I just finished re-reading A Prayer for Owen Meany for the second full time and seventh partial time. It took six tries (and ten years) of picking up the book and reading 100 or so pages before I actually got through the book the first time. Getting through the whole book that first time may have been due to my interest in the story, or may have equally been due to the fact that I was living in South Korea and it was the only English book I had with me that I hadn’t read. And it was 640 pages, which kept me preoccupied for a good amount of time.
I re-read it this time (eleven years after reading the entire book the first time) because it was our book club’s selection. As I read the first 100 or so pages, I found myself skimming, remembering all the details. After that, I read the next 100 or so pages more closely, remembering some of the details, but also discovering parts that I had no recollection of. The last half of the book I read as if it were a new book; I didn’t remember any of it until the very last scene.
It’s a beautiful story of friendship, love, fate, and faith. Owen and John are childhood best friends. In an unfortunate baseball game one afternoon, Owen, a diminutive child with a high-pitched voice, hits a ball that strikes and kills John’s mother. John views it as an accident; Owen believes he is an instrument of God. The book follows their passage through childhood to adulthood, and the decisions they make, particularly Owen, who staunchly believes he is God’s instrument.
After I finished the book this time, I found myself thinking about what would I have done if I were Owen’s friend? Would I support his sometimes seemingly crazy ideas about God and religion? Or slowly pull away from him? When he repeatedly talked about his dream, would I have listened compassionately? Or disregarded his ideas? When he insisted on enlisting in the military, could I have supported him? This is one of the reasons I like this book so much, it’s a great story, and I can almost (if I don’t give it too much consideration) believe that I, too, could have a friendship as quirky, loving, and everlasting as Owen and John’s.
There were parts of the book that drove me crazy: Owen speaking in ALL CAPS, John’s lack of ambition, reading for hours on my Kindle and realizing that I still was only 21% of the way through the book. Despite this, I’d recommend the book. And will probably read it again.