two-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
18-Sept-Oct-2005
user_rating: 
0

A-UntilIFindYouWith the handsome Jack Burns, raised in Toronto in the 1970s, Irving creates another kooky character in search of life’s larger truths. When he was four years old, Jack and his tattoo-artist mother Alice tramp around northern Europe in pursuit of Jack’s runaway father, William Burns—a womanizer and church organist who’s chosen to decorate his body with musical scores. After they return to Toronto empty-handed, Jack enters a private all-girls’ school (co-ed up to the fourth grade) and endures years of sexual molestation by dysfunctional older women, starting with a sixth-grader. After college, Jack lands in Hollywood. He becomes a famous actor (playing female roles, no less), encounters some of his former seducers, finds out the truth about his father—and comes to terms with himself.
Random House. 848 pages. $27.95. ISBN: 1400063833

Chicago Sun-Times 4 of 5 Stars
"[Irving] makes the reader not only see his characters as totally believable but also understand how they came to be such odd ducks. … The book’s title, Until I Find You, rings many variations, not the least of which is Jack finding himself." Sharon Barrett

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"… Irving displays a number of his familiar obsessions—amateur wrestling, prep school life, the nocturnal round of Amsterdam’s red light district and the fascinating destiny of the quixotic male organ—while large swatches of new material come under his scrutiny as well, including the aforementioned art of tattooing, church organ music and the lives and mores of folks in Hollywood." Alan Cheuse

Ft. Worth Star Telegram 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[As] Jack Burns matures, so does the book. … As it becomes clear that neither Alice nor William is what the reader first thought, an aura of mystery moves the narrative forward, and briskly." Steven Weinberg

Charlotte Observer 2 of 5 Stars
"The last 300 or so pages … are marvelous, and the twists and turns as Jack pursues his final search are believable and touching. The main problem is with the long middle of the novel in which Jack seems not only to have forgotten his father, but to have lost himself." Anthony Abbott

Los Angeles Times 2 of 5 Stars
"Despite its acknowledged personal connection, the overall effect is less emotionally compelling than The Cider House Rules or A Prayer for Owen Meany." Heller McAlpin

Boston Globe 1 of 5 Stars
"The parade of the wounded and the harmed is endless, and unforgivably routine. … The literary effect is one of extraordinary aesthetic banality."
Kurt Jensen

Plain Dealer 1 of 5 Stars
"Perhaps in an attempt to depict that innocence, Irving has created a personality-free main character who spends much of the story in a curiously passive state. … The magical alchemy of plot, character and psychology that Irving brought to the best of his earlier tales is nowhere to be found."
Karen Sandstrom

Washington Post 0.5 of 5 Stars
"In fact, we are always being told things that happen to Jack, while never being led to glimpse who Jack is or what Jack is feeling. The story reads as if Irving woke from a recurring nightmare and started dictating compulsively." Marianne Wiggins

Critical Summary

Until I Find You showcases Irving’s trademark bizarre plots, entertaining prose, and mélange of sexual oddities, neurotics, and lost souls. Yet this doorstopper lacks the author’s usual magic. Disguised as fiction, it attempts to resolve Irving’s own issues, including sexual abuse and a recent search for a father he never knew. Some reviewers found the novel’s long digressions compelling; others saw them as intolerably repetitive. ("Less is not more. More is more," Irving told NPR, 5/24/04.) The foreshadowing kept a few readers in suspense, but most were frustrated by the heavy-handedness of it all. Most important, Jack failed to captivate. The Los Angeles Times called him a "Teflon hero" for his vacuity, while others commented that Irving seemed most attuned to his sexual anatomy. Until I Find You is entertaining in that voyeuristic car-crash kind of way, but not quite up to snuff. Truth may not be stranger than fiction.