Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

I will never forget Owen Meany as long as I live. Like all books, the details will fade a bit, and someday I'll probably need to re-read, but I will live with these characters for a very long time.

In A Prayer for Owen Meany, we follow Johnny Wheelright, the narrator, and his best friend, Owen Meany, from the time they are 11 into adulthood. Johnny is telling the story as an aging English teacher at a private school in Canada--a slightly miserable older gentleman fed up with American politics and attitudes during the Reagan administration (and looking back on Vietnam), struggling constantly with issues of spirituality. According to the opening lines, he believes in God because of Owen Meany. But that doesn't mean he's without struggle.

One incident early in the book sets everything in motion. Owen hits a baseball that takes the life of Johnny's mother. While most people might've called that the end of a friendship, it's the crux of everything that comes after for Owen Meany. Everything. Owen believes he is an instrument of God.

I was continually surprised reading this book. Surprised by the decisions the characters made, the twists in the story, but maybe most surprised by how funny it was. It deals with heavy issues, but after an erection at the Christmas pageant, an incident with a VW bug and a prep school auditorium, not to mention Owen's editorial writings for the school newspaper, it was clear that humor was just as important to Irving as the serious stuff.

The characters in this book are so nicely fleshed out...they feel like real people I got to know. And when bad things happened to them, it really broke my heart. This book came together wonderfully well. It was fascinating to see how all the nuggets Irving had dropped along the way came together so perfectly. It made me sob, ok? I was sobbing on the couch at 1am. 

I'm very thankful that this book was chosen for the Estella Project and then voted in for the Estella Project Summer Readalong. I picked it up when I was in my early 20s and quickly put it down because I just wasn't in the mood. Without this push, I don't know that I ever would've gotten back to it, and that would've been a sad, sad outcome. It was slow going at first, with all the detail, but it's worth pushing through to fall in love with the characters and the plot. Books as moving and thoughtful as this one just don't come along very often. 

And I feel like this review hasn't done the book any of the justice it deserves. Oh the trials and woes of writing reviews of books we love. Ugh. 

Pub Date: originally 1989, e-book in 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: E-book
ISBN: 9780062299567
Source: Purchased by moi. 

Want me to talk you through this review? I tried my best. :)


34 comments:

  1. It makes me so happy that you enjoyed this book. (This is one of those "If you liked Owen Meany, we can be friends" kind of books for me.) But I agree, you have to be in the right headspace to really appreciate and the fact that you cam back to it is really great.

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    1. It makes me really happy, too! It was a wonderful, pleasant surprise. I'm so glad I came back to it, and I hope I get in the mood for more Irving soon! Maybe in the fall when I can hunker down with a blanket and a hot chocolate.

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  2. I love this book and am so happy to see you enjoyed it as well ;) Reading your post actually makes me want to re-read the book. Its been awhile since I've immersed myself in Irving, so maybe its time to reacquaint myself with his work. Loved your review!!

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    1. I'm thrilled with it. Absolutely loved it. I hope you get a chance to reacquaint yourself with Irving. Cider House is the way to go if you haven't read it.

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  3. This is actually the book that got me back to reading "for me" as an undergraduate during sophomore year - I stayed up as late as I could every night reading it after the rest of my work was done! I then made sure to make time for some of my own reading regardless of how much else I had going on! I had to relearn this in graduate school but haven't stopped since! Such a wonderful, funny, engaging and heart-filled book!

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    1. That is awesome, Courtney! For me is was a non-fiction book about Rodin (crazy) and a Maya Angelou biography. I think it was Even the Stars Look Lonesome. It was always a hard balance, but taking that time to read for one's self is soooo important.

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  4. I read this book for book club a few years ago. I wasn't reviewing then but I rated it 3*. It wasn't my favourite book, I did struggle a bit with it. I'm pleased you enjoyed it :)

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    1. It is definitely a struggle in spots. I know I have to be in JUST the right mood for Irving's meandering detail. Same thing with Atwood for me -- not so much the detail with her, but her writing style in general.

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  5. I'm so glad you loved it. It's such a unique book and like you I'll never forget Owen.

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    1. I loooooved it! So so so pleased to have read it, and I wouldn't have done it without all the awesome recs from people like you!

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  6. I can't wait to start reading this! Was it your first Irving book?

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    1. My first Irving was actually The Cider House Rules back in 2001. I absolutely adored it. And this one was just as good.

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  7. I saw the movie first and then read this book and loved both of them! Owen is a fabulous character!

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    1. I definitely want to see the movie now. A co-worker of mine was saying that they changed quite a bit, but it sounds like they stayed true to the spirit of the book.

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  8. Andi, you are making my TBR list very, very long. I mean, I love you for it. But dagnabit.

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  9. Ok, I'm convinced. I feel like everyone has read and loved this one. I need to be next.

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  10. Yes. This goes on my best of my life list, definitely. Great written review. Will watch the video later, hopefully tonight!

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    1. That's AWESOME, Heather! It's not everyday that a new all-time fave-list-maker comes along. I'm so glad you liked it.

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  11. As many good things as I've heard about Irving, you would think that I would have picked up one of his books by now. But I haven't and need to change that!

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    1. LOL, sometimes ya just need a little push. This is me pushing! ;)

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  12. You make me want to reread this NOW!!!

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  13. WHAT A BOOK!! I'm so crazy thankful that it was picked for the summer readalong. It was remarkable :D

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    1. Wasn't it??? So so so glad I read it. Remarkable is a great word for this one. :)

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  14. Absolutely on target with how my wife and I feel about this book: the PERFECT book X 2. If that is possible. Fantastic review, both on the page here and the video. Always enjoy hearing your take on books.

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    1. I love that your wife loved this one, too. Perfect book indeed! And thank you! :D You made my day!

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  15. Ok, so all of you read-along-ers who've reviewed this book have finally convinced me to read it. I've been eyeing a copy in the Little Free Library around the corner from my house, and I might just have to grab it if it's still there. Now, what to put in its place...

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    1. LOL, Marie! I hope it's still there! And I hope you adore the book.

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  16. This sounds really great! I love surprises and funniness injected into serious books. I think I'll add it to my "someday" TBR for when I'm in the mood for something sort of serious and sobby! Great review!

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  17. One of my fave books of all time. Love Owen. Loved your video review, too!

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  18. As I told Trish, this is one of my all-time favorite books! I've read it a couple of times and the first time I loved the first half. The second time I loved the second half. Go figure! But Owen. Oh, what a memorable character. Actually, there are so many great characters and scenes. Hmm, I may just have to give it a third reading. And let me tell ya, that never happens around here. ;) And yes, I bawled, too. But I also laughed out loud many, many times.

    BTW, I think it was you who kept raving about Cider House Rules and I got a copy and I watched the movie (loved it!), but I still haven't read the book! I should vow to read it pretty soon. Maybe I can get Trish to do a readalong... ;)

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  19. I don't think that this book would have ever piqued my interest on its own. But after reading several reviews about how amazing this book is, I feel that I now need to make sure it is on my TBR list and that I make reading it a priority.

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