Title: A Prayer for Owen Meany
Author: John Irving
Published: Bloomsbury, 1989
In the summer of 1953, two eleven-year-old boys are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire; one of the boys, Owen Meany, hits a foul ball and kills his best friend’s mother. Owen doesn’t believe in accidents; he believes he is God’s instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul is extraordinary and terrifying. At moments a comic, self-deluded victim, but in the end the principal, tragic actor in a divine plan, Owen Meany is the most heartbreaking hero John Irving has yet created.
Prior to reading this book, I had heard good things about it – I’d been wanting to read it for a while. It was a long book, and though I am usually quite a quick reader, for me this book was a little like running through mud. Each chapter was around 70 pages. For me, that’s too long. I’m sitting here, staring at the computer, trying to figure out what to say about it.
I have mixed opinions about “A Prayer for Owen Meany”. Parts of this book I really liked, but unfortunately I had to wade through a lot of long winded descriptions of things and situations that didn’t appear to have anything to do with the plot. There was a lot going on, and at times I wasn’t sure which plot lines to pay attention to and which ones were superfluous.
One of the major themes is faith, and Owen’s unfailing belief that he is a direct instrument for God’s work. Possibly one of the reason’s I struggled to find the story believable is that I am not especially religious. I felt that Owen used this belief as an excuse to get away with doing whatever the hell he wanted and offending anyone he felt like. Instead of observing manners or courtesy, he took no personal responsibility for his rudeness. I found his character self righteous, self important, and just plain irritating.
I think this is an interesting point, because a) I have friends who loved this book who aren’t religious, and b) I feel that some of the religious opinions put forward in this book may have offended some who are religious.
I did like the ending of the book. I thought it was original, and it did wrap up a few questions I had… and justified a couple of small annoyances I also had. Another thing I liked about the book was the writing. Not a whole lot to say on that point really, apart from outside of the fact that I found segments of the books boring and irrelevant, it was relatively easy to read.
If you’re looking for a book that will provoke some interesting conversations, this one will do it. Certainly kept my book club in discussion – with lots of different opinions!
Have you read A Prayer for Owen Meany? What did you think?