A Prayer For Owen Meany

owen meaneyEleven-year-old Owen Meany, playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire, hits a foul ball and kills his best friend’s mother. Owen does’t believe in accidents; he believes he is God’s instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul is both extraordinary and terrifying. At moments a comic, self-deluded victim, but in the end the principal, tragic actor in a divine plan, Owen Meany is the most heartbreaking hero John Irving has yet created.

This was my choice for our 3rd Book Club meeting. I read it many, many years ago and it left a lasting impression on me. Yes, OK, it’s a tome of a book but what a joy. You need to take your time and read it with patience. Not all of us in club read this book but it certainly caused a lot of lively discussion amongst us all!! Say no more!  Joan, I’m glad to say, loved it and found some laugh out loud moment in it and Julie enjoyed it. I loved it but I think that was about it. Some found it quite a chore to read and took a dislike to Owen. Sob! Sob!

I loved this book. The memory of little,squeaky-voiced Owen Meany will live with me forever. Johnny’s beautiful mother’s demise shocked me and made me cry. Owen’s incident at the Christmas Nativity made me scream with laughter; Johnny moving to Canada and talking religion frustrated me and lost me at times but overlook this and keep persevering as there is a beautiful story to be read here. It’s a delicious mix of comedy and drama and points at the meaning of life, our lives. I find it hard to forget Owen Meany, even now 23 years after reading this book for the first time! I wonder about him, would loved to have known him and became very attached to him. Just thinking about him brings a tightness to my stomach!  He is a complex character and, to me, was a pleasure to know. Everything in his life was planned out. He was the ultimate man with a plan! Not only has he planned his life but he has also scripted Johnny’s life. He guides him and arranges his life for him. But Jonny is not aware of this until the end of the story and the truth dawns on him, but by then I am a blubbering idiot mess!

In my opinion, the religious aspect of the book is heavily embedded throughout and at times, for me, becomes tedious and difficult to read, but  religion and faith are the centre of Owen’s being and so I tolerated it. It’s not so much faith in a religious way but more spiritually and Owen Meany never, ever looses this faith  despite everything that he endures. He is strong in the knowledge that he is an Instrument Of God, who has a mission in life to fulfil and doesn’t have much time to fulfil it.

Owen and Johnny grow very close over the years and see themselves more as brothers. Chalk and cheese, I may add, but bound  by Owen’s faith and his belief in his own purposeful destiny. Hours and hours of reading and observing the 2 characters grow and develop throughout their lives ,  seeing Johnny in his desire to search for his dad, grow into a more confident person, follow his journey to Vietnam and the aftermath of that experience, finally brings us to that split second well rehearsed ‘shot’, when all is revealed and Owen arrives at his destiny.

Looking through some of the reviews on this book I’d like to share one that, to me, mirrors my thoughts and images of A Prayer For Owen Meany.

Nick G rated it 5* 

It was amazing
I'm short on time for this review, but man, this is the closest thing to "a perfect story" as anything I've ever read.

***I'm back a few days later to edit my review, because I can't stop thinking about this book. It might be my favorite. I might be in love with this story. As the first sentence of the story starts out, "I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice...", well, I am, too.

***SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON IN THE REVEIW***

I think I fell in love with book as I read one specific sentence. It's at the end of the story, when Owen and Johnny are in the "temporary bathroom" with the children, and his dream is starting to unfold.

I thought I had it all figured out - the lunatic kid has the grenade and he's going to try and blow them up. But then I read the sentence when Owen looks to Johnny and says something along the lines of "WE'LL HAVE ABOUT FOUR SECONDS". Maybe I was a little slow to catch on, but it was right then that I realized the reason they had always practiced "the shot". It blindsighted me and I loved it. Irving had made their routine practice of "the shot" so commonplace in their time together, that I forgot about even asking what purpose it served being in the story.

But the sentence carries so much more power than that. At the same time I realized the purpose of "the shot", it also hit home how Owen had lived his entire life for that momemt. He had known his fate, his moment, and not only did he embrace it, he had prepared for it. And when it came time to act and live this moment, he didn't flinch. Just as Owen had lived his life for one specific point and time, the power of this story was revealed to me in one perfect sentence.

It gave me THE SHIVERS.

That is a perfect review in a nutshell and I hope Nick G doesn’t mind me sharing it!

You may be interested in listening to this interview with John Irving. It’s long but a great listen!

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One thought on “A Prayer For Owen Meany

  1. A Prayer for Owen Meany

    A synopsis for this book worried me. It said that the novel regarded a Christ-like figure who made the protagonist a strong believer. This is about as far away from interesting to me as it gets. But I remembered just how much I love The Green Mile (film and book), a novel concerning the second coming of Jesus, and decided to try and keep my mind clear of judgement. I’m glad I did because this book is a marvel and Owen Meany himself is one of the best characters I have read about in any book.
    Admittedly, my ratio of reading this book and listening to the audiobook probably contributed to my fervour. Due to listening mostly to the audiobook, the voice telling me the story of John and Owen used voices for each character and the voice of Owen was shrill and whiny, just as the book describes it. At first, this grated, but I quickly changed my mind when I realised that Owen was actually saying a lot of interesting, thought-provoking things. To this day, I sometimes hear that voice in my head. But even without that voice (his dialogue even only being in capital letters), Owen is a wonderful character. It is an ingenious idea to have John as the main character as not only is John quite boring in comparison, but it allows us to see Owen the same way John does; at first, Owen is a strangely compelling oddball and eventually becomes a figure of reverence. A few times in the novel did I read a line of dialogue from Owen and think “bloody hell”, sometimes due to the depth of the statement or sometimes even the sheer comedy of it.
    Something I also loved about this novel is that it isn’t pretentious. I am a fairly smart person. I even did my degree in English Literature. But something that has always bothered me is how many writers create their novels in a particularly odious style. A style that says “look how smart I am”. That the author is mocking anyone who can’t fathom their genius. This novel features some ideas and foreshadowing that seem to belong in such a book but this is not the case. The writing is intelligent and warm and philosophical without being preachy or arrogant. And i’m extremely grateful for this as I would have hated to miss out on such a loving, life-affirming novel. I wish I could forget the whole book so I could read it again fresh. An astounding piece of work.

    5 out of 5.

    Like

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