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Prayer for Owen Meany

by

Prayer for Owen Meany Cover

 

Out of Print
 

Reading Group Guide

1. Though he's portrayed as an instrument of God, Owen Meany causes the death of John's mother. What other deaths was Owen indirectly involved with? Do you find Owen's close relationship with death to support or undermine his miraculous purpose?

2. Owen speaks and writes in capital letters, emphasizing the potency of his strange voice. At the academy, he is even referred to as the Voice. Why is Owen's voice so important? What other occasions can you think of in which Owen's voice played an especially mean-ingful role?

3. Reverend Merrill always speaks of faith in tandem with doubt. Do you believe that one can exist without the other or that one strengthens the other? Was your opinion about Merrill's views on faith and doubt affected by the revelation of his relationship to John Wheelwright?

4. Merrill experiences a bogus miracle and resurgence of faith when John stages his mother's dressmaker dummy outside the church. Later, John's involvement in Owen's rescue of the Vietnamese chil-dren spurs John's own faith: "I am a Christian because of Owen Meany," he says. Do you think the genuineness of Owen's miracle makes the birth of John's faith more valid than the faith engendered by Merrill's bogus miracle?

5. The Meanys claim that, like Jesus, Owen was the product of a vir-gin birth. Owen dislikes the Catholic Church for turning away his parents, but Owen himself makes the Meanys leave the Christmas Pageant. Name other instances when Owen's feelings toward his family seem conflicted. Do you think Owen ever considers himself Christlike?

6. An observer necessary to the Christmas Pageant but seldom an ac-tive participant, John plays Joseph to Owen's baby Jesus. John refers to himself on other occasions as "just a Joseph." Do you see John's role as Joseph-like throughout the story? Are there other biblical characters with whom you identify John?

7. Did Irving's references to the armless Indian and the pawless armadillo prepare you for Owen's sacrifice? What other clues did Irving give about Owen's final heroic scene?

8. Throughout the novel, John gives hints to the forthcoming action, adding, "As you shall see." Did you find this to be an effective way to keep you reading and engaged in the story?

9. Owen Meany taught John that "Any good book is always in motion--from the general to the specific, from the particular to the whole and back again." Do you think Irving followed his own recipe for a good book? Supply examples in support of your position.

10. Given John's dislike of Gravesend Academy, which expelled Owen, did you find it interesting that John later taught at an academy in Toronto? In what other ways does John, as an adult, embrace issues or events that he was indifferent or hostile to as an adolescent?

11. John assists Owen in rescuing the children, but John always plays the supporting part in Owen's adventures. Based on the scenes in Toronto in the 1980s, do you think John ever escaped his support-ing role? How do you think John's retained virginity reflects on his sense of self?

12. Did your feelings about the U.S. involvement in Vietnam change after reading Irving's portrayal of the peace movement, the draft dodgers, and Owen's involvement in the army? Were you surprised by Owen's efforts to get to Vietnam?

13. John's reactions to and obsession with the Iran-Contra affair of the 1980s reflect his position as neither a true Canadian nor a true American. Do you think that non-Americans have a clearer vision of the machinations and deceptions within American politics? What did John's focus on American politics tell you about his adult character?

14. Irving frequently foreshadows tragedy; for example, hailstones hit John's mother on the head during her wedding day, providing a glimpse of her later death by a baseball. What other events does Irving foreshadow?

15. Several reviews call A Prayer for Owen Meany "Dickensian," and Irving himself incorporates scenes from Dickens in the story. In what ways does Irving's writing remind you of Dickens's? What other writers would you compare Irving to?

From the Trade Paperback edition.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 9 comments:

ProbateGeek, January 28, 2010 (view all comments by ProbateGeek)
This book, which I selected solely because the title caught my eye, got me back into reading fiction again. I am ever thankful to the author for that - and will never look at armadillos in quite the same way...
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
Graceamilion, January 15, 2010 (view all comments by Graceamilion)
Hands down Irvings best novel. Owen Meany is like no other character or person you know; he makes you think, laugh and cry. The last 50 pages of this novel will teach you more than any other book you read.
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(5 of 6 readers found this comment helpful)
archetype, January 2, 2010 (view all comments by archetype)
This book was a birthday gift from a German friend living in the USA. I didn't get around to reading it for a few years and did so, ironically, on a plane to Germany to visit her parents while she was still in the USA. Read it in one sitting on that long trip. It's one of those books that challenges you to continue reading to the end. It superficially appears to be merely narrative about the life of an odd guy, and continues, and continues until you're asking "what's the point of all this?" At the same time Owen Meany is asking "what's the point of this?" as well. At the end the point is shatteringly clear and accepted by Owen, clear to the reader, and amazingly simple. Not a book for folks who require things to be straightforward to be enjoyable. I thought it was a brilliant piece of fiction.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780345361790
Author:
Irving, John
Publisher:
Ballantine Books
Location:
New York
Subject:
Non-Classifiable
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
Friendship
Subject:
American fiction (fictional works by one author)
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st mass market ed.
Edition Description:
Mass market paperback
Series Volume:
7
Publication Date:
May 1990
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
640
Dimensions:
6.93x4.28x1.07 in. .68 lbs.

