Review: A Prayer for Owen Meany

A Prayer for Owen Meany

A Prayer for Owen Meany
By John Irving
(William Morrow & Company, Paperback, April 2012, 9780062204097)

The Short of It:

If the definition of a classic is a book that stands the test of time…then A Prayer for Owen Meany is just that.

The Rest of It:

First published in 1989, A Prayer for Owen Meany tells the story of John Wheelright and his best friend Owen Meany. The story takes place in a small New England town by the name of Gravesend, New Hampshire. The town itself is fictional, but it is probably a good representation of any small town during the 1950-60’s. Everyone knows everyone and life seems pretty simple. However, all that changes for the boys when a baseball, hit by Owen, strikes John’s mother in the head.

I read this book when it first came out and I remember liking it quite a bit. Irving is known for his quirky, eccentric characters and this book is no exception. However, it wasn’t until my recent reread that I truly realized how wonderful this book is. It’s funny, smartly written and it reminds you of simpler times when kids were kids and friendships meant everything. Every time I opened the book, it felt like coming home.

Owen, is such an odd little boy. He’s very small for his age, exceedingly wise and has a knack for getting to the root of a problem. He’s brutally honest and has a voice that can break glass, yet he seems to be well liked and respected by those who know him.

The story is told from John’s point of view and although he’s often the more stable of the two, it’s really Owen who proves to be the voice of reason. Owen’s “wisdom” comes in the form of visions and hunches which John puts up with for the most part, but Owen sees himself as an instrument of God and although this often gets Owen into a world of trouble, John senses that there is something to what Owen is saying.

The story follows them as they grow into adults and deals with such issues as the Vietnam War, spirituality, faith and fate, identity and social justice.

Irving fans who have not read this book should run out and get a copy now. It’s delightfully touching, endlessly entertaining and a wonderful testament to friendship. However, those who are not familiar with Irving’s writing might be overwhelmed by the level of detail that Irving includes in his novels. Irving’s writing never leaves you guessing. He gives it all to you and then some. I LOVE this about him, but some readers want him to get to the point, and quickly.

If you are tired of the formulaic plots of the books you’ve been reading and don’t mind investing some time in this classic, then by all means… pick up and copy and savor it.

Note from Ti: I also listened to the audio version of this while at the gym and it was wonderful. Great acting and extremely funny. If you don’t have time to read the print version, do try the audio.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

27 thoughts on “Review: A Prayer for Owen Meany”

  1. I remember reading this years ago in college…so you have read it twice now…have you read others by him?

    Jst curious…but I am forever fascinated by your choices.

    1. This was my second time reading it, and my first time listening to it. I have read: The World According to GarpThe Cider House RulesLast Night in Twisted RiverThe Hotel New Hampshire There are two others that I read but do not remember at all: The Son of the CircusA Widow for One Year I can’t wait for his new one!! Comes out next week, In One Person. I tried to get an ARC. No such luck.

  2. I really need to read this. I was a huge John Irving fan back when I was in high school and college. I read all of his earlier books and loved his quirkiness. Don’t really remeber why I stopped readding him. Must be the getting married and having kids! Good to see an older book like this reviewed. It reminds that I have something good to pick up at the bookstore.

    1. There are a lot of Irving fan who haven’t read this one. Maybe the length intimidated you. It’s pretty long, but I enjoyed all of it. I can’t wait to read his new one that comes out next month!

    1. The audio is fabulous and I believe it won an award, too. You will never get Owen’s voice out of your head, but you’ll love it. LOL.

  3. I actually thought this book was much older than 1989. This explains a lot… why my son loves it but was a new title to me. I think he read it in HS or college.

    I need to read this one.

  4. The only Irving I have read is Last Night in Twisted River, which I am told is not his best. My goal is to someday read this one, and Cider House Rules because apparently this is what Irving is all about. At this moment I am wading in audio books, but I do stand a better chance of listening than reading. I’m going to see if my library owns it.

  5. Part of me feels like I’ve read this one before, but even so it sounds as if you got more from it the second time around. I should look up a copy!

  6. Very convincing review! I never read any more of John Irving after The World According to Garp (back when it was new fiction, not an old classic!) Maybe the audio of this would work for me.

  7. I haven’t read anything by Irving yet, but I know this one would be fabulous. I just have a problem reading a book after I’ve seen the movie.

  8. I think I have Irving’s Cider House Rules on my shelf, which I am looking forward to reading. I had no idea his books were so quirky – somehow I felt a serious lit vibe coming off the book. I should check this one too.

    1. Irving is definitely “literary” but I never get serious from him. He has a very wry sense of humor (in my opinion).

  9. Glad to hear that this one did not disappoint on re-read. I always worry about re-reading books that I love for fear that they won’t live up to my memory of them.

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