Title: A Prayer for Owen Meany
Author: John Irving
Edition: Paperback (William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1989)
How I Came By This Book: I picked this up at my library as part of Banned Book Week.
Synopsis: "John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany is the inspiring modern classic that introduced two of the author’s most unforgettable characters, boys bonded forever in childhood: the stunted Owen Meany, whose life is touched by God, and the orphaned Johnny Wheelwright, whose life is touched by Owen. From the accident that links them to the mystery that follows them–and the martyrdom that parts them–the events of their lives form a tapestry of fate and faith in a novel that is Irving at his irresistible best." (from GoodReads)
Review: John Irving's novel of friendship, faith, and martyrdom is a complex, warm, and ultimately fulfilling story. The richness of Irving's writing and the humanity of his characters leave an indelible mark on the reader. I went into this novel knowing nothing about it and never having read anything by this author; I came out of it desperately wanting to dive into his other novels.
Told by John Wheelwright, a bitter bachelor living and teaching in Canada but with an eye to the mistakes that his native United States is making, A Prayer for Owen Meany tells the story of John's childhood and young adulthood in New Hampshire alongside his best friend, the physically stunted Owen Meany, whose voice and faith are big enough to make up for his stature. Owen believes that he is the instrument of God and that he has been given his unforgettable voice, a permanent scream, for a reason. John, on the other hand, is doubtful of both Owen and of the God in which he so fervently believes. Interspersed with John's present-day narrative, the recollections of his youth create a beautiful novel that you'll want to savor.
The novel has a depth to it that is practically indescribable. When you finally reach the conclusion, you realize that everything that has happened so far has led up to this moment; everything has a purpose. Just like Owen Meany's life, the events of this novel are predetermined. It's skill like this that makes me eager to read Irving's other works.
There's literally so much to say about this book that I don't even know how to say it all. In fact, I'm not even going to try. I can tell you that the dialogue is artfully constructed, the characters are amazing (if flawed), and Irving writes ridiculously well. A highly political novel, it helps if the reader has knowledge of both the Vietnam War and of the Iran-Contra Affair, but for those who didn't study history in college, there's always the magic of Google.
I feel like saying anything more would rob people of discovering the wonder of A Prayer for Owen Meany. Just read it. Seriously. It takes a while to get through (it took me about a week), but it's more than worth taking the extra time to sit down and enjoy it.
I'm giving A Prayer for Owen Meany 5 out of 5 Gabriels.
"READING IS A GIFT."
"I learned it from you," I told him.
"IT DOESN'T MATTER WHERE YOU LEARNED IT--IT'S A GIFT. IF YOU CARE ABOUT SOMETHING, YOU HAVE TO PROTECT IT--IF YOU'RE LUCKY ENOUGH TO FIND A WAY OF LIFE YOU LOVE, YOU HAVE TO FIND THE COURAGE TO LIVE IT."
I wanted to post the video for Fun.'s "Some Nights" because I had heard the song quite a lot before reading this novel but I heard it in a different way after reading it: