|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Genre: Literary Fiction
Start Date: Jan. 21, 2011
Finished Date: Jan. 30, 2011 (10 days)
Where Found: Chapters-Indigo
Why Read: I absolutely loved The World According to Garp and have been interested in this book for a long time.
Read For: What's in a Name 4 Challenge (2/6)
Summary: A man struggling to come to terms with his past reflects on his childhood & young adulthood when he lost his mother, befriended a boy with an unusual affinity for self-destiny, and discovered a sense of faith he never had before.
"I'm not at all sure what it is he does", Dan said.
"I'm not either," Mr. Fish said. "It's just...so disturbing"
For the majority of this book, this is exactly how I felt: what is it exactly that Owen Meany is or does, and why does it strike me as so disturbing how he can be so sharply intelligent, so determined that he is predestined to be a hero, and be so twisted at the same time. It was very challenging to like Owen Meany as much as you may want to, but in the end he was undoubtedly fascinating, powerful, and in control every step of the way, desperately averting attention from his dimunitive size and jarring voice, at the same time using them to project himself as a messenger of God.
It was odd to me how, at the beginning of the novel, I only liked every other one (or so) up until The Voice, which had me hooked right to the end. The Armadillo and The Angel were brilliantly written chapters that could have stood alone as short stories and presented beautiful, unusual images of friendship and love. The characters were unique creations, and though I cannot admit to liking them all, I had a particular fondness for Dan Needham and, despite his "wimpy" demeanor, Rev. Lewis Merrill was an endearing character. As for Owen, I could feel my blood pressure rising every time he complained, argued, or criticized. He was so stressful, angry, and bitter that it was hard to believe or even respect him. I came to a consensus about Owen when he finally admitted "It's not as if I'm entirely innocent" (page 411) and even had doubts about his premonition: he was far from perfect, even though he was adamant about his vision, but he came across as "holier than thou" and never explicitly admitted who his own heroes were, which bothered me, especially given his predilection to heroism. John was more likeable and definitely more relatable than Owen but his only purpose seems to be as a vessel for Owen's wisdom, which stifles him and leaves him with many more questions than answers, and comes across as an incredibly dull personality.
I wondered if anyone else noticed this particular formatting issue: There were several instances in the novel when Irving repeated words in back-to-back sentences, and also repeated surnames of characters that had been well introduced in the novel. Here's an example: "One of the students yelled. 'What's the hymn?' the student yelled." Imagine that occuring every few pages and it became somewhat of a nuisance. Maybe it was my edition (Vintage Canada, 2009)?
I must say that seeing the very loosely adapted movie Simon Birch, which only borrows from a sliver of the novel ruined some surprises, such as the identity of John's father and how his mother Tabby died, but the book's ending blew me away and is much more layered than the movie's ending, when you understand Owen's motives for his entire existence from childhood onwards.
Despite some misgivings about the characters, the story is airtight, beautifully written, and no matter where you stand on the concept of premonition and fate, you cannot help but admiring how it all comes together (especially in the last 5 pages).
Rank: (A)- Excellent, Highly Recommend