John Irving has always grappled with issues of sexual identity, but in his powerful and potently political new novel, In One Person (Simon & Schuster), Irving wrestles with these themes and pins them to the floor. This is his most moving, passionate, and heartfelt novel since A Prayer for Owen Meany.
Irving introduces us to Billy, a self-considered bisexual, as well as the family, friends, and lovers who orbit him. Billy’s story is all at once a story of unrequited love, sexual fluidity, lifelong bonds, and absent caretakers; a story of how you discover who you are by who you love, and how to take comfort from and be comfortable with that choice.
Billy’s journey is emotionally harrowing, but also filled with contagious humor. Irving again does what he does best: his characters are “characters,” but always ring true and touch your heart.
In One Person is a celebration of Billy’s triumph — from curious and confused adolescent, turning to literature for clues to his own mysteries (the gorgeous and groundbreaking Giovanni’s Room among many), to grown man living through the AIDS scourge — knowing himself, being himself, and realizing that he need not apologize for any of it. Irving’s portrait of the AIDS Decade is the most compelling and personal depiction of the disease’s ruthlessness, its diabolical insouciance, and the horrible pinball effect of its path.
In One Person is quintessential Irving: bold and brave, and in the same breath, beautifully pugilistic. Irving dares you to consider Billy’s life and not be both moved and outraged. It is surely one of the most important books of the year.
— Chris Avena