John Irving,
A Prayer for Owen Meany
(Ballantine, 1989)

What can be said about this literary masterpiece? There's a reason John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany has been popular for more than a decade and is still a top seller. Despite its length, the plot will grab the reader and suck them in to the world of the one-of-a-kind Meany and the people who were touched by his short time on Earth.

The narrator of this book, John Wheelright, tells the story of Owen in flashbacks from the vantage point of his current adult life in Canada. The present and the past converge at the end of the novel -- John talks about the last month's before Owen's death at the same time as he talks about the funeral and Owen's communications from beyond the grave.

The novel climaxes and concludes with Owen's death, which the reader has been told is coming from the very beginning of the novel. The reader is fully prepared for the death, and even has rough foreshadowing of how it will take place, but it will still sock you in the gut, after having spent so much time watching Owen Meany grow up. As soon as the book finished, I missed Owen's style of EMPHASIZING IMPORTANT THINGS through the use of capital-letter speech.

For those who want to explore more, there are themes of religion, political undertones, endless recurring symbolism and much foreshadowing to be studied. This story can be enjoyed on many different levels, and it is up to the reader how deep they want to look into it.

by Jessica Lux-Baumann
2 September 2006

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