'If you care about something you have to protect it. If you're lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.' Eleven-year-old Owen Meany, playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire, hits a foul ball and kills his best friend's mother. Owen doesn't believe in accidents; he believes ...
'If you care about something you have to protect it. If you're lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.' Eleven-year-old Owen Meany, playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire, hits a foul ball and kills his best friend's mother. Owen doesn't believe in accidents; he believes he is God's instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul ball is both extraordinary and terrifying.
I have read this book at least three times. The last time I read it in its entirety was during a very difficult time in my life ? a period in which I was wandering in the ?dessert? ? uncertain of my purpose in this life. I was not, at that time, a believer. I was a ?physical? Christian, by which I mean that I attended church, talked like a Christian ? and, to an unbeliever, I ?looked? like a Christian ? but Christ did not have my heart. This book, however, spoke to me ? deeply ? it offered the solace and encouragement that I was lacking. It reassured me ? without spoiling the end of the story ? that there is a purpose for every life ? a Divine Purpose ? one that is pre-ordained ? and that we must, everyone of us, be patient in waiting.
I had not thought about Owen Meany for nearly 12 years ? until this day ? a day in which I find myself again lost and wandering ? looking for clarity of purpose in this life. I am lost because I am out of work ? searching for a job ? and living in a culture in which we are defined, measured and valued by our work. No work ? no value. Of course, I know this is not true, but it is a culturally imposed judgment that anyone who is unemployed ? especially the long-term unemployed ? experience daily and feel deeply.
We are the new lepers. In the times of Jesus ? lepers were feared and shunned ? they were misunderstood and thought to be cursed ? many feared ? contagious. Attempts were made to explain it away; those who were not afflicted could feel exempt, beyond the reach of the afflicted. So too, are the unemployed ? everyone fears the loss of their job ? some so deeply that they are afraid joblessness is contagious ? spread through extended contact. Explanations are created to help define the reason for joblessness ? laziness primarily - to make others feel that they are beyond its reach.
So what does this have to do with Owen Meany? His is a story of a life lived in the face of extreme disadvantages ? poor family, difficult upbringing, multiple physical deformities ? really, no advantages in a world fixated on physical prowess and pedigree. Yet, he knew from his youngest days that the Lord had a plan for him ? that there was a Divine reason for everything he endured and his every attribute. He believed, completely and totally, that every single thing about his life had a purpose ? he simple needed to be patient, and listen prayerfully, for it to be revealed.
This is true for all of us. The unemployed, poor, hungry, homeless, mentally ill, abused, imprisoned ? you name it ? so many of us are experiencing hardship that is beyond our understanding. This is made especially difficult, because in the midst of our trials ? so many are thriving ? experiencing material and other gifts that we can only dream of.
I was thinking about this very thing during my bible study today ? when I read the following verses:
? Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.? Philippians 4: 4-7
I read, underlined it and prayed on those very lines. I was feeling discouraged, dejected, frustrated ? lost. Then, two hours later a took Owen Meany off of my bookshelf, opened to the first page and saw this very verse ? and I remembered the encouragement and comfort I found in the story of Owen Meany. This is an incredible book ? an incredible journey. It stands as a great reminder that the challenges of this life serve to forge, mold and shape us, it is through prayer and perseverance that we endure and emerge victorious. Today, with my bible this time, I am going on that journey once again ? I can?t wait.
Peace & God Bless!
Feb 17, 2011
This is one of my favorites from John Irving.
I have read all his books
Aug 26, 2010
One of the best books ever
John Irving is one of my favorite authors, and A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of his best. The story is touching and sad and funny, and I think you'd have to have ice running through your veins if you didn't find it moving.
Sep 16, 2007
OMG!!! This is a GREAT book!!!!
All I can say is WOW. The title didn't mean much to me at first and it sounded like some sort of annoying "yay-religion!" book--I only read it because it was AP English Language and Composition summer homework. But this book is SO MUCH MORE! I can understand why my teacher assigned this book. The title has great meaning (which I won't tell you since it'll ruin the book) and it has significant symbols and motifs. I was very relieved that it wasn't a "yay religion!" book, but rather a book about Owen Meany's faith in his God. The details and dialogue are splendid. John Irving is really a great story-teller.
