Until I Find You by John Irving
A Novel

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Synopsis

BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from John Irving's In One Person.

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.
 

About John Irving

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John Irving published his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, in 1968. He has been nominated for a National Book Award three times-winning once, in 1980, for the novel The World According to Garp. He also received an O. Henry Award, in 1981, for the short story "Interior Space." In 1992, Mr. Irving was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2000, he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules-a film with seven Academy Award nominations. In 2001, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Last Night in Twisted River is John Irving's twelfth novel.
 
Published July 12, 2005 by Random House. 848 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Humor & Entertainment. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Until I Find You

Kirkus Reviews

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Jack moves on himself, to fledgling fame as a schoolboy actor, then to Exeter Academy and the University of New Hampshire (allowing Irving to recycle autobiographical material previously fictionalized elsewhere), a Hollywood career and an Oscar for writing a screenplay based on old pal Emma’s bes...

May 01 2005 | Read Full Review of Until I Find You: A Novel

The New York Times

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Real life misses its appointment with John Irving's new novel; everything its hero foresees about his future comes true, only better.

Jul 17 2005 | Read Full Review of Until I Find You: A Novel

The Guardian

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Until I Find You by John Irving Bloomsbury £18.99, pp824 Not all American novels are too long, but most novels which are too long these days are American.

Jul 31 2005 | Read Full Review of Until I Find You: A Novel

The Guardian

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Until I Find You by John Irving 822pp, Bloomsbury, £18.99 Jack Burns is nine when he ejaculates between Penny Hamilton's eyes.

Aug 20 2005 | Read Full Review of Until I Find You: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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Actor Jack Burns seeks a sense of identity and father figures while accommodating a host of overbearing and elaborately dysfunctional women in Irving's latest sprawling novel (after The Fourth Hand ).

Jun 06 2005 | Read Full Review of Until I Find You: A Novel

Book Reporter

John Irving's eleventh novel tells the story of actor Jack Burns, whose search for his absent father ultimately leads him on a journey to find himself.

Jan 24 2011 | Read Full Review of Until I Find You: A Novel

AV Club

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Like Stephen King in the good old days, John Irving tells big, sprawling populist tales that often send literary critics off in a huff: As much as his books get praised, they also get dismissed as overlong, unfocused, sexually obsessive, full of irrelevant detail, and generally self-indulgent.

Jul 19 2005 | Read Full Review of Until I Find You: A Novel

Entertainment Weekly

For the first half of the book, Irving spills virtually everything Jack remembers — or thinks he remembers — about his youth.

Jul 13 2005 | Read Full Review of Until I Find You: A Novel

USA Today

More than 600 pages into John Irving's overstuffed latest novel, its major character, who has been spilling his life story to a psychiatrist for nearly five years, asks, "Where does it all end?"With more than 200 pages to go in Until I Find You, impatient readers may ask the same question.The psy...

Jul 21 2005 | Read Full Review of Until I Find You: A Novel

BookPage

Jack Burns, the protagonist of John Irving's 11th novel, Until I Find You, is a successful movie actor trained to focus on his audience of one, for him the father who left his mother before Jack was born.

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People

At 826 pages, Until I Find You is, Irving's longest book, and it's also the most intimate story he's ever told.

Jul 18 2005 | Read Full Review of Until I Find You: A Novel

Bookmarks Magazine

With the handsome Jack Burns, raised in Toronto in the 1970s, Irving creates another kooky character in search of life’s larger truths.

Jan 03 2008 | Read Full Review of Until I Find You: A Novel

The Age

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Sep 10 2005 | Read Full Review of Until I Find You: A Novel

ReadySteadyBook

Having a soft spot for the sprawling, melodramatic, Dickensian style of Irving's middle novels, The World According To Garp and A Prayer For Owen Meany, I wasn’t at all daunted by the prospect of his hefty eleventh novel, an 800 page beast of a book that revisits many themes that will be familiar...

Jan 08 2005 | Read Full Review of Until I Find You: A Novel

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