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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 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 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 upalthough 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 upalthough 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 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 hardin depthly andseriously 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 aadamant 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 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 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