The Cider House Rules

by John Irving

Paperback, 2001

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

New York, N.Y. : Ballantine Books, 1997, c2001.

Description

First published in 1985 by William Morrow, The Cider House Rules is John Irving's sixth novel. Set in rural Maine in the first half of the twentieth century, it tells the story of Dr. Wilbur Larch?saint and obstetrician, founder and director of the orphanage in the town of St. Cloud's, ether addict and abortionist. It is also the story of Dr. Larch's favorite orphan, Homer Wells, who is never adopted.

Media reviews

For ''The Cider House Rules'' has greater force and integrity than either of its two immediate predecessors. It's funny and absorbing, and it makes clever use of the plot's seeming predictability.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Rachissy
The Cider House Rules by John Irving is the story of an orphanage and it's inhabitants. Focusing mostly on the aging Dr. Larch and the orphan Homer Wells. Dr. Larch is the only doctor at the St. Cloud's orphanage in Maine which has a small secret. They don't just deliver babies at St. Clouds, they help prevent them too. The story takes place from the early 1900's to the 1950's, a time when abortions are very much illegal no matter the circumstances. Dr. Larch is haunted by a memory from his past which drives him to the help the women that no one else will do.

Homer Wells is an orphan, born at St. Cloud's, who repeatedly proves that he belongs there. The Dr. and nurse of the orphanage keep trying to find him a new home but Homer always finds a way back until they just quit trying. Dr. Larch decides then that Homer would make a good doctor and sets about training a teenage Homer in the ways of the orphanage. Mainly, ensuring each woman who comes gets an "orphan or an abortion". The more Homer sees of the daily operations of St. Cloud's the more disillusioned with becoming a doctor he becomes. When a young couple comes to St. Cloud's and offers a means of escape, Homer readily takes it.

Over the next several years both Homer and Dr. Larch struggle with Homer's absence. Homer struggles to find his place in this new world while the Dr. struggles with his absence. Even at a distance the two fall into a father-son type relationship with the 'son' wanting to go his own way and the 'father' wanting him to follow in his footsteps.

I really enjoyed the book. I was afraid, going in, that the main theme of abortion and a woman's right to choose would be hard to read 500+ pages over. However, while abortion may be prevalent in the book, I didn't feel that the issues was beat over your head. By the middle, it's just an underlying theme while the characters interactions and personal growth take center stage. Each character is clearly developed and you get a good sense of each one. I could easily picture each and every person mentioned and their personality is clearly defined. When someone talks you don't even need a clarifying "Homer said" or anything like that because their 'voice' is so easily distinguishable.

Overall, it was a compelling story, an interesting read and I would recommend it. A word of caution though. I am not a big fan of abortions, though I try not to judge anyone who may choose to get one for their own reasons, and the subject matter didn't really bother me. However, if you have very strong feelings on the matter, this book may be a bit harder for you to read. You have been warned.
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LibraryThing member BrianDewey
Irving, John. The Cider House Rules. Ballentine Books, New York, 1985. This book is a big, sweeping tale. Irving self-consciously copies the major literary works of the 19th century in this story of the 20th. It's got the immense swath of time, the enormous ensemble cast, an orphanage, etc. Overall, I was quite impressed. One failing, that I think keeps me from being more impressed by the book, is the shallowness of Irving's portrayal of Candy, the centerpiece of a fifteen-year love triangle. Since I didn't understand Homer's attraction to her, the final third of the book lacked the requisite emotional punch.… (more)
LibraryThing member Neftzger
This is an outstanding book that was thoughtfully put together to examine the role and meaning of rules, including civil and moral law as it applies to abortion. The issues are artfully addressed in the complexity of real life situations of an orphanage and an apple orchard in rural Maine that includes the time period of WWII. Irving creates such great characters that the reader comes to care about them -- even some of the most unlikeable ones.

