Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday Book Review - A Prayer for Owen Meany

Lately I've been reading John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany. I just finished it last night, so I don't think I've fully made up my mind about everything that happens in this book yet. Plus I finished it at about 11 pm which is way late for me. Plus I was reading this book for me, not for a class, not for a book club, nothing; so I don't think I read it as closely as I should have. I was a lazy reader.




This book chronicles the life long friendship between John Wheelright and Owen Meany. Set in Gravesend, New Hampshire throughout the 1950's and 1960's. John tells us his story from Toronto in 1987. Owen is deeply religious and believes that he was sent here for a specific reason, he thinks he is God's Instrument.

This book concerns itself with several large themes: friendship, family, religion, faith, war, peace, just to name a few.

What I didn't like about the book: I feel like it tried to do too much. Yeah it was a long book, but at the end it felt sort of rushed to wrap up some loose ends. Also, I'm not sure all of the ends needed to be wrapped up, John and Owen were lifelong friends, things that mattered to them when they were 11 aren't really important topics when they're 26 or so. Also, some part of the book dragged. Its not really a plot-driven book; more of a character study, and I think the length of the book took away some of the focus on the characters.

My biggest complaint about the book is its focus on fate. It reminded me of Oedipus Rex at times. Owen feels like he has a calling or a purpose and he'll put himself in harm's way in order to fulfill this calling. The ending of the book would have been completely different if Owen had used some common sense, in a lot of different respects, not even the most blatantly obvious way. I felt like he was looking for his own death, and that that death was completely unnecessary.

What I did like: John Irving is a beautiful writer. Seriously, his prose is gorgeous. I felt like it painted subliminal images in my brain. There was a part of the book that was talking about John and Owen in high school and all I could think about was fall in New Hampshire. Also, I really love the basic premise of the story. I just think it tried to cover too much.

In addition, this book is really funny at times. There is a really unique cast of characters that will keep you on your toes.

All in all, I would recommend this book to a friend. It took me a long time to read, but I think it was a good read. It wasn't necessarily gripping, but it was enjoyable. If you do decide to pick this one up, I think you need to have the proper frame of mind - know that its serious and takes some attention to read, I don't think I paid enough attention to it. I feel like there was a lot more to the book than I got from it. So if you are a patient, attentive reader, I think you'd really like this book. I, for one, know that I will give Mr. Irving another try, I just now know to give him another try when I have a little more time to focus on his beautiful words.

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