“In One Person” by John Irving

This novel is the life’s story of Bill Abbott, and his explorations of his bisexuality. It’s set up like a memoir – Abbott’s older self talking to us about his younger self. The narrator, (also) a writer, writes in a certain style much like Irving, so that gives a certain level of authenticity to the narrator’s voice. When he goes back and forth in time, Abbott seems to be recalling his actual memories to a reader’s audience.

The style immediately throws us into Abbot’s POV and brings us close to him. He’s incredibly educated and cheeky, but at times he was naïve and it’s fun to watch him stumble around, trying to find his path in life.

The characterizations in this novel were perfection.

Abbott’s Father was a mystery through much of the novel, and the narrator peeled back layers and layers of him like an onion. In the end I felt like Abbott’s father was even more like an onion, bringing acrid tears to my eyes.

Ms. Frost was Abbott’s first love. Again, Irving did an amazing job with the characterization and peeled back her layers as well. Unlike Abbott’s father, in the center Ms. Frost was complete perfection, caring and brilliant, and I saw her as the most pure person in the entire book. I wish I knew her in real life.

Gerry was a hilarious and uncouth lesbian. She was basically my soul mate in this story.

Jacques Kittredge was one of Bill’s school buddies. Kittredge was my favorite character in the entire novel.

The wrestler with the most beautiful body was named Kittredge. He had a hairless chest with absurdly well-defined pectoral muscles; those muscles were of an exaggerated, comic-book clarity. A thin line of dark-brown, almost-black hair ran from his navel to his pubes, and he had one of those cute penises […] inclined to curl against his right thigh.” – John Irving, In One Person

The novel is told in first person, and honestly we don’t get a lot of interaction between Kittredge and Abbott. What we do get is an incomplete picture of a troubled boy, who appears to be at the top of his game. Everyone loves or fears him. The mystery around this character was tantalizing to me, and even at the end of the novel, I felt like I never really knew Jacques Kittredge.

A lot of readers, and some authors, will tell you that readers want to know everything. But that’s a lie – they really don’t.

Kittredge was the most fascinating person in this story because we didn’t get the entire picture, but in every scene he was in, he had an astounding presence, mystery, and he was beautiful and perfect in his own way.

This wasn’t an easy read by any stretch of the imagination. Irving hit me in every soft spot over and over again. I was sobbing so hard. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t make a sound, but I felt my throat work, like I was trying to regurgitate my past pain and the demons inside of myself. He peeled me like an onion – showed me my ugly brown spots.

I wanted to put the book down and run away from his assault, but I couldn’t. I took it.

I think I’m still a little bruised.

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

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