New Classic Challenge — Owen Meany

I finally finished my third book for the New Classics Challenge A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.  I recently read a review of this book by  Under the Dresser who also read it for the challenge.  She thought she was the last person to read this book.  I don’t know, maybe I am.

Like her, and many others I’ve heard, this book took me forever to read.  It is a long one, but that’s not why it took so long.  I’m not sure why it was.  It was a very well done book, but, I guess, you had to plug through.

On the back cover, it says:

Owen Meany, the only child of a New Hampshire granite quarrier, believes he is God’s instrument.  He is.

This is John Irving’s most comic novel; yet Owen Meany is Mr. Irving’s most heartbreaking character.

This book is hard to describe.  It covers about 15 years of Owen’s life, but is told from the perspective of Owen’s best friend, Johnny, after Owen has died.  Entertwined in this story, is Johnny’s current life.  I feel like much of Johnny’s current life could have been left out, but I understand why the author included it.  The author wanted us to see what a strong influence Owen and his death had on everyone, especially Johnny. 

I have to say that Johnny is not the most likable character.  Throughout the novel, he identifies Owen as his best friend, but he is often cruel to him.  Yet, it seems that Johnny can’t do anything without Owen.  Owen makes most of Johnny’s important decisions for him, one way or another. 

As for Owen, I just don’t know what to say.  He is an extraordinary character, unlike any I’ve read before.  But I can’t say I loved him.  He was a little exasperating.  Again, I think the author did this on purpose.  But, it made the book take a lot longer to read.

John Irving’s descriptions in this novel are amazing.  His language he uses often adds some humor through his descriptions.  His metaphors were pletiful and creative.  There is a great deal of symbolism througout the book that was also interesting.  I don’t always “get” symbolism, but I enjoyed it in this novel. 

In my copy of the book, they included a Reader’s Guide that John Irving introduced.  He talked about the perfect opening sentences and how he doesn’t write them until the book is finished.  He also gave some of his insights into the book that added to my understanding. 

There is a lot of social commentary in this book.  I could identify with Johnny a little here.  He was confused and not sure how to feel.  Then, he became extremely angry.  I get that!

Overall, I would recommend this book.  I can understand why it’s on the new classic list.  But, you’ll need a big chunk of time to complete it.


9 responses to “New Classic Challenge — Owen Meany

  1. I haven’t read it yet, but my husband brings it up every now and then, so I’m sure I’ll find myself reading it at some point.

  2. I haven’t read it, either. It’s interesting to read the reviews on some of these new classics. It seems that many of them take a lot of effort to read. Nice review!

  3. I read this book years ago and it has stuck with me all this time. I still remember roaring with laughter during the Christmas pagent scene!

  4. My favorite John Irving by far! I can totally see why it’s on the new classic list–it’s because it’s so good!

  5. I’ve never heard of this book, but it sounds interesting. Thanks for the great review! When I have more time to devote to long books, I’ll have to check this one out.

  6. The Christmas pageant scene is hilarious isn’t it? It’s been so long since I read this book though. Still it’s one I’d definitely recommend.

  7. I think I have this book and a few others by John Irving. I have really enjoyed a lot of the movies based on his books so I figured i would like the books even better, but I have yet to read a book of his. I never make it past the first few pages. I think it must be bad timing.

  8. I want to read this, I like John Irving, but for some reason I shy away from this book. I don’t understand my bookworm mind on this….

  9. I just love John Irving, and have plans to read everything… all his novels. I’ve read 5 now, just finishing Until I Find You a couple days ago. That one too, like Owen Meany is a real long book.
    So far I think Owen Meany has been my favorite Irving novel, and cannot imagine another one usurping this position.
    Oh, I love Owen Meany — one of my favorite books of all time.

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