So far it is really one of the most beautiful stories I‘ve ever read. What is it? It‘s John Irving‘s „The Prayer for Owen Meanny“. It‘s not a secret how I love Irving‘s books and I read them once in a while. Can‘t say that all of them are equally interesting, or that they all touched me deeply, but this one really did.
First of all, because of the story. Second of all, because of the narrater. I mean, John Wheelwright is telling a story about Owen Meanny, his life, how they‘re lives were inseparable and why. It is just so beautiful when a friend can tell something so heart touching about his best friend. I don‘t know if this could ever happen in real life. But in both cases Owen‘s story is John‘s story and vice versa. Plus, this story is jumping in times, so you have to be concentrated on seeking the story, because otherwise you can get confused.
I really loved that in this book we could seek several plot threads, most interesting of whom were political and religious. Both of them can be used quite provocatively, but in this book they were used more likely as questions, issues to be considered. We see how main characters are feeling and thinking about them, so this gives us this trigger to consider them ourselves in todays context or it gives us a chance to consider past retrospectively. Maybe not in the way as John or Owen did, but in our own way, relating to those circumstances we are facing at the moment.
Another thing that fascinates me about this book is the way the friendship of two boys (growing up) is portrayed. It is fascinating because I don‘t know if there actually is that kind of friendship that last from childhood up to an entire life. I don‘t know this kind of stories. In my experience even the longest frienships eventually end up. I think this kind of friendship, a friend(s) as Owen and John are, I don‘t know, it’s a gift from above. Moreover, it‘s great to have a friend who eventually becomes like a mentor, teacher to you, which, in this case is quite unusual due to the fact that John and Owen are the same age. But this wisdom, maturity compensates this lack of height and ability to be a regular (physically) that Owen faces due to his health condition.
And the fact that Owen was not as everyone else, people did not push him away as it usually happens. No. On the contrary they accepted him, they loved him, took care of him. Somehow with his difference he managed to charm people and make them like him.
In this book we can observe a very interesting relationship between Owen and his parents and his relations between him and John‘s family which seems to be more close than with his own family despite the fact that Owen kills John‘s mom. Or maybe it‘s not that strange. I mean sometimes other people, other families are trully closer to us for whatever reasons than our own ones. I don‘t know why it is so, but it‘s true that in his own family a person can feel himself extremely lonely. But maybe in Owen‘s case the reason is that his family thought he was a result of an immacculate conception (a plotline that I couldn‘t take seriously)? They were kind of afraid of him or distant from him. Also, Owen‘s constant claim the he was a instrument of God doesn‘t seem realistic or serious to me too. I don‘t know why. Maybe there was some sort of hidden meaning that I wasn‘t smart enough to get. But for me it was too surreal. Or maybe I‘m not so much into faith, spiritual issues… No, I‘m actually into this and I believe in God, faith, but I just don‘t believe that when someone says that he is an instrument of God he’s actually and really is an instrument of God. There‘s not enough just to proclaim that and believe in it. I just think that there are higher requirements for it.
Anti-war, anti-Vietnam moods are really openly pointed in this book, as well as, those like joining the army. In this case, it is important not because of joining the a army per se, or guarding your country. I think in this case army represents some sort of achievement for those like Owen. It‘s like proving to others and yourself that you can do things no matter what, who you are, what you are. However, war is still seen as evil, as something, a man shouldn‘t do. And at this point it is interesting, because John is a pacifist and his best friend Owen joins the army. So at this point some sort of collision rises in their friendship which develops interestingly.
There‘s quite a lot of surreal elements, like dream – real world. What the boys see in their dreams turns out to be real. Well, actually, not everything that Owen forsaw happened really accurately. However, the basic part actually turned out to be truth, and he really became an instrument of God. So maybe all this is more real than we think of it. Maybe this is how we build up our life, our faith, by believing in something so strongly until it finally happens. It‘s like programming ourselves to live certain amount of time and then die on a selected day in a selected way. Something to think about.
Of course, this book, as any other, book written by John Irving consists of several permanent elements: New Hampshire, father/real father/lost father, prostitutes, private schools,writers, film creators and, of course, all kinds of accidents. I‘m not saying it‘s abad thing, it‘s actually what makes his books, his stories, his style recognizable.