Until I Find You: A Novel

Front Cover
Random House, 2005 - Fiction - 824 pages
Until I Find You is the story of the actor Jack Burns – his life, loves, celebrity and astonishing search for the truth about his parents.

When he is four years old, Jack travels with his mother Alice, a tattoo artist, to several North Sea ports in search of his father, William Burns. From Copenhagen to Amsterdam, William, a brilliant church organist and profligate womanizer, is always a step ahead – has always just departed in a wave of scandal, with a new tattoo somewhere on his body from a local master or “scratcher.”

Alice and Jack abandon their quest, and Jack is educated at schools in Canada and New England – including, tellingly, a girls' school in Toronto. His real education consists of his relationships with older women – from Emma Oastler, who initiates him into erotic life, to the girls of St. Hilda's, with whom he first appears on stage, to the abusive Mrs. Machado, whom he first meets when sent to learn wrestling at a local gym.

Too much happens in this expansive, eventful novel to possibly summarize it all. Emma and Jack move to Los Angeles, where Emma becomes a successful novelist and Jack a promising actor. A host of eccentric minor characters memorably come and go, including Jack's hilariously confused teacher the Wurtz; Michelle Maher, the girlfriend he will never forget; and a precocious child Jack finds in the back of an Audi in a restaurant parking lot. We learn about tattoo addiction and movie cross-dressing, “sleeping in the needles” and the cure for cauliflower ears. And John Irving renders his protagonist's unusual rise through Hollywood with the same vivid detail and range of emotions he gives to the organ music Jack hears as a child in European churches. This is an absorbing and moving book about obsession and loss, truth and storytelling, the signs we carry on us and inside us, the traces we can't get rid of.

Jack has always lived in the shadow of his absent father. But as he grows older – and when his mother dies – he starts to doubt the portrait of his father's character she painted for him when he was a child. This is the cue for a second journey around Europe in search of his father, from Edinburgh to Switzerland, towards a conclusion of great emotional force.

A melancholy tale of deception, Until I Find You is also a swaggering comic novel, a giant tapestry of life's hopes. It is a masterpiece to compare with John Irving's great novels, and restates the author's claim to be considered the most glorious, comic, moving novelist at work today.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - florasuncle - LibraryThing

The first two sections – 300-odd pages - were wonderful; classic Irving. The remaining 600 were rambling, flabby, repetitive and, in the case of the last section, plain preposterous. Embarrassing. I ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - jimrgill - LibraryThing

Beginnings are hard. Endings are harder. And in the case of “Until I Find You,” both the beginning and the ending are quite rocky. The middle of the book, however (and in a novel of more than 800 ... Read full review

Contents

In the Care of Churchgoers and Old Girls
3
Saved by the Littlest Soldier
17
Rescued by a Swedish Accountant
37
Copyright

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About the author (2005)

John Irving was born in New Hampshire. He studied at universities in America and Europe and published his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, at the age of twenty-six. The World According to Garp, published in 1978 to phenomenal acclaim, firmly established him as one of the most inventive and talented novelists in America.

During the 1980s John Irving wrote a series of absorbing and celebrated books: The Hotel New Hampshire, The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany. In these novels his originality and striking vision came brilliantly to the fore, along with his trademark subjects – as wide-ranging as feminism, religion, wrestling, sex and New England life.

More recent novels include the complex bestseller A Son of the Circus, the dark and funny novel A Widow for One Year and The Fourth Hand, a black comedy that was another popular success.

Several of John Irving's novels have been made into films, and in 2000 he was awarded an Oscar for the screenplay for The Cider House Rules. He described the difficult, decade-long journey from page to screen in My Movie Business. He is also the author of Trying to Save Piggy Sneed and The Imaginary Girlfriend, memoirs of writing and wrestling.

In 1992, John Irving was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2001, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Vermont and Toronto.

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