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Posts Tagged ‘Vietnam War’

The diminutive (in size, but certainly not in heart) Owen Meany is the subject of this book, narrated by his best friend Johnny Wheelwright.  Owen believes himself to be God’s instrument, and that he has a very specific purpose on earth.  As an older John (in the late 80s) tells the story of his and Owen’s childhoods and adolescence in the 50s and 60s, the story takes several threads and brings them neatly together at the climax.

I wanted to read this, because I have read and enjoyed John Irving in the past.  However, I always find him to be a writer I can appreciate rather than always enjoy, and this book was no different.  The story started slowly and I wasn’t sure whether I would like it or not, as Johnny describes himself and Owen in their younger days, and how Owen accidentally kills Johnny’s mother with a baseball, as well as Johnny’s interest in the identity of his unknown father.  However, as the narrative progresses and the boys become young men with the shadow of the Vietnam War hanging over them, it picked up pace and I started to be drawn in.

As a narrator, Johnny is something of an enigma – I never felt that he was really fully fleshed out, but that actually worked, as it made Owen the true focus of the story, as he should be.  Owen was an extremely interesting character – highly intelligent, shades of arrogance, and not always likeable.  He rubbed people up the wrong way, some people were even frightened of him (not least Owen’s own parents), but it was clear that he always felt he had a mission to complete that was more important than himself.  A few times I wondered about the significance of certain plot points – exactly why was Owen so determined to master a tricky basketball shot? – but this made the ending so much more satisfactory as events are brought into sharp relief, and everything clicks.

Some parts are genuinely moving, and other parts are extremely funny – the nativity scene with the four feet tall Owen playing a swaddled baby Jesus, had me laughing all the way through.

Overall, I am very glad I read this book.  It was not always easy going, but I felt that it paid dividends to readers who kept with it, and I imagine it will be a story that I will remember for a long time – particularly the wonderful ending.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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