I’ve joined the Estella Society summer readalong for A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. This is the halfway point check in, but I have to admit I’ve rushed ahead a little. Okay, a lot (I’ll be finishing tonight). I just love this book SO MUCH. Mind you, I resisted at first.
When it was suggested at my book club a few years ago, I was all like, “errrr, I dunno. Isn’t it about, like, some kid who hits a baseball and kills a friend’s mom? Why do I want to read that?”
BUT OMG I AM SO GLAD I WAS OUTVOTED.
This time, I can slow down and enjoy it more. Yes, I am crying my eyes out quite often knowing what’s coming, but the funny scenes are still really, really funny. And the Nativity scene is the perfect tragicomic mix.
My copy of the novel contains an afterword titled “My Favorite First Sentence.” In it, Irving mentions that every novel of his begins with a “What if…” question. In the case of Owen Meany, he thought about this small boy, and “what if he didn’t grow?.”
As I’ve been reading, I’ve been struck by the lack of growth with many of the other central characters. John, in particular, grows up so closely with Owen. Owen structures his life, as much as possible, to never leave him. Through John’s flashbacks, we see him accused of still being childlike (or more appropriately, probably, teenage-like). In his rantings about current United States foreign policy, there are echoes of Owen, especially of Owen as THE VOICE. It’s as though John cannot grow up without Owen. Later in the book, its obvious the same can be said of Hester. Even Mrs. Wheelright in a way, is stunted by her interactions with Owen. It is his voice that can bring her back from her dementia twilight.
For all that I don’t particularly like rereading, I have to say that I’m glad I am rereading this. Thanks to The Estella Society for giving me the push I needed!