Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Prayer For Owen Meany

by John Irving

General: John Wheelwright just can't seem to get over Vietnam; even after 20 years, even after moving to Canada, he is still haunted, and yet, he never served a single day! John grew up in small town New Hampshire with his best friend Owen Meany.  Owen was never just a normal boy, for starters, he was small (barely 5'), and he was light (his friends played a game of lifting him), but the strangest thing about Owen was his VOICE. Owen's voice was in a permanent high pitch, near scream. Another thing that was different about Owen was that he believed he was an instrument of God, put on this earth to serve a specific purpose. None of Owen's friends understood or believed him, but Owen stuck to this belief with unswerving faith. 
The story tells of the friendship of these boys, struggling through their teen years, with school, girls, religion, and naturally politics and war. This was the generation of JFK, Vietnam, hippies and draft dodgers. John and Owen find a way to get through these years, but not all the way through.

Thoughts: This was my book club selection. Although I had read this book before and really liked it, I decided to re-read it and see if I still felt so. YES! This is a very well thought out, well planned book. All of the details, which at times you wonder about, are so seamlessly tied together at the end! It all makes sense, the VOICE, the constant practicing of the shot, the dream, the baseball; each piece was needed to form this tidy end package. I like the symbolism: the armadillo, baseball, the nativity, the dressmakers dummy, even the Christmas Carol. I like all of the controversial thoughts: the struggles with religion and predestination, the struggles with war and decisions of government, and the constant reminder of our (Americans) short memory for history. I liked Owen's solid faith (it's a story, I might question what I think about him knowing, but that's a different issue). Owen said, "FAITH TAKES PRACTICE." 
If there was one thing I could say negative, it might be that the diary narration of the present day was sometimes a bit distracting. For me, I can see that it remained within John's character,  but it didn't lend to developing the plot. Regardless, that can be overlooked; it's well worth reading.

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