The John Irving novel that really started it all. It goes into some places that seem weird and definitely fantastic. Pro-gay, pro feminist (although with a cautionary tale - reminiscent of any cult scene in the '70's) and definitely pro-survive anything and go forward. Acceptance of other people going in other directions.
Definitely John Irving.
Strangely, one starts to have real affection for some of the characters. Just watch your heart - anything can happen to any of them at any time.
Definitely for the brave.