A Prayer for Owen Meany

Irving, John. A Prayer for Owen Meany. Read by Joe Barrett. Michigan: Brilliance Audio, 2009

Reason read: Even though most of A Prayer for Owen Meany does not take place in Canada I am reading this in honor of September being the best time to visit Toronto.

I don’t know where to begin with a review for A Prayer for Owen Meany. I have been driving to and from work everyday, listening to this incredible tale about a boy named Owen for a month now and I’ve been thinking there is no way I can sum this up story succinctly. Like other Irving tales, this is multifaceted and wrought with symbolism. As an adult living as an ex-pat in Toronto, Canada Johnny Wheelwright remembers his childhood and best friend, Owen Meany. They grew up together in the fictional seaside town of Gravesend, New Hampshire. To describe Owen as special is as inadequate as saying the Grand Canyon is “big”. There is so much more to Owen and his story from every angle. For starters, there is his size (barely five feet) and his voice (high-pitched and distinct). Then, there is his personal belief that is he is an instrument of God. Even when he accidentally hits Johnny’s mother with a line drive baseball, killing her instantly, he believes it was meant to happen that way. Owen is smart, witty, kind and considerate, but you can’t sway him from his political or religious beliefs (don’t get him started on John F Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe or later, the Vietnam war). I don’t want to spoil the story except to say you can’t help but fall in love with Owen and be shocked by the outrageous things he does.

My favorite scene was when Owen asks his dad to take him and Johnny to the beach in the middle of the night. The image of Owen banging on the cab of the truck, urging his father to drive faster will always stay with me.

Author fact: According to Irving’s website his birth name was Blunt but changed to Irving after his mom remarried.

Book trivia: the movie “Simon Birch” is based on A Prayer for Owen Meany but because the film is so dissimilar to the book Irving asked that the title and names of characters be different as well.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter “Lines That Linger; Sentences That Stick” (p 142). The line (or sentence) Pearl is referring to from A Prayer for Owen Meany is the opening sentence, “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice – not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.”

As an aside: I love John Irving’s work so much I thought Pearl should have included a “Too Good To Miss” chapter for him.



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