readable, and rereadable, and giveable to all your friends. Highly recommended.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Rating: 5* of five My very favorite John Irving book is a $1.99 Kindle Daily Deal today. So very worth the tiny cost. Rating: 5* of five My very favorite John Irving book is a $1.99 Kindle Daily Deal today. So very worth the tiny cost.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Richards

    I did enjoy this story but found myself bored at times; it's too long!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    I love John Irving but stayed away from this work for years because of the "abortion" issue. I didn't want to be preached to, (in principle I am against abortion) and I foolishly underestimated Irving's ability to create a complete work, one in which "abortion" was a small part. This is one of his finest works and I recommend it without reservation. Irving forces the reader to view the world from many angles and does it with his usual excellence in creating characters with depth and a plot that I love John Irving but stayed away from this work for years because of the "abortion" issue. I didn't want to be preached to, (in principle I am against abortion) and I foolishly underestimated Irving's ability to create a complete work, one in which "abortion" was a small part. This is one of his finest works and I recommend it without reservation. Irving forces the reader to view the world from many angles and does it with his usual excellence in creating characters with depth and a plot that keeps you engaged page after page.

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