In One Person - John Irving

Synopsis: A New York Times bestselling novel of desire, secrecy, and sexual identity, In One Person is a story of unfulfilled love—tormented, funny, and affecting—and an impassioned embrace of our sexual differences. Billy, the bisexual narrator and main character of In One Person, tells the tragicomic story (lasting more than half a century) of his life as a "sexual suspect," a phrase first used by John Irving in 1978 in his landmark novel of "terminal cases," The World According to Garp.

In One Person is a poignant tribute to Billy’s friends and lovers—a theatrical cast of characters who defy category and convention. Not least, In One Person is an intimate and unforgettable portrait of the solitariness of a bisexual man who is dedicated to making himself "worthwhile.




I've read a lot of excellent books lately, but I think John Irving's In One Person is in a class all its own. Equal parts comedic and tragic, this is a story of sexual exploration and gender identity unlike anything I have read before.


Oh sure, I've have read plenty of novels dealing with homosexuality and lesbianism, but none quite grasp the entire spectrum of sexuality like Irving does here. It is a delicate topic that's so easy to screw up (and inaccurately portray) in fiction — Irving sidesteps that completely with a cast of wholly sympathetic characters all grounded in reality, all facing struggles and questions any reader can relate to. Irving shows openness is not something to be ashamed of, as American culture dictates, but instead something to be proud of — something entirely necessary.


Written in the first person, this story follow main protagonist Billy from his younger years in the late '50s up to modern years, all while showing his struggles and doubts in his life as an outsider, a sexual misfit. This novel contains echoes of A Prayer for Owen Meany, something I really appreciated because I love that novel oh so much!


This is a heartfelt dramedy in which it is clear the author truly cares about every character brought to the page — each player felt real in his or her respective search for happiness and redemption. This is a story that goes to some dark places (the chapters dealing with the AIDS crisis in the '80s almost had me choked up at times), but there is always light if one looks for it. Irving shows all the complexities that can exist in one person, and I am truly thankful I took the journey.