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John Irving's novel is about the forces that shape us

Talk of Iowa, hosted by Charity Nebbe

This is the December meeting of the Talk of Iowa Book Club. Host Charity Nebbe and her guests have been reading The Cider House Rules by John Irving.

Published in 1985, John Irving's The Cider House Rules is a sprawling novel that tells the story of Homer Wells, an orphan who is never adopted. Wells was born in the 1920s and grows up in an orphanage in a remote part of Maine. Many pregnant women come to the orphanage for help with their unwanted pregnancies. Some come seeking illegal abortions and others come to deliver their babies and leave them behind. It’s also the story of Dr. Wilbur Larch, the director of the orphanage and the man who delivers all of those babies and performs all the abortions.

The book is about many things: how our experiences shape us, the meaning of family, abortion, ethics and rules and much more.

Interested in joining the next meeting of the Talk of Iowa Book Club? The 2022 Book Club reading list is now available and our April selection is "Thomas and Beulah" by Rita Dove. Join the discussion April 12, 2022. You can also chat about book club selections and other literary interests with Charity and hundreds of other readers in the Talk of Iowa Book Club Facebook Group.


  • Loren Glass, professor and chair of the Department of English at the University of Iowa.
  • Emily Wentzell, anthropologist of health care and gender, author of Collective Biologies: Healing Social Ills through Sexual Health Research in Mexico
  • Rachel Mans McKenny, author of the 2022 All Iowa Reads Adult Selection The Butterfly Effect
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Matthew was a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa