Book Review: A Prayer for Owen Meany

A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of the best books I have read. John Irving’s gift for prose — for meandering left and right, up and down, all around and back again — is nothing short of incredible. Seemingly meaningless details are subtly combined into a layered plot that spans decades and covers a broad range of topics. And Irving’s characters — especially Owen Meany, who is one of the most unique creations I’ve met in fact or fiction — are quirky, complex, fully developed.

This book is not for everyone. It is wordy and poetic and full of minute details — details that I found beautiful, but which might bore some readers to tears. I’m not usually a fan of long chapters and rambling tangents, but Irving’s combination of oddly likeable characters, rich social commentary and complex plot lines kept me engaged. At times, I managed to plod through only a few pages a day … but even then I carried the story with me, wondering what might happen next.

I rarely judge a book before I’ve finished it, but I figured out early on that I would love this story. As Irving wove together multiple timelines — ranging from the early fifties to the late eighties — through a combination of recollection, introspection and foreshadowing, I became mildly obsessed with figuring out exactly how the story would unfold. Irving has a rare talent for giving away a great deal about major plot points while holding back just the right combination of details to create a sense of intrigue. In the end, I was both mildly surprised and deeply satisfied … and sad to say goodbye to one of the richest casts of characters that I have ever encountered.

Click here for my original Goodreads review…


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Gordon Bullivantreply
December 31, 2015 at 12:35 am

Sounds like a good read
Thanks and Happy New Year!

Mark Cameronreply
December 31, 2015 at 2:20 am
– In reply to: Gordon Bullivant

Happy New Year to you too, Gordon! And yes, this one is very worthwhile…

Sarah Parentreply
January 1, 2016 at 4:20 pm

Wow! And I loved reading your critique! I have not historically been fond of meandering, descriptives nor do I read much fiction. Truth is stranger! But I am intrigued by your love for this book and, if it is so high on your list of appreciated books, I think I must give it a try. Maybe I can read it by the time you come for a visit and we can wax nostalgic about the characters. 🙂 Sending love!

Sarah Parentreply
January 1, 2016 at 4:24 pm
– In reply to: Sarah Parent

And did you know there’s a teacher’s guide for it? Now I’m even more intrigued.

Mark Cameronreply
January 1, 2016 at 7:05 pm
– In reply to: Sarah Parent

Interesting. It is quite a trip, I must say…

Happy New Year to your clan from ours!!

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