Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Educate Emma: Books: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Dust Jacket Description:

"In the summer of 1953, two eleven-year-old boys—best friends—are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy’s mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn’t believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God’s instrument. What happens to Owen, after that 1953 foul ball, is extraordinary and terrifying."

Characters: Owen Meany is quite the character, and that's an understatement. From his unflinching approach to faith to the way he calls people on their crap, Owen is one of the most memorable characters I've seen in a long time. His perspective on God and sacrifice leads to his martyrdom, but despite this fact, he's certainly not lacking personality. Sometimes, the amount of personality he has makes him seem insufferable and obnoxious. Owen is unconventionally likable - he isn't always someone you route for, but you acknowledge that he represents all the potential good humanity can do. He's fascinating to watch, even though he remains a static character through out the piece.

John Wheelwright, Owen's best friend and the narrator of the story, is an interesting choice for the story's point of view. John is your average, boring kid, but the way his history plays out through flashbacks and flash forwards shows that extent that Owen affected him. And John is the character easiest to relate to - he acknowledges the strange nature of the events that occurred in the past, and he's neutral in personality. It's through his eyes that readers get to see how intertwined he and Owen are.

As for side characters, each one is memorable and contributes to the experiences of the two boys. Everything is convincing - whether it be dully or remarkably real in nature. 5 flowers.

Writing: I've heard both my mother and Libba Bray rave about John Irving, which gave me high expectations. I'll have to read more of his work in the near future, because the way he crafts stories is engrossing. Structurally, the novel can be a bit confusing, but it's important to the tricky narrative of the book. Owen Meany took me a few weeks to read, but I want more of his winding writing style and tone. 4 and a half flowers.

Plot: The entire book, I was waiting in dread for this big climax to define Owen's life and explain all the later experiences John had. It's a small seed that continues to grow as Irving slowly builds the world surrounding Owen Meany. By the time the ending hits, it's rather spectacular. 4 and a half flowers. 

End: It proves the whole point of the novel, but it was still shocking in some way. I really love all the points Irving addresses regarding sacrifice, childhood, and religion. 5 flowers. 

Dust Jacket Description: Super vague, and maybe not enough to pull in a reader. But, I think it works without seeming too trope-infested. 3 and a half flowers. 

Cover: Relevant to the story and incredibly appropriate. 5 flowers. 

Overall: A really interesting argument for religion and a great character study, I plan on reading Irving very soon. 5 flowers.



  1. Ooo. We've heard good things about John Irving too. Glad to hear you enjoyed this one! (Btw, did you know Simon Birch the movie is -- loosely -- based on this? Pretty good, but a tearjerker.)

    We'd like to read this one and the one with "widow" in the title. We tried ACCORDING TO GARP but couldn't quite hook into it...

    1. I'll have to check out the movie! I've heard amazing things about The Cider House Rules. It might be a good one to check out.