WBN 58: A Prayer for Owen Meany

Unfortunately for the purposes of this challenge, this is not a book to be rushed. The depth and the tone of the narrative completely resist speed reading, and it’s not a book you can dip in and out of, a few pages at a time. Luckily, instead of squeezing it into my usual schedule, I had a few work free days in Wales in which to read.

The narrator is in his forties, living in Canada, and I can’t remember his name – perhaps because he has all the personality of a wet dishrag. [*Googles* Oh, of course – it’s John Wheelwright.] He is telling the story of his formative years, growing up in America against a backdrop of increasing political tension and, eventually, the Vietnam War, sliced with small anecdotes from his current life. When John and his best friend Owen Meany are ten, Owen hits a foul ball in a baseball game which kills John’s mother. From that point on, Owen starts to believe that he has been chosen by God, and spends his life trying to prepare himself for the tasks that he believes God wants him to do.

Owen Meany is an extremely curious character. He is extremely small and has a voice which is described as unusual and awful. Despite this, he is an intensely charismatic individual who carves out a prominent place for himself in every environment that he is in. Possibly the character of Owen and my interest in what would happen to him was the thing that kept me going through the long passages where the narrator gets sidetracked from the plot itself to discuss theology or American politics.

This book was mixed for me. I think I’d benefit from another read when I have more time to appreciate the depth of the symbolism and the foreshadowing that is rife, and get to understand the politics that influence the narrative. The story could be told in maybe half the page count (this is a 600 page doorstopper) but it would probably lose a lot of its meaning and depth. By all means read this book, but realise that it can’t be rushed and it’s not a quick fix. It is to be read slowly, in dedicated chunks of quiet time, and pondered over, and maybe you should even underline some passages.

Think I might save it for retirement.


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Filed under Books, World Book Night challenge

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