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A Prayer for Owen Meany: A Novel Paperback – April 3, 2012
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Owen Meany is a dwarfish boy with a strange voice who accidentally kills his best friend's mom with a baseball and believes--accurately--that he is an instrument of God, to be redeemed by martyrdom. John Irving's novel, which inspired the 1998 Jim Carrey movie Simon Birch, is his most popular book in Britain, and perhaps the oddest Christian mystic novel since Flannery O'Connor's work. Irving fans will find much that is familiar: the New England prep-school-town setting, symbolic amputations of man and beast, the Garp-like unknown father of the narrator (Owen's orphaned best friend), the rough comedy. The scene of doltish the doltish headmaster driving a trashed VW down the school's marble staircase is a marvelous set piece. So are the Christmas pageants Owen stars in. But it's all, as Highlights magazine used to put it, "fun with a purpose." When Owen plays baby Jesus in the pageants, and glimpses a tombstone with his death date while enacting A Christmas Carol, the slapstick doesn't cancel the fact that he was born to be martyred. The book's countless subplots add up to a moral argument, specifically an indictment of American foreign policy--from Vietnam to the Contras.
The book's mystic religiosity is steeped in Robertson Davies's Deptford trilogy, and the fatal baseball relates to the fatefully misdirected snowball in the first Deptford novel, Fifth Business. Tiny, symbolic Owen echoes the hero of Irving's teacher Günter Grass's The Tin Drum--the two characters share the same initials. A rollicking entertainment, Owen Meany is also a meditation on literature, history, and God. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Although he is convincing in his appraisal of the tragedy of Vietnam and in his religious philosophizing, "Irving's storytelling skills have gone seriously astray in this contrived, preachy, tedious tale of the eponymous Owen Meany, a latter-day prophet and Christ-like figure who dies a martyr after having inspired true Christian belief in the narrator Johnny Wheelwright," warned PW . Author tour.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
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John Irving, as always, has penned a story that is beautifully written, if a well written story, by a wordsmith whose words just flow off the page, is part of what you love about a book then this is for you.
And, as always, his characters are unforgettable. I still feel deeply touched by Jenny and Garp from when I read "The World According to Garp" 30 years ago at the age of 18. But of all of Irving's characters, Owen Meany has touched me the most. I think Owen will stay in my heart forever.
Irving often writes of religious faith and miracles and this is no different but in this case Owen truly does have you believing his life, hard as it is, is one of significant purpose. He needs to find out why he's here, he has clues, and he knows he's here to perform a great miracle but he doesn't know what. His best friend John Wheelwright tries to help him.
The first half of the book, when the boys are young, is by far thr most satisfying. There's a reason why John Irving's books tend to be shortened considerably when they're made into films and plays, the stories go on forever! And in some ways it would have been better to end it halfway but Owen growing up is vital to the story.
Despite it being a little too long this will be one of those books I remember fondly forever, the characters, so full of life, so clearly seen in my mind, and the usual new England setting (New Hampshire again) is so evocative that I think I'd recognise the town, the school and grandmother's house instantly! And of course Owen and Johnny.
O PLEASE I don't want it to end ...Thank You to John Irving for writing such a great book, I feel like I got to know Owen as a person through this story I thoroughly enjoyed this book ;-)
It is one of the best books I've read recently, & I like it much better than the book selected for this month
by my library book club !
John Irving creates so many unusual aspects of Owen, from his unique voice and small size, to his charismatic personality and high intelligence, and nothing is by chance. Owen's strong belief in God's predestined future for him determines all of his actions and ultimately culminates in his ability to be a hero for children who would otherwise have died.
The narrator of the book is a much duller character in comparison, which is probably by design, but made it hard for me to remain interested in his side of the story at times.
Definitely worth reading, both for the unique and interesting story and characters and for the reflections on the Vietnam war and American psychology.