OWEN MEANY (we must always use the upper case for OWEN, because that is how he speaks) is a very small boy with A VERY BIG VOICE who has become an icon in American literature. Readers have bestowed a reverence verging on the worshipful regarding the book, A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY.
When OWEN accidentally kills his best friend's mother with a foul ball in a Little League game, he becomes convinced that he is an instrument of God and that only martyrdom will redeem his act. The story begins on that fateful day in 1953, but it plays out against the Vietnam War. Some readers believe it to be a novel about America's involvement in Vietnam, and it is, to some degree. Others proclaim it as a great religious novel, or at least one that examines religious beliefs and morality. That, too, is accurate. It is, as are all Irving's novels, a highly complex story with intertwining subplots, strange characters with dark secrets and Irving's very own entertaining and often hilarious narrative. Still others call it John Irving's greatest accomplishment, and some go so far as to say it is the best book they've ever read. However it is viewed, Armadillos, dress forms and Christmas pageants will forever summon visions of OWEN MEANY in the hearts and minds of millions of readers.
This was John Irving's seventh novel, published in 1989, four years after THE CIDER HOUSE RULES.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on April 13, 1990
A Prayer for Owen Meany