This Week's Recommended Read: "A Prayer for Owen Meany" by John Irving
Preview Often times we create high expectations for the books we read, based on good reviews, the recommendation of a friend or a fondness for previous works by the same author. John Irving’s “The Cider House Rules” is one of my favorite novels, so naturally I entered into “A Prayer for Owen Meany” with sky-high expectations. I hoped that it would be near as good as its predecessor and to my delight it was even better!
“A Prayer for Owen Meany” is a powerful and emotionally touching novel. We follow the unimpressive narrator, Johnny Wheelwright, as he recalls growing up with his childhood best friend, Owen. Owen is a rather odd character. He’s unnaturally small and pasty. He’s got a voice that is stuck in a permanent scream and causes some to believe he is the devil incarnate. But Owen is not the devil’s own. It was Owen who made his best friend believe in God and his miracles—even though this included the accidental murder of Johnny’s mother in the process.
At a blasÃ© little league game, the coach is just looking to end the monotony. He puts lackluster Owen to bat and by some freak accident he makes a forceful connection with the ball. It zings over to the sideline, where Johnny’s mother is chatting up a friend, and *thwack* that’s the end of that.
Through an unspoken understanding the friends make it past this horrifying event and continue on together until Johnny has made it to graduate school and Owen has voluntarily enlisted in the wartime military. Looking back on his days with Owen as an unpatriotic, asexual Canadian, Johnny recounts their journey, which includes an armadillo, a dressmaker’s dummy, a longstanding mystery as to who Johnny’s father is, the advent of television, two unforgettable Christmas plays and an amputation.
Owen has a vision of his death date at just 11 years old. It is later coupled with a recurrent dream detailing his last minutes on Earth. When everything comes together in the end of the story, you will mourn for the loss of a great soul, even if he only ever existed in the fictional world. I am not ashamed to admit that this is one of the few books that has moved me to tears. I wept for the tragically beautiful ending—after all, that’s the very best kind.
You may like this book if you like meeting characters who seem like they are living, breathing entities; you enjoy stories where every single detail works together in the end leaving you in awe; you like nontraditional heroes; you like the time period of the 1950’s through 1980’s; you like books that span many years; you are moved by faith or would like to be; you believe in destiny; you want to laugh throughout the story and then sob your eyes out when it's over. You may not like this book if you have a hard time believing in miracles or that the universe all comes together to obtain a single goal; you’ve not enjoyed other books by the same author; you are looking for a quick and easy read; you want your narrator to be endearing and relatable. Melissa LR Handa is the founder and organizer for the Ann Arbor Classics Book Group and the Lead Books Contributor for AnnArbor.com. Her goal is to make classic literature more accessible to the everyday reader.