Typical of John Irving, this is a long book, with great characterizations. It was published in 1998 and was the ninth novel written by Irving. The novel begins in the summer of 1958, with four year old Ruth Cole. Ruth is the youngest of three children; however her two older brothers had died and the house was enshrined with photographs of the boys. Each photograph was a separate story. And the boy's death was the mother's story:
"The grief over lost children never dies; it is a grief that relents only a little. And then only after a long while."
That summer, a young man, Eddie, had been hired to be an assistant to Ruth's father, who was a writer. Eddie was a sixteen year old aspiring writer, who ended up doing more that summer than assisting Ruth's father. Ruth's parents, Marion and Ted, were separated and living apart, so Eddie took on much of Ruth's care. He also became Marion's lover.
The novel is told in three parts...the summer of 1958, the fall of 1990 and the autumn of 1995. It is the story of Ruth and goes through the lives of Ruth, Eddie, Marion and Ted. Interestingly, all four main characters are writers. The stories of each of their lives is interesting, intertwined and somewhat tragic. It kept my interest through-out and now I feel the need to not only read those Irving novels that I have not read, but re-read the ones that I have. Should make for a good winter of reading!
Marietta "Missy" Greer grew up in the backwoods of Kentucky determined to finish high school (without getting pregnant) and leaving the poverty behind. She did graduate and got a job. She worked for five years, saving up what money she could. When Missy had enough money she bought an old beat-up VW bug. And as soon as she showed up home with it, her mother knew that Missy would be leaving. Missy wanted to go out west and find her future, so her mother taught her what she knew of maintaining the car (like changing tires) and Missy left. To begin her new life, Missy decided to change her first name. She couldn't decide what to call herself so she began considering names of towns as she drove through them. Eventually, she decided upon "Taylor" after a town called Taylorville. Missy didn't know where she was headed, just thought that she would know it when she got there, or until her car wouldn't go any further.
And that's how the story goes...Taylor kind of falls into situations as they arise and lives her life accordingly. One of the biggest situations was that as she headed west, she stopped and had an young child thrust upon her.
Taylor and Turtle (the name she chose for the child) landed in Tuscon Arizona, and began their new life. As they drove into Tuscon, a tire blew on Taylor's car, and she ended up at a tire store. The store was called Jesus is Lord Used Tires and it was run by an older woman named Mattie. Taylor had no money for tires, but she and Mattie began a friendship, and Mattie helped Taylor settle into Tuscon.
The rest of the book is about Taylor's resourcefulness as she and Turtle begin their new life. It is a story about hope, love and loyalty. And how friendships make all the difference in one's life.
Good book! I am especially impressed with it being her first novel!