A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving: Book Review

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A Prayer for Owen Meany Book Cover

3.5 Stars

Owen Meany is a strange child. Almost freakishly small, and with a terrible voice, he is huge on faith, but not so crazy about religion. But Owen has faith that God made him the way he is because he has a Higher Purpose to fulfill.

This came awfully close to being a 3 star read for me. The book just seemed to get longer and longer. It was finally about 100 pages longer than my attention span for the story. But once I got to the end, I realized that everything was essential, even what I thought were tangents. John Irving did a great job of tying up all the seemingly disparate threads at the end.

I mostly liked Owen. There was one section where he seemed to act like a jerk, and he almost lost me. But even that got explained to my satisfaction.

I’ve already returned this book to the aunt I borrowed it from, but there were some great quotes in there that made me, a relative newcomer to any knowledge of politics, realize how little things actually change. Like the part where Owen’s friend John, gets on a rant about how the President’s a jerk and needs to be impeached, and if he’s stupid enough to let other people tell him what to do he still needs to be impeached. Sound familiar? He was talking about Reagan. Or the part where someone talks about this dashing young man running for President, and how the country can’t be swept away by his charisma because experience is what really counts. That section was talking about JFK. So that was pretty interesting to read.

John Wheelwright is the narrator of the story, and he’s just a blah little character for me. He was okay when he was young, but he’s telling the story something like 15 years later, and he keeps interrupting Owen’s story with details of his (John’s) current life. I hated those parts. They served their purpose of showing Owen’s effect on others’ lives, but I got sick of them.

But if you’re in the mood for a book that is somehow laugh-out-loud funny, ultimately touching, and a lot about faith and politics, you’ll probably enjoy this one.

Reviewed May 25, 2009
Banned Books Week Poster

According to the Marshall University Library, A Prayer for Owen Meany was “Removed from the Pelham (MA) school district recommended summer reading list after a parent complained about the novel’s objectionable language and sexuality” in 2009 and “Challenged in Kanawha County (WV) high schools as pornographic, offensive and vulgar” in 2001. According to a couple of older blogs who don’t name or link to their sources, it’s also been “Banned and censored around the United States for its stance on religion and criticism of the US government regarding the Vietnam War and Iran-Contra.”

I barely remember any sex or language in the book.  Oh, I’m sure it’s there.  Once I read those “reasons”, I remembered some experimentation that happened when the group of kids were teens, but I don’t recall it as being graphic.  Maybe it was, I don’t remember.  But it wasn’t the point of the book.  Objectionable language?  Most of us at least hear worse every day, if we aren’t saying it ourselves.  And heaven forbid anyone should ever question the US government.  We all know government is infallible.  And it’s not like we have a little thing called the First Amendment granting us freedom of speech.  (Yes, that’s sarcasm)  Why is it that the very people who criticize you for questioning the government start questioning it themselves as soon as their party loses power?  Double standard much?

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  1. I am sorry you didn't like this book so much. I , on the other hand , loved this book. I can't imagine why this was banned.

  2. I liked this book, but my son loved it. It really seemed to get to him. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why it would be banned.

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