#242 A Prayer for Owen Meany

I have possibly outdone myself this week – I powered through the 720 tome in just 4 days, and had to restrain myself a bit yesterday to save enough for the train home. A Prayer for Owen Meany is the second (second and a half technically, I’m still halfway through the World According to Garp – although this is still on the backburner as I’m reading it with my boyfriend, but I have reclaimed it from the library in preparation) John Irving novel that I’ve read – and unfortunately will be the last for a while as there are only three of his on the list. Just like with The Cider House Rules, I didn’t want the book to end – even though you’d think 720 pages of anything would be enough – but apparently not.
The book recounts the story of the titular Owen Meany, the son of a granite quarry owner who is immediately remarkable for his particularly small stature and voice which sounds like a permanent scream, emphasised by Irving presenting all of Owen’s dialogue in capital letters – which I did manage to get used to after a while. It’s narrated by his best friend John Wheelwright: about 100 pages in I realised that it was highly unlikely that the whole book would just be about the boys’ childhood and teenage years if such a character as Owen Meany was still living – and yet the rate at which it was progressing indicated that might be true (although the Cider House Rules does jump forward 15 years so I couldn’t completely rule it out), making me begin to worry either Owen would die or (perhaps even worse) his and Johnny’s friendship would disintegrate. This is more evident as John starts to bring more snapshots from his present day to day life, now in Canada and it would seem very much Owen Meany-less.
Despite his small statue and strange voice (or perhaps because of them) Owen manages to achieve some impressive and amusing accomplishments in the space of the novel, not least (accidentally) killing John’s mother when they 11 with an errant baseball: which we learn in the opening sentence of the novel. There are enough slight twists in the book that I don’t want to discuss any details in case (having read it) I accidentally disclose something that could potentially spoil your reading but I would highly recommend this book: perhaps not quite as much as the Cider House Rules but definitely as a close second – although this is probably when it would be advantageous to have a kindle – it wasn’t much fun lugging this book around all week !


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