“I’m doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice–not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.”
WHAT IF YOUR VOICE WAS A NASAL HIGH-PITCHED SCREAM FOR YOUR ENTIRE LIFE? WHAT IF ALL OF YOUR DIALOGUE WAS IN ALL CAPS THROUGHOUT YOUR STORY TO ILLUSTRATE THIS CONDITION. WHAT IF YOU WERE JUST A PIPSQUEAK THAT, DESPITE (OR MAYBE BECAUSE OF) THIS VOICE, BELIEVED THAT YOU WERE AN INSTRUMENT OF GOD?
John Wheelwright is the illegitimate child of the youngest, most beautiful daughter in the prestigious Wheelwright family. When one day his best friend Owen Meany, hits a rogue baseball that strikes and kills John’s mother–it seems as though his father’s identity will remain a mystery forever. And from that moment forward, Own Meany concludes that he is an instrument of God. When he has a dream that involves him in the Vietnam War, he believes his destiny (and death) are foretold, and no one can change his mind. A Prayer for Owen Meany details the coming-of-age story of these two inseparable best friends over the course of a decade and the choices they make that will change their lives irrevocably.
I was inspired to read this book because of Insatiable Booksluts–a blog with a great name and an even greater cast of writers and reviewers. I must say, I have mixed feelings about APFOM. I thought Owen was a very interesting character, and it is unusual for the protagonist not to be the narrator. His physical description was great, and I have a very clear picture of him in my mind. Somehow I never felt the awe that he impressed in the other characters, especially John and his family. He positively moved them with his integrity, yet also inspired fear of the unknown. I felt as though the story didn’t move quickly enough–and while Irving displays a great use of foreshadowing and symbolism–the overall effect fell a little flat for me.
Typically, my preference for stories are those detailing events that happen over the course of days or weeks (when it starts to move into years and decades, it feels like it takes years and decades to read…) Some of the smaller, more amusing childhood circumstances between John and Owen could have been included, but a lot of the story could’ve been cut out with no detriment to the overall idea.
The best part of the book was the ending, and I’m not even saying that to be bitchy. In the end, you came to a sudden understanding as to why Owen was the way he was and Irving did a great job tying all the loose ends together. There’s a definite Ohhhhhhh moment. However, I was disappointed not only by who John’s father turned out to be, but also by how meek and passive John was the whole time. I get that he wasn’t the main focus of the story, but he was a very strange man. A virgin for his whole life! For no real reason. And the bit about his cousin Hester “the Molester” becoming a rock and roll star seemingly out of nowhere made me scoff.
I wouldn’t read this story again. (“Billy Don’t Be a Hero” by Bo Donaldson kept playing in my mind for 550 pages…)
2 armadillos out of 5