The World According to Garp by John Irving

I’m still trying to finish my Reading the Alphabet Challenge for this year, although it’s looking less and less likely that will actually happen. I do have all the books planned out to finish the letters I need. This fills in an I author. I pulled it off the BBC’s The Big Read list that I’m working my way through.

Published: 1978

Genre: literary fiction

Length: 688 pages (long books like this don’t help me finish my challenges – what was I thinking!)

Setting: mostly New Hampshire, 1940s-1970s

Summary: We follow the life of Jenny Fields and, once he reaches adulthood, her son, T.S. Garp, known to everyone just as Garp. Jenny was a nurse during WWII who wanted a child, but not a husband. She managed to get what she wanted, and moved to work at an all-boys school while Garp grew up. When he was old enough, Garp went to school there. He wanted to be a writer, but was a pretty good wrestler during high school. He fell in love with the wrestling coach’s daughter and wooed her with his writing. They married, had three kids together, and a variety of affairs. A stupid accident killed their son, Walt, and injured the other members of the family. They went to live with Jenny to recuperate and learn how to be a family again. Just as Garp is getting his life together and starting to write again, he is shot and killed.

Final thoughts: This was a pretty good book. Not much happens, so your enjoyment comes down to whether or not you’re invested in the characters and enjoying the author’s writing style. I was drawn into the book from the start. We see Garp’s development as a writer, and it isn’t a linear track. He starts and stops, has good books and popular books (which aren’t the same). He tries to be a good father and husband, even if he does slip with some babysitters. The sexual relationships in the novel did reflect the 70s mindset of lots of sex with anyone you can manage, perhaps even with your spouse’s approval.

The novel is a bit of a feminist story, since Jenny didn’t follow the traditional patterns to have a child. As a bonus, there is a trans women who was a strong supporting character. I loved whenever she showed up on the page. Overall, the story felt very lifelike. The things important to Garp weren’t necessarily monumental events, but they still had an impact on his life and his family.

I just have to add how silly Garp’s name is. I would totally hate if I had to go through life named Garp – it’s so harsh and short.

Awards won: National Book Award in 1980

Title comes from: It was a phrase used every once in a while. The book did focus on Garp’s life and he was a writer, so he looked at the world in a distinct manner.

Reading challenges fulfilled: #91 in my Maybe 100 This Year Challenge, and an I in my Author Reading the Alphabet Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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