A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving

I KNOW THREE THINGS ABOUT OWEN MEANY. I KNOW THAT IT IS A BOOK WHICH MAKES ME CRY. MORE THAN ONCE. I KNOW THAT EITHER READERS HATE OR THEY LOVE THIS BOOK. I KNOW THAT FOR ME IT IS ONE OF THOSE BOOKS WHICH WILL STAY WITH ME FOR A READER’S LIFETIME.

With these kinds of books I’m always having a hard time to say something about the mere contents – to convey factual information so to speak. I feel I can’t do them any justice by merely enumerating the ‚hard facts‘ or prepare readers what awaits them with one of these books. And anyhow – in this case, the best job of describing Owen Meany’s character and his story was already done by the first person narrator and Owen’s best friend John Wheelwright. Maybe because a great deal of Owen’s life history is his, too.

Therefore only this: For me, Owen Meany is about deep, true and lifelong friendship, it is about faith and fate, it is about beliefs and doubts, it is about love and loss, humour and grief. It is about literature and the theatre, about reading, writing and acting. It is about war and fight and about childhood and growing up. It makes you or at least it makes me believe in the existence of unshakable foundations and of responsibility and courage.

It took me quite a long time to deal with the last part of the book, the last thirty pages. I had to brace myself for the end. I hoped this time would leave me in a better state afterwards and when I started reading, I asked myself whether it would make me cry again. It did.

Afterwards, I experienced an almost physical pain of parting. I couldn’t think of another book that I possibly could read after this one. I was sad to take leave of the universe that John Irving created from scratch and the people who feel as if I knew them for ages. Each time I encounter an Irving novel it leaves me mesmerized to be confronted with his artistry and craftsmanship of writing. He seems to me like a coachman driving an eight-horse carriage who safely holds the innumerable reins of his storylines in his hands.

In Owen Meany, John Irving demonstrates this perfect command over his literaray creations most impressively. Personally, I think of it as John Irving’s written masterpiece – closely followed by The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules and The Hotel New Hampshire – and it definitely is one of my most treasured reading experiences.

4 thoughts on “A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving

  1. I could not finish this book. I loved it. I was mesmerized by the characters this time around. But my son joined the Marines this August, and I knew Owen was going to die, and I couldn’t deal with all the themes of loss at the time. Some time I’ll finish it. I think his writing is quite profound, revealing so much about life. Or, at least the people in it.

    • Bellezza, what you wrote confirms my concerns. I had a hunch that you might feel this way after I read your article about your son’s decision. I completely understand what you feel, this book simply is too much in that context. It reminds me of „the right books at the right time“…how often it happens that a book isn’t the suitable one for a particular time of life.

      • You’re so right: the right book for the right time is essential. Some time I’ll return to this, and I’m sorry to fall down on the opportunity to read it together.

      • Please don’t be sorry! I’m sure there will be many opportunities to read books together in the future. I am looking forward to all of them!

Ich freue mich sehr über eure Gedanken und euer Feedback! :)

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