Review by Kelvin Odoobo
John Irving’s tale centers on the travails of Homer Wells and Dr. Wilbur Larch and their life in the St. Clouds orphanage in 1930’s and their illegal services for parents who don’t want to take care of their children.
Homer, an orphan is adopted several times, though each matching fails.
So he spends his childhood as a medical assistant to the orphanage director, Dr. Larch. As homer learn’s his trade,
The Doctor oversees the orphans and the hospital as well. Young single women arrive seek Dr. Larch’s assistance in delivering their unwanted children.
The orphanages grow at a healthy rate as a result. His illegal activities do not stop there. Dr. Larch teaches Homer basic obstetric and gynecological procedures such that eventually he learns to do alone what Dr. Larch does.
One of those young couples that come to seek help from the doctor, arrive at the orphanage. Wally Worthington and Candy Kendall quickly become friends and after their visit.
On the way back, Dr. Larch suggests that Homer joins them to take a short break from the orphanage for a holiday that takes much longer than expected.
Homer, during his long stay, falls in love with Candy. Wally eventually goes to the Second World War and is later presumed missing after his plane is shot.
Candy becomes pregnant by Homer and they revisit St. Cloud’s Orphanage, where their Angel is born and candy makes a first, by taking the child back home.
Wally surprisingly returns from war, paralyzed from the waist down. So Homer and Candy tell Wallis that Angel is an adopted child. Wally and Candy marry, but Candy and Homer maintain a secret affair that lasts some fifteen years.
Fate revisits the family when Angel, while a teenager falls in love with a girl on her parent’s apple orchard and makes her pregnant.
Homer performs an abortion on her but decides to return to the orphanage after the death of Dr. Larch, to work as the new director.
John Irving’s book is a commentary on the subject of illegal abortion in the early part of the twentieth century in America.
It explores the relationships between abandoned children who strive to find new families through adoption, those who fail and how a parent’s rejection permeates the rest of their lives.