A Prayer for Owen Meany Paperback – May 1 1990
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Owen Meany is a dwarfish boy with a strange voice who accidentally kills his best friend's mom with a baseball and believes--accurately--that he is an instrument of God, to be redeemed by martyrdom. John Irving's novel, which inspired the 1998 Jim Carrey movie Simon Birch, is his most popular book in Britain, and perhaps the oddest Christian mystic novel since Flannery O'Connor's work. Irving fans will find much that is familiar: the New England prep-school-town setting, symbolic amputations of man and beast, the Garp-like unknown father of the narrator (Owen's orphaned best friend), the rough comedy. The scene of doltish the doltish headmaster driving a trashed VW down the school's marble staircase is a marvelous set piece. So are the Christmas pageants Owen stars in. But it's all, as Highlights magazine used to put it, "fun with a purpose." When Owen plays baby Jesus in the pageants, and glimpses a tombstone with his death date while enacting A Christmas Carol, the slapstick doesn't cancel the fact that he was born to be martyred. The book's countless subplots add up to a moral argument, specifically an indictment of American foreign policy--from Vietnam to the Contras.
The book's mystic religiosity is steeped in Robertson Davies's Deptford trilogy, and the fatal baseball relates to the fatefully misdirected snowball in the first Deptford novel, Fifth Business. Tiny, symbolic Owen echoes the hero of Irving's teacher Günter Grass's The Tin Drum--the two characters share the same initials. A rollicking entertainment, Owen Meany is also a meditation on literature, history, and God. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Although he is convincing in his appraisal of the tragedy of Vietnam and in his religious philosophizing, "Irving's storytelling skills have gone seriously astray in this contrived, preachy, tedious tale of the eponymous Owen Meany, a latter-day prophet and Christ-like figure who dies a martyr after having inspired true Christian belief in the narrator Johnny Wheelwright," warned PW . Author tour.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I think we all knew an "Owen Meany" in school: The boy who was smaller than average and who everyone picked on. The children weren't actually cruel to Owen, but they took pleasure in passing Owen over their heads from hand to hand because he was so light. Even though Johnny participated in this type of behaviour, he did consider Owen to be his best friend. Although he is diminutive in size, Owen has a big personality and is very forthright in expressing his feelings.
As Johnny and Owen grow up together, we see that Owen is steadfast in his belief that everything in his life happens for a reason. During the play of A Christmas Carol, Owen - who is portraying the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come - has a revelation. When he points out the headstone to the man playing Scrooge, Owen sees his own name on the headstone along with his dates of birth and death. While he does share that he sees his own name on the gravestone, he does not reveal to anyone the date of his death.
Owen lives his life with the knowledge of when and how he is going to die, as evidenced (in his mind) by the prophecy of both of his vision and his recurring dream about his death. He does not divulge all the details to anyone, not even Johnny. He truly believes that God's plan for him is to die a hero, and he accepts this destiny.
I do not want to say too much because I do not want to spoil the story for anyone who has not read it yet.Read more ›
As for Owen, he doesn't believe in accidents, especially not this one. What transpires through the remainder of the story, tracing the lives of these two from children into adulthood, is a complex weave of seeming circumstance into eventual climactic conclusion that rather neatly ties many loose threads together into a tight knot. Owen has foreseen his own death by a visionary dream, and he never doubts, at least not until the final days of his life, that this dream is the beacon guiding him home (home being, for Owen, heaven for those who would enter through the gates of martyrdom).
In the process of these two strange lives, topics of destiny and fate, religion, American politics and foreign policy, various rites of passage from childhood into adulthood, and other miscellaneous lighter and deeper issues are undertaken. These, too, all come together into the neat knot at the book's end. The only other novel that came together this way for me (and everyone else) was THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD with its equally strange characters and situations.
Irving is a quality writer.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
It is hard to fly in the face of popular culture when reviewing a much-beloved novel. Such is the case with John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Lorina Stephens
Just re-read "A Prayer..." and found it even more engaging than when I picked it up when it was first published. Irving's best - and that's high praise.Published 11 months ago by John Hudson
I bought this on CD. I really enjoyed it. It took a while to listen to the whole story. But I am glad I did. It all came together wonderfully. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Tammy Calvert
Good story Johnny!! Enjoyed all the laughs and even got choked-up a couple times.
I want my own Owen! I'm not even the slightest bit religious.
I read John Irving's anti-war account when it was first published many years ago. Now that I am finding Kindle the ideal travelling companion
I am glad to have A Prayer for... Read more
I have never been a great fan of 'popular literature' and this novel underlines the reasons why this is so. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Ronald W. Maron
This book had been recommended to me years ago but I had never gotten around to reading it. I'm not religious at all but Irving's message did not feel like proselytizing. Read morePublished on Feb. 11 2014 by Sandy in Chapala
This is the only book I have read by this author, so I can't say anything about his other works, but this book was very good and I highly recommend it even if you are not a fan of... Read morePublished on Aug. 25 2013 by Joe