In One Person

In One Person is a 2012 novel by American author John Irving, his 13th since 1968. The book was published on May 8, 2012 by Simon & Schuster, and deals with the coming of age of a bisexual man and his coming to grips with his sexual identity.[1]

In One Person
AuthorJohn Irving
CountryCanada / United States
PublisherSimon & Schuster (US)
Publication date
May 2012
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Pages448 pp
ISBN9781451664126 (US)
Preceded byLast Night in Twisted River 
Followed byAvenue of Mysteries 


In One Person is narrated by central character Billy, a bisexual novelist. Billy's story is told through multiple time periods and shows him initially as a teenager with crushes on the "wrong people," but also shows his coming of age.[2]


Irving came up with the idea of writing a book about a bisexual character while thinking "what if," also commenting that the subject matter of bisexuality was familiar to him, having had fleeting crushes on boys while growing up.[3] He also remarked on the subject of the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s when he wrote that he and several family members of homosexual men had only discovered the sexual orientation of these men due to their being diagnosed as having the disease and dying of it.[3] Irving has stated that while it had taken him seven to eight years to conceptualize the book, he felt that the novel's actual writing process was relatively fast and that due to his experiences in New York, did not have to do as much research.[4]


In One Person deals with several themes such as homosexuality, bisexuality, and AIDS.[5] Other elements mentioned in the book concern transgenderism and the idea of sexual awakening.[6]


Critical reception for In One Person was mixed to positive.[7] Prevalent criticisms of the book centered on the usage of the character of Billy as a way of discussing various themes and issues, with The Telegraph saying that "Bill Abbott ultimately proves better at discussing Irving’s themes than at embodying them."[8][9] A reviewer for The A.V. Club criticized that women in the novel were predominantly portrayed as "hateful, bigoted shrews," but praised In One Person as having several strengths such as the novel's conclusion.[10] Praise for the novel also centered on the book's humor and the character of Billy.[11]

The book was a co-winner with Cheryl Burke's My Awesome Place: The Autobiography of Cheryl B in the Bisexual Literature category at the 2013 Lambda Literary Awards.


  1. Maslin, Janet (9 May 2012). "Sexuality and Other Multitudes 'In One Person,' John Irving's New Novel". New York Times. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  2. "'In One Person': A Tangled Gender-Bender". NPR. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  3. "Forward-thinking, writing backwards". Economist. 13 July 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  4. Healy, Pat. "'In One Person' in-person: A visit with author John Irving". Metro. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  5. Mallon, Thomas. "Both Ways John Irving's "In One Person."". New Yorker. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  6. Clark, Brock. "'In One Person' by John Irving". Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  7. Daley, David. "John Irving's 'In One Person' exposes human frailty". USA Today. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  8. Walton, James (29 May 2012). "In One Person by John Irving: review". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  9. Ulin, David (13 May 2012). "Review: 'In One Person' by John Irving". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  10. VanDerWerff, Emily. "Review: In One Person". AV Club. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  11. Winterson, Jeanette (11 May 2012). "Behind the Masks 'In One Person,' by John Irving". New York Times. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
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