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.