The author does a wonderful job of showing how easy it is to create meaningless rules for others when you're on the outside looking in, but he also shows how we need rules and often create our own to get through life. These are not easy issues being addressed, but Irving rises to the challenge beautifully.
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LibraryThing member hamiltonpam
This book was a sure thinker. I enjoyed it to the end!!
LibraryThing member earyan2
Wonderful book, terrible movie.
LibraryThing member bardin
Quite simply, the greatest book ever written... period. If you haven't read this book, you are missing out on a truly exceptional book in all respects. Read it now.
LibraryThing member longhorndaniel
Strong strong characters just like all his stories; very vibrant writing and will make you feel as if you should take a stand on several moral issues one way or the other; but just like most of his books; this is for mature readers so as a parent you get to decide what that means
LibraryThing member jennifour
John Irving is a superb storyteller and a master at his craft. I couldn't put The Cider House Rules down. I have not seen the movie version of the book but am looking forward to seeing it soon. The characters and subject were so interesting, I was immediately drawn into the narrative.
LibraryThing member mikedraper
Dr. Wilbur Leach becomes a physician in the early 20th century. He sees two women die from illegal, botched abortions and decides to provide medical abortions for the women who seek them. He also sets out to inform women of the dangers of having an abortion from an untrained person.

When he becomes associated with St. Cloud's Orphanage in Maine, his reputation spreads and women wanting abortions or just to give birth and leave their children to be adopted, come to St. Cloud's.

Homer Wells is born at that facility. He's loved by the entire staff for his sweet disposition and helpfulness.
He is placed into a number of adoptions but none of them take. Each time, he returns to St. Cloud's, the place where he really considers that he belongs. He remains there as he grows up and becomes Dr. Leach's assistant.

This detailed story, tells of life in Maine in the early 20th century. It tells of the life of the people after the mills closed, the water pollution, and the sad way of life of so many of the poor people dwelling there.

One of the author's themes is for the protagonist to give back to society and they seem to be congradulated for it. However, this novel also describes the painful moments such as, the adoptions that are done for the wrong reasons. We also see the continuous stream of women taking the train to the orphanage to seek an abortion. There is never counseling for these women or an attempt to give them an alternative to taking the life of the child within them.

Where Dr. Leach is viewed as a kindly, angelic man, he really is taking lives of the children in their mother's wombs and nothing is said of that or that he is an ether addict. He became addicted to ether as a result of the gonorrhea he contracted after his father took him to a prostitute as a right of passage into adulthood.

The story is a classic. Homer Wells is one of the most empathatic character is literature and will be remembered rondly, long after the book is finished.
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LibraryThing member t1bnotown
I read this book after enjoying the movie, and they both portray some of the same themese, but in a very different way. The book has the characters analyze themselves and their own feelings constantly (or analyzes them for the chacters through long descriptions). I enjoyed watching the characters grow and change, and I thought Irving found a way to present a pro-choice argument without forcing it.… (more)
LibraryThing member hockeycrew
One of my favorite books, it deals with abortion in a time when orphanages were overflowing with unwanted children and girls were dying from hacks claiming they can help them. The book also deals with migrant workers and incestuous rape.

Those who loved the movie can enjoy this book separatly. The sub-plots are quite different from the movie and each has it's own ambiance.… (more)
LibraryThing member Crystalee
This is the novel that got me hooked on John Irving! Much less bizarre than his other works (which are all bizarre in a good way!), The Cider House Rules manages somehow to be an informative treatis on abortion, a compelling love story, and an examination of human nature at the same time.
LibraryThing member heidilove
if you liked Owen Meany, you're going to love this one. bring kleenex.
LibraryThing member picardyrose
I haven't reread it since it came out, so I might be able to read it again after all these years. It broke my heart. He got a little carried away with Homer's failed adoptions, but the rest was splendid in a very dramatic way.
LibraryThing member Crewman_Number_6
This was one of the very few books in which I thought the movie was actually better. The book just went on and on with its unbelievably boring plot. I kept reading to the end just to see if it would get any better. I was disappointed.
LibraryThing member foof2you
This is an emotional story, a great read. Really hated that the story ended. Movie does not do the book justice.
LibraryThing member andyray
the societal ADHDs are going to hate this one, calling it "boring." But for us who love to take our time and enjoy the deliciousness of excellent prose, this is another winner for Irving. He manages to make this "non-choice" believer change to a "well, maybe" position, while entertaining the hell out of me with his world, especially the apple picking orchard. (here there are some minor characters that could be explored much more deeply)! The only reason it doesn't get the full five stars is for an unevenness in this work I didn't feel in Garp or New Hampshire.… (more)
LibraryThing member slpenney07
Summary: The secret side of a Maine orphanage intertwines the lives of three residents and two visitors.

