A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving

I confess that it took me about 300 pages to actually start enjoying this book. It was frustrating: I loved the writing style, the wit, the satire, empathised with the various intricacies and peculiarities of the various characters, yet the book simply didn’t hold my attention. I am not sure what exactly changed at the approximate-300 page mark, either it was that the humour suddenly took hold (the Christmas Pageant was quite hysterical) or it was that Irving began to clarify his questioning of faith and the implications of this questioning. I found myself torn between my desperate desire to know Owen Meany more, to read the unfolding of his narrative, and my general irritation with John Wheelwright and his overall lack of commitment to … well … to anything. Owen is the strength of his book, he is “a great and luminous character”,

definitely the hero of this tale, possessed with infinite wisdom and conviction. He is somehow all-knowing and omniscient, despite the fact that he is not in fact the narrator of this tale.

I was quite taken by Owen’s relationship with Hester and intrigued by the strength of their connection and the depth of feeling which went along with that bond. But so much of this relationship was hidden, unknowable for readers. We caught glimpses of the nature of their love, but it was constantly left in the background.

In fact, Hester becomes a remarkable character in this text, despite the relatively minor role that she is assigned. She is the signifier of the age, her finger on the national and cultural pulse of the peace movement, the swing of the anti-Vietnam War swell, and the music and passion that accompanied it. She remains with her finger on that pulse throughout the text, appearing towards it end as Hester the Molester, a famous rock singer.

I flew through the last 200 pages. Gulping enormous portions in my agony as I came to realise the essence of Irving’s tale and message. Who was Owen Meany? How does one navigate through the hypocrisy of life? How does life go on when all seems lost … There are no answers, only questions and a lingering sense of loss. I am glad I ‘knew’ Owen Meany, glad I followed him and stepped into his vision of palm trees.

The Complete Review

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4 responses to “A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving

  1. So long since I’ve read this book that all I can remember is that I liked it – a lot. I read it with an online bookgroup. One member hated it so much she threw it across the room. I loved the humour and, as I recollect, Owen Meany’s resilience. But, beyond that the memory is too vague.

    • Resilience is a good word to describe Owen. He definitely is that! I have the same recollections about The World According to Garp as you do about this book … I remember loving it, the humor and the sadness, but otherwise too much time has passed for me to recollect much more!

  2. You know, I have read or seen Garp which is a big gap in my education I think! Must try to rectify that one day.

  3. Wow. I can highly recommend Garp. It’s a really fantastic read.

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