This is the first John Irving book I have read and I have no doubt it will be my last. When I first started this novel, I asked some friends, “Why are John Irving’s books so fecking long!” I asked that because in addition to this book I had checked out The Cider House Rules which is also by John Irving and is also fecking long (640 pages per Goodreads). Somewhere along the way I figured out why the book was so long, on the way to finding out what happened to Owen Meany, we had to take side trips.
The book is narrated by John Wheelwright who is now a teacher at a girl’s school in Toronto. For a good part of the book we stay in Gravesend, NH, but then suddenly we are transported into Toronto, Canada. While that is not a problem at first, after a while we are spending a great deal of time in Ontario listening to John complain about the new Canon in the church, and Nixon and how newspapers will be the death of him until I felt that A Prayer for Owen Meany would be the death of ME. I kept reading because I wanted to find out what happens to Owen Meany but the book bored me and the ALL CAPS THAT OWEN MEANY INSISTED ON TALKING IN annoyed the spit out of me.
One of the reasons I kept reading was the breadcrumbs John Irving throws out, he would make a statement then say, “As you’ll see later.” That also began to annoy me, but it was a good devise to keep me reading. However, after I found out what happened to Owen, I was so relieved the book was over I can’t even tell you how it ended exactly. I know it ends with John in Canada, but other than that I don’t remember. Also, while I was reading the book I started to wonder if it was autobiographical, when I read a short bio of the author I could see parallels in him and the character John Wheelwright.
After all this, I don’t think of John Irving as a bad writer, I do think this book could have been 100 to 200 pages shorter and still been as good. Also, The Cider House Rules is going back to the library unread.