In Irving's previous novels, we encounter multi-dimensional, multi-faceted characters that engage, touch and move us. Sometimes, the background contains recurring themes (rape, violence against women, abortion) against which their lives unfold. But the story, the lives and interactions of the characters are always primary, and the message inevitably and inexorably emerges from these.
This novel, however, is a pamphlet. It feels as though Irving has decided that he has a message to impart - discrimination based on sexual orientation is wrong - and has constructed (and I use the word advisedly) a story around it. No matter how much we may agree with the central message (which I do wholeheartedly), this does not make for a good novel.
For example, in _The Hotel New Hampshire_, Irving reflects on the last sentence of a novel, and how no-one ever managed to even come close to the one of _The Great Gatsby_. I personally think he has sometimes given Fitzgerald a run for his money in this domain, most notably in _Owen Meany_. But here, almost at the end, we read the following: "My dear boy, don't put a _label_ on me - don't make me a _category_ before you get to know me." Does it get any more trite and contrived?