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A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving, William Morrow, 1989, 627 pp
I am a big fan of John Irving. Whatever wild tangent he goes off on, I accept his novels unconditionally. He puts so much of himself, his views, his character, into every one. And his capacity for exploring and celebrating all the weirdness of humanity is of the highest order.
I first read Owen Meany in 1999. At that time, I had previously read Cider House Rules and The World According to Garp and loved both. Owen Meany felt like his masterpiece then and on rereading it now (for a reading group discussion) and having read five other of his books, I have decided it still holds that position for me.
I have written elsewhere about the practice of rereading, something I rarely do. In this case, it was an entirely worthwhile experience. The seventeen years of living I have done since the first reading afforded me a much deeper penetration into the story and the characters.
Owen himself seemed both more tragic yet less Christ-like than he did before. The narrator, John, seemed more worthy of pity. I mean, to have someone as odd as Owen make him become a Christian is just, I don't know, so weird. But none of that matters because this is a novel about how one's childhood and youth, one's family and hometown, the historical events one lives through, one's friends and enemies, create the life one will lead as an adult.
I had completely forgotten the influence of the Vietnam War and somehow had not felt as searingly the intelligence of Owen, his visions, his ability to orchestrate events. On my first reading John barely registered for me. He moved to Canada for Pete's sake!
I was a war protestor in the late 60s and helped lots of guys evade the draft. That draft was a Damocles sword hanging over so many lives. I think reading The Sympathizer this year reawakened many memories and added to the depth of my experience reading Owen Meany now.
All in all, this was a highlight of my year of reading in 2016.
(A Prayer For Owen Meany is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)