I don’t want to give any plot spoilers, so this will be a bit of a short review. A little slow to get started and dragging in a few spots, John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany became better and more absorbing with each chapter. The ending was captivating and superb. Irving created an engrossing world of eccentric characters and striking imagery, and my curiosity about Owen’s otherworldliness kept me reading more than the loose, often meandering plot. Owen was equally grating and compelling; his quirky, willful, and sarcastic personality, unusual physical appearance, and unmistakable voice were all vividly portrayed. He is one of the most memorable fictional characters I have encountered as a reader in a long time. I felt lukewarm about John, Owen’s best friend and our narrator. With all these fascinating and entertaining personalities surrounding him (his antiquated grandmother, arcane mother, and wild cousins, not to mention Owen, for example), John seemed painfully perfunctory and dull. While I generally agreed with his sentiments about politics and religion, he did tend to rant and I questioned exactly how much these diatribes were contributing to the plot. I really loved Dan Needham—he was the sweetest and most endearing of the characters (if a bit one-dimensional and least developed). Occasionally I was tripped up with how Irving jumped around the timeline, making it less linear and more circular. Irving is a master storyteller, though, with impeccable use of metaphor, foreshadowing, and symbolism in this book. A Prayer for Owen Meany is an intricate, highly detailed, character-driven story with many eloquent passages that I enjoyed overall.
Read from May 7 to 20, 2012.