The Last Chairlift
John Irving, one of the world’s greatest novelists, returns with his first novel in seven years—a ghost story, a love story, and a lifetime of sexual politics.
In Aspen, Colorado, in 1941, Rachel Brewster is a slalom skier at the National Downhill and Slalom Championships. Little Ray, as she is called, finishes nowhere near the podium, but she manages to get pregnant. Back home, in New England, Little Ray becomes a ski instructor.
Her son, Adam, grows up in a family that defies conventions and evades questions concerning the eventful past. Years later, looking for answers, Adam will go to Aspen. In the Hotel Jerome, where he was conceived, Adam will meet some ghosts; in The Last Chairlift, they aren’t the first or the last ghosts he sees.
John Irving has written some of the most acclaimed books of our time—among them, The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules. A visionary voice on the subject of sexual tolerance, Irving is a bard of alternative families. In The Last Chairlift, readers will once more be in his thrall.
This overblown and underplotted behemoth of a novel from Irving (The World According to Garp) follows the idiosyncratic journey to adulthood of Adam, an illegitimate child born and raised in New England who becomes a writer. The search for Adam's father's identity provides a thriller element, but it never generates much narrative momentum. Dickensian in scope, the book includes multiple story lines, notably the complex love life of Adam's lesbian mother, Little Ray, a ski instructor who marries a man who will identify as a woman. Nora, an outspoken lesbian cousin who's a victim of sexual violence, also plays a significant role. Along the way, Irving chronicles American society from the 1950s to roughly the present, focused on feminism and sexual intolerance. His enormous imagination, his storytelling gifts, and his intelligence are all on display, but this feels more like a coda to his career, if one with a still-resonant theme about family and the maternal relationship: "We're alone in the way we love our mothers, or in the way we don't." Irving's fans may love this, but it's not the place to start for anyone new to his work. Agents: Dean Cooke, Cooke McDermid, and Janet Turnbull, Turnbull Agency.
Thank you for one last novel.
There was a little bit of everything a fan would appreciate. The themes of acceptance, love, and nurturing come through along with ghosts. Not sure if the shotgun scene in Aspen was an homage to Dr. Thompson who lost his voice at the end in Woody Creek, but his heartfelt tribute to Mr. Vonnegut was appreciated along with the use of a spot lit semicolon. The great reveal of Rabi Karabekian is tough to beat as a swan song.
The only regret is that The Water Method Man was never made into a film. Where the Buffalo Roam and The World According to Garp came out in theaters at the same time and Bill Murray would have carried Fred ‘Bogus’ Trumper nicely. Thank you from a very appreciative reader.
The Last Chairlift
I almost put this book down after a few pages. My initial impressions was that it was a bit too much, been there; done that.
However, it being John Irving and having read many of his other works I gave it a few more pages, then a few more, and a few more.
Soon I was pulled into the world and family, perhaps predictably slightly dysfunctional yet endearing in almost every way. “The Last Chairlift” is an invitation to the penultimate family event—I think. I’m trying to be clever, but “The Last Chairlift” is not about clever. It’s about family and connections and the ways it can sometimes all come together. Well worth every one of however many words there are contained in almost 900 pages.
Usually thoroughly enjoy the author’s work but found this one a real struggle. Prayer for Owen and Last Night are favorites. Couldn’t even finish this one.