Welcome friends! I have started this entry in the global technosphere because I have been in love with books since the age of 2. Among the busy business of being a new teacher, this is my outlet for sharing thoughts on a love of reading a wide variety of books. My inspiration can be summed up with a yearbook quote from a teacher written when I was 8: "To the only girl at recess I see reading a book. Good for you!"
My blog title is quoted from a classmate who asked me this once. Believe it or not, I've also heard it as a teacher :D

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Prayer For Owen Meany- John Irving

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters
Published:  1989
Pages:  635
ISBN:  9780676974034
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 disturbing"
(page 203).

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


  1. I had a hard time getting into this book and must admit that I had to put it down after about ten pages. Why did everything Owen say have to be CAPITALIZED? Or was that just my edition? Very annoying. The only one of John Irving's books that I read right to the end was Cider House Rules, which I thought was pretty good.

  2. I know a couple of people who claim this as their favorite book. I read 1/2 to 2/3 of it and couldn't handle any more. I found Owen so annoying I wanted to cry. After reading that intro (afterword?) however, I felt like I hadn't been giving Irving enough credit. I may try rereading this at some point, although I'm probably more likely to try another of his novels first.

  3. One of my favorite books of all time is Cider House Rules by Irving. I tried reading Owen Meany after that one, and I have to say, I didn't have much luck. I found Owen grating for the part of the book I actually got through. Now that it's been a few years since Cider House I wonder if I'd have any better luck.

    Great review! Thanks for this!

  4. This is undoubtedly a strange book, but by the end I was completely wrapped up in the story and the characters.

  5. Thanks for all your comments :)

    Trish~ I forgot to mention the ALL CAPS in my review--thanks for reminding me! It wasn't just your edition. It took some getting used to but Irving explained in his Afterword that it was a ploy to get his quality of voice to come through on the page. It worked...!

    Melody~ I would recommend Garp over this one, if you haven't read it yet. The first half is tricky (I mentioned liking only every other chapter or so), which can challenge you to invest in the book further, but I liked the last half better. Once John & Owen move into high school & college age, it eases up.

    Andi~ I want to read that! I found the movie just okay (though Michael Caine is wonderful). I also want to try The Hotel New Hampshire and his latest...*looks up title*...Last Night in Twisted River. Ti @ Book gave it a good review.

    Avid Reader~ Agreed! I think the last half impressed me more, though the armadillo & angel were incredible motifs. I found myself drawn to Garp more, but I definitely liked this. Have you read any other books by John Irving?

  6. I read this book a long time ago, but something about it spoke to me; nice review.

  7. I was assigned the book in my AP English Lit class and also had a very difficult time getting into the novel, only briefly reading through the first few chapters (regretfully). This book was the first of which, where I felt like a teacher really loved the book they had assigned and wanted her students to identify with. However I must say I found Hester's character far more annoying than any. Maybe it was just me but I thought there was a lack of female presence in the books entirety.

  8. I loved the World According to Garp. I am a sophomore in college, but my freshman Lit Composition teacher recommended it to my class. I am so grateful to her. This has been my favorite book I've ever read. Irving truly makes you care about his characters and their lives. He talks about every aspect of humanity and our relationships, from Jenny's confused outlook on lust to the intense love that Garp and Helen share and the parental love they find in their heart for Ellen.