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A Prayer for Owen Meany
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Book Club Discussions > Book #22 - A Prayer for Owen Meany

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message 1: by Max (new) - rated it 4 stars

Max Berger | 156 comments Mod
Discuss your thoughts on A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving with us here! Feel free to talk about the film adaptation as well :)


Diane (dianefe) I started listening to the audiobook - I highly recommend it, the narration is done really well. I thought I'd get annoyed by the author voicing Owen's dialogue because it was so grating, but that's kind of the point and it actually adds to the effects, I think.

I'm usually not really willing to stray from my usual genres and especially not for *longer* books because I hate to start and not finish something but I'm really enjoying this book!


Paula | 56 comments Diane wrote: "I started listening to the audiobook - I highly recommend it, the narration is done really well. I thought I'd get annoyed by the author voicing Owen's dialogue because it was so grating, but that'..."

Diane, this story is one of my very favorites, and I'm beginning my third reading of it since the group made it our most recent selection. I believe you'll keep enjoying it. While not a short novel, it's worth it, in my opinion (obviously). I've read several of Irving's works because I enjoy his writing so much. I think this is the author at his best.


message 4: by Max (new) - rated it 4 stars

Max Berger | 156 comments Mod
Diane wrote: "I started listening to the audiobook - I highly recommend it, the narration is done really well. I thought I'd get annoyed by the author voicing Owen's dialogue because it was so grating, but that'..."

I am also listening to the audiobook version, and I had the same concerns over the Owen Meany voice at first... But I agree, it fits the story, and I've grown used to it.


message 5: by Max (new) - rated it 4 stars

Max Berger | 156 comments Mod
Paula wrote: "Diane, this story is one of my very favorites, and I'm beginning my third reading of it since the group made it our most recent selection. I believe you'll keep enjoying it. While..."

I love being exposed to books like Owen Meany, books that would never normally cross my radar- it's one of the main reasons this group was created, to provide that opportunity for people!

I'm very glad I picked this one up. I'm only about 10% of the way through, but it has been quite a story already- tragic, yet hopeful. There is so much rich character description and detail, and it makes everything feel so real. You'd almost wonder if this was a memoir! I can't wait to keep reading.

Thanks for suggesting this book :)


Paula | 56 comments The film adaptation, "Simon Birch," is not a bad movie, but a poorly rendered version of "A Prayer for Owen Meany." The story is a good one, but veers far from the novel. I realize that a screen adaptation can leave things out, change a character's name, and the like. But in Owen Meany, we're never given a reason for why the title character is small or has a strange voice. The movie depicts Simon as having some sort of congenital condition. Call me a purist, but I would not recommend the movie. If I had not known it was supposed to be based on Owen Meany, I would have been okay with it. That was not the case, so I was disappointed.


Diane (dianefe) Paula wrote: "The film adaptation, "Simon Birch," is not a bad movie, but a poorly rendered version of "A Prayer for Owen Meany." The story is a good one, but veers far from the novel. I realize that a screen ad..."

I read somewhere that John Irving did not approve of the changes made to the story for this particular adaptation - my impression was that he did not necessarily dislike the film, but did not think it was representative of his book or did not want people to get the wrong impression of his book, so he didn't let them keep the name Owen Meany. I haven't seen the movie so I can't speak to whether it's good or not, but I would guess anyone expecting the same story as the book will be disappointed.

As I'm reading the book, I also just can't imagine any film doing it justice! I think I've created some exaggerated caricature in my head for Owen Meany (and the other characters to be honest). So now I feel like anything realistic on screen would not be as striking while anything like what I'm imagining would just seem over-the-top ridiculous in film. I'm not sure why it seems to work in my imagination though.


Paula | 56 comments Diane wrote: "Paula wrote: "The film adaptation, "Simon Birch," is not a bad movie, but a poorly rendered version of "A Prayer for Owen Meany." The story is a good one, but veers far from the novel. I realize th..."

Here's to your imagination, Diane. For me, as a writer, that's the trick: encouraging the creative mind of the reader. You seem to 'get' that. I'm so glad you're enjoying the characters and the story itself. The author certainly does a fine job of ushering us through the process of using all of senses.

