I finished this book a few days ago and I still don't know how I feel about it. This is a new experience for me. I always know how I feel about a book. I get halfway through a book and I know whether I love it or hate it, and then I keep reading to confirm that feeling. Hell, sometimes it takes me a few pages to know that. But this book, this book had me feeling something different on every page. And that is why this book reconfirms for me that John Irving is a genius.
On some pages I loved the book. It made me laugh,it made me cry, it made me swell with emotion in general. As difficult as it could be to read at times, I knew that in a few pages I would love it once again. Some things I loved: Both bears but especially Susie the bear, how both bears said "Earl!", Sorrow the farting dog, the line "keep passing open windows" and a lot more of Irving's little touches.
On other pages I could chuck the book across the room (as Frank did with the pornography) and be done with it. There were some things that I felt were not necessary in the story for it to be complete. Such as the abundance of prostitutes and the incest.
I disagree with the incest in this novel. Not just because it makes me uncomfortable, but because I don't think that it is really what the novel is about. It's just there for an extra factor. This novel is about healing and helping loved ones heal from rape. It was completely possible for John (the narrator, not the author) to love and care about his sister without being in love with her. And in the end, they just got over it. There was no lasting effect from the incest. I think this would have been a much better story if it had been left out, and left for him to handle in its own novel.
I would give this one a 3.5 if I could.