The Cider House Rules, by John Irving

Second paragraph of third chapter:

In the boys’ division, this sentiment informed his nightly blessing – his benediction, shouted over the beds standing in rows in the darkness. Dr Larch’s blessing followed the bed-time reading, which – after the unfortunate accident to the Winkles – became the responsibility of Homer Wells. Dr Larch wanted to give Homer more confidence. When Homer told Dr Larch how he had loved reading to the Winkles in their safari tent – and how he thought he had done it well, except that the Winkles had fallen asleep – the doctor decided that the boy’s talent should be encouraged.

A long but tremendous book, set mainly in an orphanage in Maine before, during and after the second world war. Dr Larch, the head of the orphanage, is also an abortionist and helps women from all over the community to end unwanted pregnancies. His protégé, Homer Wells, makes friends with coastal orchard kids Wally and Cindy and leaves the orphanage. We know that he will come back in the end but the journey is beautifully told and heart-breaking.

The Cider House Rules was published in 1985, twelve years after Roe v Wade, when it seemed improbable that abortion rights would be rolled back. Now of course we are seeing precisely that, as the U.S. Right attempts to run away from the devastation it has wrought on the country by picking culture war fights with the poor and oppressed. One hopes that the current situation is a nasty temporary blip, but I recommend this book educationally as a reminder of why abortion rights were and are needed. You can get it here.

This was the top book by LibraryThing populatiry on my shelves that I had not yet blogged here. Next is “The Metamorphosis”, by Franz Kafka.