First published in 1985, The Cider House Rules is set in rural Maine in the first half of the twentieth century. The novel tells the story of Dr. Wilbur Larch–saint and obstetrician, found and director of the orphanage in the town of St. Cloud’s, ether addict and abortionist. This is also the story of Dr. Larch’s favorite orphan, Homer Wells, who is never adopted.
Let me just say this first: I absolutely love John Irving and count him among my list of favorite authors. That being said, whenever I begin one of John Irving’s novels, I feel I must prepare myself for it. John Irving’s writing is sometimes odd and eccentric, always wonderful, and at times, uncomfortable. At least, it makes me feel uncomfortable.
But isn’t that the mark of a great writer? I like it when an author makes me ask questions–make me think. And this novel does a good job of that. Of course, being a story about an abortionist, the question comes up: Is it right? Well, this is neither the place or time to answer that question. It’s enough that the question is there, and the reader can make up their own mind about it. Though I will say one thing: this novel does a good job of putting things in perspective and humanizing the issue.
I will admit, parts of this book were hard for me to read. But the love I had for the characters and their plight; and the love I have for John Irving’s writing kept me going until the end. And I’m glad I did. I feel anything I have to say about how deeply the book affected me will be insufficient. I guess I’ll just say this: This is a novel that will linger.