Saturday, December 29, 2007

BOOK: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

50_books top 20 list self challenge Completed

I may have been hasty is creating my top ten reads of the year on December 15th. Who would have thought I would have a contender in the last sixteen two days of the year? The readers of the 50_book challenge at livejournal I guess, as they voted A Prayer for Owen Meany as the 15th best book of all time. One of my goals this year was to read all the twenty books (except Lord of the Rings). I had read six before this year, and thought it would be a long term goal to read the list, but as the year progressed, the remaining 13 seemed attainable.

Here's the list:
1. Harry Potter Series - J.K. Rowling 197
2. Pride & Prejudice - Jane Austen 133 read in 2006
3. Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien 125
4. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee 95 read in 1990s
5. The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger 77 read in 2006
6. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte 76
7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky 64
8. Lolita - Vladimir Nabakov 58
9. 1984 - George Orwell 52 read in 1990s
10. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde 50
11. Wuthering Heights - Emile Bronte 47 read in grade 12
12. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card 46
13. His Dark Materials Trilogy - Philip Pullman 45
14. Good Omens - Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett 42
15. A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving 41
16. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald 41 read in 2006
17. My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult 38
19. American Gods - Neil Gaiman 36
20. The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupery 34

Back to Owen Meany:
I was worried I left this 600 page book too late in the year to finish, but I forgot that really good books are quick to read because they are really good books. The story is told by John Wheelwright about his best friend Owen Meany, both growing up in New Hampshire in the 1950s and '60s. Owen in small for his age and his voice is unique - everything he says in in CAPITAL LETTERS, almost as if he is screaming. People are quickly protective of Owen and also drawn to his strong and unique personality. John narrates from the present, a teacher in Canada, as he remembers Owen and his life.

The book is about faith and religion, but also some interesting commentary about American politics and the Vietnam war. Although this book was written in 1989, I found the criticisms about Reagan and the Iran-contra hearings and Gary Hart's little scandal, could have been applied today to Bush and the Iraq war and Clinton. Irving makes some almost prophetic statements about Americans and politics. Or maybe just the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The concepts of fate and faith were beautifully done, and Owen Meany was a wonderful character. At times I laughed out loud - the removal of a VW car, and others I cried - I read the last twenty pages with my hand over my mouth. Irving has written an amazing book with wonderful messages and a truly unique character in Owen Meany. The way he tied up the whole book at the end was masterful. I'm not taking any books off my top ten list, but I think this one goes on. I won't have the time to reflect and think on Owen Meany before the end of the year, but this was pretty amazing. I was looking around, but it appears not to have won any awards. How can that be?


  1. Oh, I have this on my TBR list..I want to read it now!

  2. I just got this book recently and everytime I read a review of it I just get that much more excited to read it. Wonderful review!

  3. sam and nicola - I hope I didn't rave too much and set up too high of expectations. I hate when that happens with a book.

    but it is really good and powerful

  4. I recently read A Prayer for Owen Meany as well and loved it. Have you read any more by Irving? I really enjoted The World According to Garp as well which you might like to check out if you haven't already. Lolita was my overall book of 2007, it's fantastically well written.

  5. So glad you loved Owen Meany...this book was so wonderful and slipped ahead of Garp and Hotel New Hampshire as my favorite John Irving novel. An amazing book - worthy of your top ten!

  6. rhinoa - I read Garp and hotel New Hamphire years and years ago. Lolita was quite an amazing book but I wouldn't call it my best of the year.

    wendy - I knew you would be pleased I liked Owen Meany. It just blew me away at the end.


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