John Irving’s Masterpiece

Book Review of A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving.

c0581-owenmeanyOwen is a dwarf who keeps saying he is on a mission from God. Johnny Wheelwright is dyslexic (like myself) and is in a life-long search for his father. The relationship between these two boys grows and entwines, with as many twists as Irving’s plot. The plot of this book takes us into the lives of these two people – first as young boys and later as young men, and the fantastic events that shape their outlooks on life, and death. (Perhaps the physical and emotional flaws of the two main characters were what made me feel a special closeness to the book.) Telling you more about the story of this book would certainly spoil you for the wonderful read.

One of the classic things about John Irving and his novels is how he pulls you back and forth across the story. His tales aren’t linear, and he brings you back to bits in the past whenever he feels that you need a bit of information that might give you insight into an event or character. Moreover, as you reach the endings to his stories, you find that he foreshadows heavily throughout his books as well. What is more, in this novel he uses these methods to absolute perfection. He exposes you to a fascinating world that won’t let you go, and then he draws you into the book and pulls you along with the many unusual events and characters. By the end of the novel, you feel as close to these people as any reader can.

Irving also has an uncanny way of finding the absurd in any situation – no matter how ordinary – and this book is no exception. This makes his ideas seem so much more realistic since we’ve all heard the old adage that “life is stranger than fiction.” Irving lets us experience the weird and unusual as if it was normal. He makes us laugh at what seems strange, while pulling us closer and closer to the truth in human nature. This is how he can make us laugh, and yes, even cry.

Because there are so many reviews of this book, I feel at a loss to add anything more to them. Let me simply reiterate that few books have ever touched my heart as much as this one. Finally, I must add that after reading many of John Irving’s books (and noting that his later works were increasingly inferior to this one); I can safely say that this book was and always will be his masterpiece. Read it, and you’ll understand why it deserves a full five stars out of five.


“A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving is available (via these affiliate links) from Amazon, Foyles, Waterstones, WHSmith, Kobo Books (USA, Canada & Australia), iTunes (iBook or audiobook), The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), new or used from Alibris or Better World Books as well as from an IndieBound store near you. (This is a version of a review that originally appeared on the now defunct website Dooyoo under my username TheChocolateLady.)

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