John Irving published his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, in 1968. He has been nominated for a National Book Award three times-winning once, in 1980, for the novel The World According to Garp. He also received an O. Henry Award, in 1981, for the short story "Interior Space." In 1992, Mr. Irving was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2000, he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules-a film with seven Academy Award nominations. In 2001, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Last Night in Twisted River is John Irving's twelfth novel.
"A Prayer for Owen Meany" is NOT your typical book. Of course, that could be said about any of John Irving's novels; his is one of the most unusual voices I've ever read. But this one is especially unique. Owen Meany is probably the most memorable character that I've ever come across in a book of any genre. A dwarf with a voice so striking and strange that his dialogue is WRITTEN IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, he also believes (rightly!) that he is an instrument of God. It is sometimes confusing to follow the jumps in time; the narrator, Owen's best friend Johnny Wheelwright, alternates the story of his growing up with Owen with anecdotes from his "present" life in the late 80's.Predestination, faith, doubt, politics, love, hate, family, friendship...these are all themes that make appearances in this book. Furthermore, it is a page-turner that is impossible to put down, right from the start. I read the entire second half of the book in one marathon reading session, wasting an entire morning because I couldn't bear to stop, knowing that more revelations were in store. I've read some of Irving's other novels, and loved them all, but I think "A Prayer for Owen Meany" has been the best so far.
This is undoubtedly the best book I have ever read. The plot is so complicated and intriguing that when you reach the end, and you finally see how John Irving ties together all of the intricate details, you are left dumbstruck. Despite the many carefully crafted foreshadowing clues, it's impossible to figure this one out until the end. If you've loved other books by Irving, you'll find the same quirky characters, rich symbolism, and literary craft. Un..forget..able!
I started reading A Prayer for Owen Meany at the urging of a friend, part of our on-going reading program. She had just started the novel, and said it was funny and I would enjoy it. I never expected that it would move me so. John Irving has written a profound novel of faith, friendship, and fate.It took me one or two sections to understand Irving's style. He likes to jump around a lot, and as the story is written as a memoir, that is certainly understandable. But Johnny Wheelwright (the narrative voice of the story) wants to tell us too much, too fast, and it doesn't all make sense at first. Only one thing is clear from the beginning: Owen Meany is destined to change Johnny's life.Owen and Johnny are friends in New Hampshire in the 1950s. They have a unique bond which due in part to Owen's extraordinary presence. The dwarfed child has a strange voice that chills most people (including Johnny's grandmother), but he also has an adult-like wisdom and understanding. The bond between Owen and Johnny is sealed by a freak accident when Owen hits a baseball, killing Johnny's mother.As they grow up, it becomes clear to Johnny that Owen thinks he is guided by God. The accident with Johnny's mother is just one incident that ultimately will lead Johnny to find his own faith.There are moments of biting humor in the novel as well as moments of sadness. Although the majority of the story centers on Johnny's childhood, it continues through his high school and college years. As expected for the setting, Kennedy and the Vietnam War become important themes throughout the story.There are also moments when Johnny -- writing the novel in 1987 -- steps out of character to tell the reader in a diary-like fashion about his life in the present as a teacher.Read more ›
It is one thing to rediscover a classic, a novel that people have enjoyed for years and years. It is another thing to read a book that has just been published and come to the realization that you are holding a classic in your hand. I remember finishing "A Prayer for Owen Meany" for the first time and telling everybody I know, "YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK." John Irving is one of the few authors I buy hardback as soon as a new one comes out and I am truly glad I came to this particular book the way I did.The book has what is probably my all time favorite opening line, but what struck me the most at the end was how everything came together. The recurring themes, images, events all blend together into a memorable climax. It also has several wickedly funny scenes which just reinforces my earlier conviction that Irving and I have the same sense of humor. The story is about faith on a personal level, which is intriguing since religion in this country is usually presented on a social level. I think it is also a meditation on the nature of heroism, albeit in a most unusual context. This book can not be made into a film, so it is not surprising that we ended up with "Simon Birch." Irving could not have solved the problems because they are impossible to solve. The voice of Owen Meany, always presented in the book as CAPITAL LETTERS could never survive the transition from novel to film. You can not capture something like that and you should not even try. The only sad thing is that children seemed to like "Simon Birch" a lot and we can only imagine their shock if they get around to reading the novel.I think the best way to approach this book is through the earlier efforts of John Irving.Read more ›