I'm in the business of writing books, not reviewing them, BUT... In One Person is written with gusto and heart. Admittedly and brilliantly heavy-handed, the book does what it sets out to do, and exemplifies the narrator's last spoken word: "'My dear boy, please don't put a label on me--don't make me a category before you get to know me!'"
I am reminded of a few book clubs where readers told me they were "uncomfortable" at the sex in my debut novel. "How do you decide what to include and how much to include-sexually speaking?" "Does it have to be there?" "Can't you just allude to it?" One of my best friends, a fellow writer used to tell me, "Don't leave the audience without the payoff." Well, rest-assured, John Irving does not leave you without payoff in In One Person.
Although, like everyone else, man or woman, I am pining for the young, cruel Jacques Kittredge, aside from Jacques, there's not too much pining in this novel.
As with all of Irving's books, there's a broad spectrum of nuanced characters, a scenic Vermont, bears or beers, Venice, Switzerland, WrEsTlinG, lust and love, with everything tying back and forward and back again to the characters' motivations. No one is all bad, not even Jacques Kittredge's mother. "What's a mom to do under the circumstance?" (Can't give it away...)
Irving captures the brutality of the AIDS epidemic in a manner that is not over-done. It's just enough. He trusts his reader to know WHAT happened and how it happened and how most of America distanced themselves, remaining "uninvolved", from the horror of what was happening.
This book, like nearly all of John Irving's novels, will replay and resonate with me for a long time. And I hope that, as when Maya Angelou reminded me, 'If someone calls someone a nigger, you're guilty if you don't speak up and protest the racism,' I hope that this book helps to reinforce that we should not stand by and let people, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Question Mark, be called "fag" or "lesbo" or any other derogatory term. Nor should we stand by and let our laws discriminate against anyone based on sexual identity.
John Irving's book is an apt and timely work of fiction, relevant to today's decisive, often discriminatory atmosphere. "We already are who we are, aren't we?"