I had heard the same thing about Irving's decisions about the film. That must have been disappointing for him. But that's show biz.


message 9: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) This was discussed on the Great American Read program, now I really want to read it. Can't wait to start it.


NancyJ (nancyjjj) Kirsten wrote: "This was discussed on the Great American Read program, now I really want to read it. Can't wait to start it."

Me too. It was selected by my local book club for an upcoming read, so I might read it early here. I loved The World According to Garp by the same author. (Plus relatives were extras in the movie because it was partly filmed in their town.)

I don't know how I missed reading this before.


NancyJ (nancyjjj) Diane wrote: "I started listening to the audiobook - I highly recommend it, the narration is done really well. I thought I'd get annoyed by the author voicing Owen's dialogue because it was so grating, but that'..."

I felt the same way about the voice for Eleanor Oliphant. It seemed very strange until I realized that it fit the character perfectly.


Monika Needham | 46 comments This is such a great read. Irving really brings these unique characters to life. I haven't ever seen Simon Birch. Is it true to the book? I'm enjoying reading it so much, I think I'll re-read it on audio to see if the voice in my imagination corresponds with the one chosen for the audiobook.


Monika Needham | 46 comments Diane wrote: "Paula wrote: "The film adaptation, "Simon Birch," is not a bad movie, but a poorly rendered version of "A Prayer for Owen Meany." The story is a good one, but veers far from the novel. I realize th..."

Do you think the book has a magical realism quality that does not transfer to the screen?


Diane (dianefe) Monika wrote: "Do you think the book has a magical realism quality that does not transfer to the screen?"

Yes, I think so! Since it's mostly told from the perspective of an adult looking back on his memories, I think the narration is unique in that it can incorporate perspectives from both an adult and child point of view. I think the author did a great job balancing these things carefully - I think this would be difficult to transfer to film.


Monika Needham | 46 comments Diane wrote: "Monika wrote: "Do you think the book has a magical realism quality that does not transfer to the screen?"

Yes, I think so! Since it's mostly told from the perspective of an adult looking back on h..."


I've noticed that in some of Irving's work. In the Hotel New Hampshire, lots of strange non-sensical things happen, but it just seems to work.


Paula | 56 comments Monica and Diane. I appreciate the replies given here. John Irving does seem to include elements of that writing style into his books. Some to a greater degree. Even with his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, he used the technique somewhat.

I like John's telling of the story because it sounds like a really long diary (broken into chapters). Yes, because of this, it can be the omniscient storyteller in a way. And, yes, I believe it's one of those stories which is more difficult to translate to film. Simon Birch will never live up to what I see as the real story. But apparently, the screenwriter's and director's vision wasn't the same as mine. Gee willikers, they didn't ask me! LOL

I suppose, Monika, without getting into the movie and my opinions of it, you could read previous comments made by me in this thread or the thread in which I originally made the suggestion to read it. I hope you continue to enjoy Prayer. I ventured into Irving-Land after this one and haven't been disappointed with them so far!


Diane (dianefe) I finally finished this book. Part of me is impressed with how everything came together but I also felt like the ending was a bit rushed? The book’s story is sooooo drawn out and then the big finale just sort of happens, with no discussion or analysis given by the narrator/author. Did anyone else feel this way? I can’t tell if I liked that or not about it


message 18: by Max (new) - rated it 4 stars

Max Berger | 156 comments Mod
Diane wrote: "I finally finished this book. Part of me is impressed with how everything came together but I also felt like the ending was a bit rushed? The book’s story is sooooo drawn out and then the big final..."

I agree that after such a lengthy story, the ending came together almost strangely fast! I was impressed with how neatly it was concluded, though. So many disparate plot threads and unresolved questions, all tied up in a very satisfying way. It subverted some of the expectations that had been building up since the beginning, and made the meandering pace feel worth it in my opinion.

I listened to the audiobook version of this story, which ends with a 30 minute interview with Irving. Considering the prominent religious aspects of the story, I was surprised to learn that he is an atheist. He said that he wanted to write a story that showed what it would take for him to become a true believer - a story miraculous enough that, if it were true, he would consider it irrefutable proof of the existence of God.

I found this bit of trivia interesting!


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