John Irving, you break my heart. You do, and not in that "Your first novel was so good but the rest of them are trash" sort of way, because you truly do get better and better with each book. Evidence of this is the fact that my favorite (still) of your books is one of the most recent. But, oh, how you make me cry! Like a little baby, because you lull me into the gentle rise and fall of the events in your characters' lives and then suddenly everything falls to tragic little bits and I am, literally, sobbing.
No author makes me cry quite like John Irving does: right on cue and messily, snot and all.
Of course I mean this as a compliment, and GARP is at peak John Irving form when it comes to making me cry like a baby. You ought to know by now that I'm not big on summaries, since I like to go into a book knowing as little as possible about it, so ha ha! I tell you nothing, but "cried like a baby" and "really darn good."
I will add the teeniest bit of criticism, though. Having now, officially, read six Irving novels, I have to admit that I'm growing weary of the repeated themes. In my review of The Hotel New Hampshire, I cited this as an asset, but I think I'm beginning to feel a bit like Irving is dipping from the same pots again and again. The books are still great, but I just feel a little let down when I see pieces of my favorite plots tossed around from book to book, and especially now that themes from my favorite, A Widow for One Year, have made some rather breathtaking appearances in THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP.
With that in mind, The Cider House Rules stands out as one of Irving's most wholly original books, and it is now tied with A Widow from One Year as my favorite Irving novel, moving up from a close second place. But don't let my teeny bit of criticism delude you into thinking that John Irving is second rate, because he isn't. He is fantastic. So go read one of his books, right now.
I must add that, in the newer versions of GARP, a Reader's Guide is included at the end, complete with an essay by Irving about the book. The essay on GARP is well worth reading. He writes of letting his twelve-year-old son read GARP for the first time in a way that made my little heart squirm. It is a lovely essay; don't pass it by.