A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

owenmeany

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.

Where do I even begin? There is so much to say. So many FEELINGS. How I wish I had been given the opportunity to read this in college! Seriously, you guys. I don’t even know how to begin to describe how much this book touched me. If you had told me a coming of age story about two boys, a baseball, and God, religion, faith, Vietnam, politics, and more would stir me up this much, I probably would have laughed at you. I’m not much for baseball. Or politics.

In case you’ve been living under the same rock I had been, here is basically what the book is about. It is about John Wheelwright and his extraordinary friendship with Owen Meany. Owen Meany is a tiny boy with a larger than life voice and a powerful personality. That purpose is slowly revealed throughout the book.

So many interesting things to discuss! The most amazing thing to me is how relevant a book set in the 60s, 70s, and 80s remains. Sure, Irving is ranting on Reagan and a completely different government, but so many of the thoughts he expresses remain the same. In some cases, change the names around, and you get the same problems we are facing today! Normally I don’t find politics interesting at all, but history, oh that is a completely different story.

“WE HAVE A GENERATION OF PEOLE WHO ARE ANGRY TO LOOK FORWARD TO,” Owen said. “AND MAYBE TWO GENERATIONS OF PEOPLE WHO DON’T GIVE A SHIT,” he added.

“How do you know?” I asked him.

“I DON’T KNOW HOW I KNOW,” said Owen Meany. “I JUST KNOW THAT I  KNOW,” he said.

And how true is that statement? So many people are angry now!

“…THE COUNTRY WANTS A SAVIOR. THE COUNTRY IS A SUCKER FOR POWERFUL MEN WHO LOOK GOOD. WE THINK THEY’RE MORALISTS AND THEN THEY JUST USE US. THAT’S WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN TO YOU AND ME,” said Owen Meany. “WE’RE GOING TO BE USED.”

Owen is talking about Kennedy there. Kennedy!

“THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN GET AMERICANS TO NOTICE ANYTHING IS TO TAX THEM OR DRAFT THEM OR KILL THEM,” … “IF YOU ABOLISH THE DRAFT,” said Owen Meany, “MOST AMERICANS WILL SIMPLY STOP CARING ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD.”

Come on. Doesn’t that give you just a bit of a shiver?

Another interesting thing, to me, in this book, was just how much John loves idolizes (and loves) Owen. He has him on a gigantic pedestal. Owen is brilliant, much more so than John. Everything Owen does, from school work to manual labor at the quarry, the ease in which he engages in relationships with others and, oh, just everything; John thinks Owen does it perfectly. It says a lot that the kid killed John’s mother (by accident) and it was never a threat to their friendship. John never blames Owen. It’s not like Owen doesn’t make up for him. The poor boy pulls John through life, kicking and screaming.

I want to go on being a student,” I told him. “I want to be a teacher. I’m just a reader,” I said.

“DON’T SOUND SO ASHAMED,” he said. “READING IS A GIFT.”

“I learned it from you,” I told him.

“IT DOESN’T MATTER WHERE YOU LEARNED IT- IT’S A GIFT. IF YOU CARE ABOUT SOMETHING, YOU HAVE TO PROTECT IT. IF YOU’RE LUCKY ENOUGH TO FIND A WAY OF LIFE YOU LOVE, YOU HAVE TO FIND THE COURAGE TO LIVE IT.

Another thing I loved was Irving’s writing-obviously by the amount of quotes I highlighted. By turns witty, hilarious, heartbreaking, and dogmatic; he never failed to make me FEEL something. He made me feel so much! So much I didn’t expect! And damn it, he made me love Owen Meany. Yes, I love Owen Meany.

Can’t we have him back?

Other bits I liked:

“YOU ABSOLUTELY KNOW SHE’S THERE—EVEN THOUGH YOU CAN’T SEE HER?” he asked me.

“Yes!” I screamed.

“WELL, NOW YOU KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT GOD,” said Owen Meany. “I CAN’T SEE HIM—BUT I ABSOLUTELY KNOW HE IS THERE!”

If watching television doesn’t hasten death, it surely manages to make death very inviting; for television so shamelessly sentimentalizes and romanticizes death that it makes the living feel they have missed something – just by staying alive.

Every American should be forced to live outside the United States for a year or two. Americans should be forced to see how ridiculous they appear to the rest of the world! They should listen to someone else’s version of themselves–to anyone else’s version! Every country knows more about America than Americans know about themselves! And Americans know absolutely nothing about any other country!

A Prayer for Owen Meany
By John Irving
Published by HarperCollins Publishers
Ebook
Ebook publish date: 3/13/2012
Originally published: 1989
ISBN: 9780062204103
640 pages
Purchased from Barnes & Noble
Rated 5/5
Read for The Estella Project

5 thoughts on “A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

  1. Owen Meany annoyed me at the beginning, but I adored him by the end. He was so selfless in everything he did. Such a good friend. I’ll get my post up eventually.

  2. Wonderful review. Wonderful book! I don’t think it would have had the same impact on me if I had read it back in the day. I think it came along at just the right time for me. 🙂

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