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A Prayer for Owen Meany    by John Irving order for
Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2012 (1989)
Softcover, Paperback, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Author John Irving loves good first lines. And he gives readers a great first line in his novel A Prayer for Owen Meany: 'I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice - not because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.'

Who could resist continuing after reading that opening line? Not me.

In 1953, Owen Meany and John Wheelwright were eleven year-old friends. Good friends. Did everything together. Owen, unfortunately, was a very small kid, the target of the other boys in their school. Today, it would be called bullying. Owen handled it philosophically. What is, is.

Owen was responsible for the death of John's mother, but the boys remained friends and attended the same schools. We stay with them as they enter college and move beyond into adulthood. At the same time, Irving reminds us of the political happenings in the United States. The wars and the draft. Watergate. Reagan and the Contras. JFK's assassination. The peace movement. His take on the way the country was leaning reflects many others' feelings.

All this time, Owen is sure he knows the date of his death. Including how it happens and whom he would save. A Prayer for Owen Meany cannot be summed up in a few words. It's a powerful story written by a master of his craft, a man who seems disappointed in his country but is still loyal.

A Prayer for Owen Meany, first published in 1989, has been reissued this year. I'm glad because I didn't read it then and was happy to have the chance now. And after reading, I can still picture in my mind the little tomato-red truck trundling around the back roads of New Hampshire.

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