Books: A Saga of Loss And Recovery

John Irving's vivid ninth novel tells a tale worthy of Garp

It has been 20 years since John Irving's fourth novel, The World According to Garp, made its author famous. Not only did the book attract a massive readership, but it also inspired a cult following and such extra-literary phenomena as Garp T shirts and fan clubs. Irving's ninth novel, A Widow for One Year (Random House; 537 pages; $27.95), is unlikely to generate a similar hullabaloo. That is not because Irving's storytelling skills have waned; his new novel is in many respects his best since Garp. But over the past two decades, serious fiction has been elbowed ever further toward the...

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