Apr 11, 2007
One of the best books of all time
Is it a good sign when a book makes you cry every time you finish it? I mean, I'm a man, and we're not supposed to cry over books. Chuckle, maybe. Cry, never. And yet every time I've read A Prayer for Owen Meany (and I've read it 4 or 5 times), I weep. What is it about this book that makes it so emotionally effective? Perhaps it's the richness of its tile character, Owen Meany. Owen, whose every line in the book is printed ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS, to indicate his unearthly speaking voice, is one of the most engaging and well-drawn characters in American literature. Of course, the book also features a host of other interesting players: Johnny Wheelright, the narrator of the book; his mysterious and charismatic mother; his sometimes overbearing but dignified grandmother; his stepfather; Johnny's three rambunctious cousins; the town's two most prominent ministers, one Congregationalist and one Episcopalian; the list goes on. But Owen is the most significant of them all, looming large over all the others, despite his diminutive size. Perhaps the historical backdrop of the Vietnam War (and its echoes in today's world) contributes to the overall impression of a book rooted in the real world, even though many of the events that occur over the course of the story seem almost unearthly. Perhaps the flow of the story seems so natural, that it is one that I find very easy to read, despite the novel's length. I think, however, the thing that keeps me coming back to A Prayer for Owen Meany is that this is a book that, once I begin to read it, grabs a hold of me and doesn't let go until the end. It did it on the first reading, and has done it on all successive readings. This is a tale that has a firm hold on my imagination, my interest and my emotions. If I could give it more than five stars, I certainly would, because this is a book that exemplifies everything that makes reading enjoyable for me.
Publishers Weekly, 2009-10-26 Joe Barrett captures the humor and sorrow of Irving's classic novel about faith, friendship and fate. We follow the adventures of diminutive Owen Meany and his best friend Johnny Wheelwright as they grapple with life, death and devotion and come of age in the small town of Gravesend, N.H. Barrett deftly portrays a host of strange and wonderful characters as Owen commandeers the local Christmas pageant, battles with an autocratic headmaster and fulfills what he believes to be his destiny. Faced with the unenviable task of capturing the singular voice of the titular character (in the novel, Owen's dialogue is capitalized to represent his strident, squeaking speech), Barrett produces a workmanlike rendition of Owen that, while not perfect, grows on listeners as the story unfolds. True to the spirit of the text, Barrett's masterful rendition is a delight. A Morrow hardcover. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 1990-04-13 Although he is convincing in his appraisal of the tragedy of Vietnam and in his religious philosophizing, ``Irving's storytelling skills have gone seriously astray in this contrived, preachy, tedious tale of the eponymous Owen Meany, a latter-day prophet and Christ-like figure who dies a martyr after having inspired true Christian belief in the narrator Johnny Wheelwright,'' warned PW . Author tour. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 1989-01-06 Irving's storytelling skills have gone seriously astray in this contrived, preachy, tedious tale of the eponymous Owen Meany, a latter-day prophet and Christ-like figure who dies a martyr after having inspired true Christian belief in the narrator, Johnny Wheelwright. The boys grow up close friends in a small New Hampshire town, where Owen's loutish parents own a quarry and where the fatherless Johnny, whose beloved mother never reveals the secret of his paternity, becomes an orphan at age 11 when a foul ball hit by Owen in a Little League game strikes his mother on the head, killing her instantly. The tragedy notwithstanding, Owen and Johnny cleave to a friendship sealed when Owen uses desperate means to keep Johnny from going to Vietnam, and brought to its apotheosis when Johnny is present at the death Owen has seen prefigured in a vision. Despite the overworked theme of a boy's best friend causing his mother's injury or death (one thinks immediately of Robertson Davies and Nancy Willard), the plot might have been workable had not Irving made Owen a caricature: Owen is, all his life, so tiny he can be lifted with one hand; he is ``mortally cute,'' and he has a ``cartoon voice'' because he must shout through his nose, which Irving conveys by printing all of Owen's dialogue in capital lettersan irritating device that immediately sets the reader's teeth on edge. Then too, the author's portentously dramatic foreshadowing, which has worked well in his previous books, is here sadly overdone and excessively melodramatic. On the plus side, Irving is convincing in his appraisal of the tragedy of Vietnam and in his religious philosophizing, in which he distinguishes the true elements of faith. But that is not enough to save the meandering narrative. Owen is not the only one to hit a foul ball in this novel, which is too ``mortally cute'' for its own good. BOMC main selection. (Mar) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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