A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of the best books I have read. John Irving’s gift for prose — for meandering left and right, up and down, all around and back again — is nothing short of incredible. Seemingly meaningless details are subtly combined into a layered plot that spans decades and covers a broad range of topics. And Irving’s characters — especially Owen Meany, who is one of the most unique creations I’ve met in fact or fiction — are quirky, complex, fully developed.
This book is not for everyone. It is wordy and poetic and full of minute details — details that I found beautiful, but which might bore some readers to tears. I’m not usually a fan of long chapters and rambling tangents, but Irving’s combination of oddly likeable characters, rich social commentary and complex plot lines kept me engaged. At times, I managed to plod through only a few pages a day … but even then I carried the story with me, wondering what might happen next.
I rarely judge a book before I’ve finished it, but I figured out early on that I would love this story. As Irving wove together multiple timelines — ranging from the early fifties to the late eighties — through a combination of recollection, introspection and foreshadowing, I became mildly obsessed with figuring out exactly how the story would unfold. Irving has a rare talent for giving away a great deal about major plot points while holding back just the right combination of details to create a sense of intrigue. In the end, I was both mildly surprised and deeply satisfied … and sad to say goodbye to one of the richest casts of characters that I have ever encountered.