Growing up in a family that defies conventions and evades questions concerning the eventful past, Adam goes to Aspen, where he was conceived, to learn the truth about his mother, a former slalom skier and ski instructor, and meets some ghosts, which are not the first or the last ones he sees.
Irving refuses to be embarrassed by anything, a quality that fits the tenor of his work ... The Last Chairlift is eminently readable, stocked with characters and relationships easy to invest in, even when things get a little queasy making. Irving has been cranking out novels for 54 years, establishing a consistent generosity of spirit that continues through his most recent book. If anyone has earned the right to deliver one more gargantuan tome, it’s him. For readers it’s once more down the hill, with a haste that belies the enormity of the task.
An imposing brick of paper ... I have no objection to long books. My favorite novel last year was The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, which also clocks in at more than 800 pages. But Jeffers has a lot to say. Irving has a lot to say again ... Fans of the author’s work may appreciate the invitation to survey this vast rearrangement of his cherished tropes ... At his best he’s a visualizer. The most arresting sections of The Last Chairlift are powerfully cinematic scenes — either comic or violent ... Whenever The Last Chairlift is actively expanding the boundaries of what a family can be — the story feels vital and exciting ... Despite their autobiographical elements, the sections about Adam’s success as an author and his move to Canada feel perfunctory and devoid of life. And far too many chapters sound self-indulgent and redundant.
The contents of Chairlift may be so familiar...that at times it feels like a reboot of his 1978 classic, The World According to Garp ... If Chairlift centers on the big stuff — love, sex, death — it also feels oddly small. Irving tries a couple of rhetorical gambits throughout the novel ... Still, Adam's essential quest is straightforward, and the novel's bulk only thins out its urgency. A book half or even a third of its size could have done the job more powerfully ... There are moments, though, when Irving's old magic emerges: his wit and fearlessness around sex, and his grasp of the wide ripple effects of intolerance.