A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving
Johnny Wheelwright lives in New Hampshire with his mom who “chose to have me and to never explain a word about me or to her mother or to her sister”. Johnny never knew who his dad was, and his mother seemed to like it that way and went about with her tranquil and modest nature the rest of her days.
Johnny was rather scrawny and wimpy so it was only natural for him to find a friend in Owen Meany. Owen was small for his age – freakishly small due to a mysterious growth disorder. he also has damage to his larynx which leaves his voice very squeaky and needless to say, the blunt of many jokes. But – Owen is wise beyond his years and knows more about life at the age of ten than most people do well into their later adult years.
When a tragic accident happens at a baseball game involving Owen… Owen feels this was foreseen by God, therefore – Owen is an instrument of God. The book goes on to play on this “instrument of God” piece (even to the point that Owen predicts his date of death) throughout the childhood of both boys – and into adulthood as well as Johnny continues the story.
A little history. Last year this book was recommended to me for banned book week. AND in typical Sheila style, I ran to my library and checked this out along with several other banned books. AND in typical Sheila style… I had more books than I could read. It was returned… unread.
There are books out there that continue to call to me, for whatever reason they stay on my radar as “must reads” and this book was one of them. I checked the book out again this year, now not only for Banned Book Week, but I had also chosen it as the Wordshaker fall opener read to force my hand. (I sometimes, have to trick – myself.)
I had seen the movie Simon Birch long before I knew of a book called A Prayer For Owen Meany. I enjoyed the movie, finding it funny, and sad, and a mixture in between. The book left me feeling much of the same emotions.
In the early pages you are hit with the shocking plot starter that really kicks off the story. Owen then takes on this role as instrument of God which at times is funny, but admittedly – at times, a bit disturbing as well. For me, reading this book as the fictional story it is, made it enjoyable, and in the end, although not always the easiest book to follow (flash back and forwards tend to mess me up), I am thankful I had the opportunity to read it.
John Irving and I have had a rocky relationship. He has a knack for creating quirky characters and then writing stories around them. In the early years of our book club we had read (under my suggestion) The Fourth Hand by him. Lets just say that I never have really ever lived down the choosing of this book that as a group we all disliked very VERY much.
John Irving, in my eyes, redeems himself in this interesting and profound read that would make an incredible book group discussion read.
Simon Birch is a 1998 American comedy-drama film loosely based on A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. It was directed and written for the screen by Mark Steven Johnson. The film stars Ian Michael Smith, Joseph Mazzello, Ashley Judd, Oliver Platt, and Jim Carrey. It omitted much of the latter half of the novel and altered the ending. The movie does not share the book’s title at Irving’s request; he did not believe that this novel could successfully be made into a film. The name “Simon Birch” was suggested by him to replace that of Owen Meany. The main plot centers around 12-year old Joe Wenteworth and his best friend Simon Birch.
Why Was A Prayer For Owen Meany a Banned Book?
Banned and censored around the United States for its stance on religion and criticism of the US government regarding the Vietnam War and Iran-Contra.
For those of you who joined me for the Wordshakers read a long of this book – as you are posting your reviews this week, please respond to one or two of these questions within your reviews. When your review is up, please link here.
1. What do you think of Johnny as the narrator of this read? What is his motivation for writing this story?
2. How does Owen develop as a character throughout the novel?
3. Why do you feel so such emphasis is put on Owen’s voice?
4. Reverend Merrill always speaks of faith in tandem with doubt. Do you believe that one can exist without the other or that one strengthens the other?
5. Owen Meany taught John that “Any good book is always in motion–from the general to the specific, from the particular to the whole and back again.” Do you think Irving followed his own recipe for a good book?
6. Several reviews call A Prayer for Owen Meany “Dickensian,” and Irving himself incorporates scenes from Dickens in the story. In what ways does Irving’s writing remind you of Dickens? What other writers would you compare Irving to?
I will be answering my thoughts on these questions through commenting on your reviews. Be sure to use the Wordshaker widget to connect your review as part of the Wordshaker Read-A-Long.
Link your Word Shaker read-a-long review here: (linky open through October 8)
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I borrowed this book from our local library