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Related Subjects


Featured Titles » Literature
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Prayer for Owen Meany Used Mass Market
0 stars - 0 reviews
$4.50 In Stock
Product details 640 pages Ballantine Books - English 9780345361790 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

On one list are the books you like to recommend. You want to turn on someone to your favorite unknown author or introduce them to the season's latest, greatest novel. If you've read widely enough over the years, you'll match reader to occasion. The list comes to include something for just about anyone in any setting:John Irving

Funny books and smart ones; easy and hard; books that teach and those that entertain; pages best turned at the beach, on a plane, or sick in bed; a pick for the woman you want to impress or the friend who reads mostly in ten-minute bursts between cab fares; dry, plotless affairs that ease you toward sleep or blazers that set your mind racing, keep you up late into the night.

A much shorter list contains the sure bets — the ones that work for just about any reader, young or old, anywhere, at any time. A Prayer for Owen Meany may be the only book on my second list.

You get OWEN MEANY'S SQUEAKY VOICE into a person's head and the worst they'll ever say is they loved it. Without fail, they will thank you. [See our guarantee.] Three people I've given it to, years and oceans apart, reported back that it had become their favorite novel of all-time.

"Which one do I read next?" they all ask, so swiftly converted. (Often they're not even done with the book and already they're planning ahead. Anxiety has set in, a debilitating abandonment neurosis symptomatic of the last hundred pages.) "Take your pick," tell them. The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules, The Hotel New Hampshire, A Widow for One Year...

"Staff Pick" by ,

On one list are the books you like to recommend. You want to turn on someone to your favorite unknown author or introduce them to the season's latest, greatest novel. If you've read widely enough over the years, you'll match reader to occasion. The list comes to include something for just about anyone in any setting:John Irving

Funny books and smart ones; easy and hard; books that teach and those that entertain; pages best turned at the beach, on a plane, or sick in bed; a pick for the woman you want to impress or the friend who reads mostly in ten-minute bursts between cab fares; dry, plotless affairs that ease you toward sleep or blazers that set your mind racing, keep you up late into the night.

A much shorter list contains the sure bets — the ones that work for just about any reader, young or old, anywhere, at any time. A Prayer for Owen Meany may be the only book on my second list.

You get OWEN MEANY'S SQUEAKY VOICE into a person's head and the worst they'll ever say is they loved it. Without fail, they will thank you. [See our guarantee.] Three people I've given it to, years and oceans apart, reported back that it had become their favorite novel of all-time.

"Which one do I read next?" they all ask, so swiftly converted. (Often they're not even done with the book and already they're planning ahead. Anxiety has set in, a debilitating abandonment neurosis symptomatic of the last hundred pages.) "Take your pick," tell them. The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules, The Hotel New Hampshire, A Widow for One Year...

"Review" by , "Superbly narrated sequences of comic action... Irving is particularly good at rendering the dynamics of things — he has a Dickensian ability to juxtapose and animate unpromising objects? [as in] the book's grand and brilliantly conceived final scene....You don't just read Irving, you listen to him."
"Review" by , "Extraordinary, so original, and so enriching....A rare creation in the somehow exhausted world of late 20th century fiction....Readers will come to the end feeling sorry to leave [this] richly textured and carefully wrought world."
"Review" by , "Roomy, intelligent, exhilarating, and darkly comic....Dickensian in scope....Quite stunning and very ambitious."
"Review" by , "A lavish meditation on predestination, faith, and the unrealized forces that shape one's days."
"Review" by , "John Irving is an abundantly and even joyfully talented storyteller."
"Review" by , "Vintage Irving....A boisterous cast, a spirited joy."
"Review" by , "A Prayer for Owen Meany leaps off the pages with an imaginative passion that is startling....This is John Irving at full throttle: a riveting narrative, a cast of richly developed characters, and a story as complex and unbelievable as life itself....[A] joyous, provocative read!"
"Review" by , "I have been a voracious reader since childhood, and while I've read and loved many, many books, I can honestly say that A Prayer for Owen Meany is my all-time favorite! It is such an extraordinarily funny, moving and heartbreaking story and the ending is the best and most satisfying one I've ever read. The highlight of my first year working for Ballantine Books was attending a reading John Irving gave for the paperback publication. Owen Meany has a very memorable voice when you read the book, so you can imagine how exciting it was for me to hear my favorite author read my favorite book and do the voice of Owen Meany!"
"Review" by , "Riveting...Owen Meany, drawn in bold strokes, burns in the mind's eye — vivid, alive, beloved — long after the turning of the final page."
"Review" by , "One of the most subtle and brilliant artistic examinations yet of America and America's involvement in Vietnam."
"Review" by , "A wondrous novel... ultimately beguiling in its soulful account of a remarkable friendship... Irving's ability to create idiosyncratic characters and put them through weirdly ridiculous yet realistic paces has never been in finer fettle. Humor partnered with compassion, wisdom with absurdity, leave the reader both mirthful and tearful."
"Review" by , "[Mr. Irving] is more than popular. He is a Populist, determined to keep alive the Dickensian tradition that revels in colorful set pieces and teaches moral lessons....More than any of his novels since Garp, A Prayer for Owen Meany embraces those 19th-century qualities."
"Synopsis" by , Owen Meany, the only child of a New Hampshire granite quarrier, believes he is God's instrument; he is.

This is John Irving's most comic novel, yet Owen Meany is Mr. Irving's most heartbreaking character.

"Roomy, intelligent, exhilarating and darkly comic...Dickensian in scope....Quite stunning and very ambitious."

LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK REVIEW

"John Irving is an abundantly and even joyfully talented storyteller."

THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOKR EVIEW

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