Three Complete Novels: Setting Free the Bears, The Water-Method Man, and The 158-Pound Marriage by John Irving

Three different novels in one volume, and even thought the subjects of the books are completely different, they have certain elements in common: Vienna, zoos, World War II, and people who end up hating their significant other in some way. “Setting Free the Bears” was my favorite, because I really liked the plot: two Viennese college students take a motorcycle trip (“Motorcycle Diaries,” anyone?) and end up planning to liberate the animals in the Vienna Zoo. The characters were also really enjoyable, especially Siggy, the radish-loving, saltshaker-stealing zoo liberator. In case you couldn’t tell from that sentence, his sanity is questionable, but he’s still fun. (Best part of the book: Siggy is in the bath and, after singing some impromptu songs, exclaims, “My ass is remarkable!”)

The Water-Method Man was good as well, but it switched back and forth between flashbacks and the present, which got confusing at times. The 158-Pound Marriage was my least favorite, mostly because it was so weird. It was about swingers, and was awkward. But I enjoyed the first two books a lot, and the third one fit with them very well, even if I didn’t love it.

Verdict: three out of five stars

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