|There is a movie, based on the book, called Simon Birch.|
And it's a good book. Even students who didn't care for the story so much, liked that it was easy to understand writing. This is a reread for me, but listening to what my students see on a first read, compared to my second read, reminds me of the importance of rereading. I don't reread very much, because there are hundreds of first time reads to get to in this short life, but I cannot deny how wonderfully a reread improves a book for me. The understanding, new perceptions, and depth truly excites me. Even Holden Caulfield stands a chance (cause I will be rereading Catcher in the Rye for the third or fourth time come March and Holden Caulfield and I aren't on good terms typically).
Overall my students seemed to enjoy Owen Meany. Some because Owen fascinated them, others simply because it was straight forward writing in comparison to Shakespeare. Whatever the reason, we had some impressive moments in our class discussions. I know I learned things from my students' perspectives.
And the book itself? I find myself in the usual position with a lengthy book...there's so much to it, where do I start? (In this case, an overview of the writer seems best...you can read a summary and reviews of the story itself here.) John Irving's books typically combine comedy and tragedy, either within the same event or one after the other. His characters can be eccentric, bringing both humorous and somber moods to each event, and the story line at times a stretch, yet not really impossible. All of this works together to bring us to a truth.
In A Prayer for Owen Meany, Owen is the perfect example. He has a unique physical disability that give him a humorous air, but his personality is the most serious and straightforward of any character in the book. Although he has a physical disability, it doesn't hinder him at all. Not only does he overcome this, but he overcomes tragic events in his life, and tragic knowledge that most people couldn't handle. Owen is quite Christ-like as a matter of fact. Christ-likeness in characters is nothing new, it's a way to draw parallels between a character and hero/savior qualities. But Irving makes no bones about how Christ-like we are to view Owen.
And I think that's another thing my students liked about this book. Irving doesn't mess around with fancy literary tactics, making symbols and motifs subtle. Everything is out in the open for you to connect the dots, from the chapter titles to the narrator straight out making "I wish I had known this then, but I didn't" type statements to alert the reader to foreshadowing. You would think this would make the story predictable, but it's not. Owen Meany is a force of his own, a force to be reckoned with. Even the narrator, John Wheelwright, in his seeming simpleness is more complicated than meets the eye.
Trust us, it's worth a try. Take a look at the opening and tell us you're not intrigued. I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or 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.
Happy almost weekend readers!