The Take-Away: I never would have picked-up this title if it hadn't been for my book club. The blurb on the inside of the front cover really didn't prepare me for what it the story was truly about - a doctor performing illegal abortions and the orphan he picks to continue his work.

The book was very frank on sex and abortion in the early 1900 (1920s to 1960s). In fact, it was so frank that I questioned if it was accurate, instead of a modern view of what life was actually life. Irving added notes to the back of the book also, with supplemental antedotes that were mostly relayed by his grandfather. Some of the story seemed overplayed, especially as I'm used to reading this from writers of the time. Were they censored? (Most likely, I realize, but were private discussion as frank as Irving leads us to believe.)

In my mind, the openness is because of the services performed, and not a realistic portrayal of the what happened in most conversations.

However, Irving has a wide variety of story lines, perspectives and character growth, that touching on all of them would make this an essay instead of a review. So I'm stopping there.

Recommendation: An interesting look at the life of two men involved deeply in the orphanage. It also is a great coming of age story for each of them.
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LibraryThing member Gregarius
It wasn't a bad book, but it just seemed so similar to others of Irving's that I've read. It also seemed unnecessarily wordy, but maybe that's just his style.
LibraryThing member Angelic55blonde
A really good book. I loved the movie adaptation but the book is much better.
LibraryThing member ddlv57
Strong focus on health care, abortion and compassion
LibraryThing member jaygheiser
A bit more of a soap opera than his books usually are. This is the first of his books that I've read that didn't involve any major amputations, although there were several references to foreskins, and medical and abortion themes pervaded the book. It centers around Homer, an orphan of exceptional ability who just can't get adopted. The kindly doctor who runs the orphanage treats him as his apprentice, teaching him to be an obstetrician, and also how to safely perform abortions. Initially, Homer finds the idea of removing a fetus to be abhorent, but at the end of the book, he ends up participating in an elaborate false identity fraud concoted by the doctor, enabling Homer to successfully pretend to be a non-existent physician, taking over the management and doctoring responsibilities of his home orphanage, replacing the deceased doctor and founder. The book brilliantly deals with the ambivelance surrounding abortions, so perhaps the author intends that it be disquieting. I don't know what to make of this major theme, but it seems to me that the book is meant to make the case for abortion.… (more)
LibraryThing member ChicGeekGirl21
Only John Irving could write a book that deals with abortion, adultery, drug addiction, and incest (among other things) that still makes the reader feel warm and fuzzy inside.
LibraryThing member estellen
My all time favourite Irving novel. I was caught up in HOmer's world and the gentle drama between him and his father figure.
LibraryThing member pwjone1
One thing you can say for a John Irving book: It's either great, or it's not. The Cider House Rules is one of his great ones. For one, there's no bears in Austria, vultures in India, or anything like it, and it's set in New England, a place Mr. Irving understands perhaps too well. Cider House is the story of an orphan, growing up, assisting the other main character, a doctor, in deliveries of unmarried women, and other associated activities. We see the orphan then mature and leave the house, not agreeing to everything the doctor is about, but then going out into the world, experiencing the broader life, richer and poorer, learning to do real work. He grows up, learns to love, experiences real life, but that love and experience then seem to lead him, inevitably, inexorably back to where he came from, to resolve issues and his life direction ultimately. The characters all seem very real, with good points and flaws, and the plot line driven by how they interact. Not ultimately a totally happy story, but a very real one, and in the end a satisfying one. You empathize very much with these characters, their directions and decisions, and feel with them both pain and joy.

One word on the movie. It's pretty true to the book, but my suggestion would be to both read the book and see the movie. They each add layers, and are both well done. Not at all like Hotel New Hampshire, one of Mr. Irving's good books, but a really very awful movie. Perhaps this is because Cider House is of more moderate length, with fewer characters, and therefore ultimately something that could reasonably be made into a film. But of the Irving books, World According to Garp, Hotel New Hampshire, and Cider House are at the top, while the Cider House movie is probably the best to date.
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