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A Prayer for Owen Meany
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PAST Group Reads 2018 > A Prayer for Owen Meany- June 15-July 31- NO Spoilers

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message 1: by NancyJ, Moderator (last edited Jun 15, 2018 08:39AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
A Prayer for Owen Meany- NO SPOILERS

JUNE 15 - The discussion is officially OPEN.

Tammy will be our Facilitator. Thank you Tammy


message 2: by NancyJ, Moderator (last edited Jun 13, 2018 08:52PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
This is the spoiler-free thread for a Prayer for Owen Meany. We will read this as a group from June 15- August 1. We will have extra time with this book.

Please do not discuss the ending or any other spoilers. There is a separate Spoiler Thread.

These threads will remain open in a different folder after Aug 1, so you may continue to discuss it.


Paula One of my all-time favorite authors and my favorite of his books. I'm on my third reading of it right now; reading it with another Goodreads group (a film/television/book group). Whenever a friend asks for recommendations, this is one I always suggest. A wonderful tale of friendship and family. Humor, as well as some serious considerations in generating some challenging subjects. But John Irving is a master at it. I'm so glad we're reading this one.


message 4: by Sheila (new)

Sheila (sheilaj) I am reading this as well Paula. I'm taking my time with it while reading several other books as well but of the books I am reading, this is by far the favorite.


message 5: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) I just started this yesterday. I really wanted to read it due to the discussion on the GAR special.


Tammy I'm another fan of this book. I read it for the third time last year. My book club, for the most part, did not like it. I am curious to hear what people think! Very excited to cover this with the group.


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) I have read and enjoyed many Irving novels- except this one.


message 8: by KP (new)

KP | 26 comments I will read it too


message 9: by KP (new)

KP | 26 comments aPriL does feral sometimes wrote: "I have read and enjoyed many Irving novels- except this one."

Even hotel New Hampshire? There was a very inappropriate relationship in that book. That’s why I didn’t read Owen meany yet.


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

I read this a couple months ago, it was good.


message 11: by Hal (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hal (halbgold) | 17 comments Plan to start reading this as soon as it arrives which should be in a few days. Look forward to discussing it!


Tammy John Irving has said that the first line of Owen Meany is his favorite out of all his books. (“I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.") What do you think of that first line? Does the fact that the title and the first line indicate that the book will have religious themes bother you or make you wonder if the book can be enjoyed by non-Christian or non-religious readers?


message 13: by NancyJ, Moderator (last edited Jun 15, 2018 12:47PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Great question. I was surprised by the number of books on the list with a spiritual or religious theme. Like many people in my generation (or so I've heard) I consider myself a believer, but I'm not comfortable with organized religions. I worry that some religious writers (like some people) will be judgmental and closed minded about other's views. You mentioned before that Irving didn't consider himself religious, and it sounds like a great story. So I'll be starting it soon.


Linda | 10 comments Well, I just downloaded it to my kindle, so joining in the group read....this ought to be fun!


Beverly Tammy wrote: "I'm another fan of this book. I read it for the third time last year. My book club, for the most part, did not like it. I am curious to hear what people think! Very excited to cover this with the g..."

Don't you hate it when your book group doesn't like a book you love? I feel personally affronted somehow, like I wrote the book. I know it is not rational, but you can't help the way you feel. This is my favorite John Irving book too.


Beverly Kgrinch wrote: "aPriL does feral sometimes wrote: "I have read and enjoyed many Irving novels- except this one."

Even hotel New Hampshire? There was a very inappropriate relationship in that book. That’s why I di..."


I hated Hotel New Hampshire and I consider myself an Irving fan.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... This book is one of my all-time favorite books. I will not be rereading it as I just did a few months ago, but look forward to the discussion!


message 18: by Tammy (last edited Jun 18, 2018 06:30AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tammy Kelly wrote: "This book is one of my all-time favorite books. I will not be rereading it as I just did a few months ago, but look forward to the discussion!"

Kelly...stop on by the spoiler thread and let us know your thoughts. No worries on not doing the re-read. I'm sure it is still pretty fresh in your mind!

Patrice wrote: "I am joining in. I just started. So far, so good."

Good luck and I hope you enjoy the book (though that is not mandatory)!


message 19: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Don't you hate it when your book group doesn't like a book you love? I feel personally affronted somehow, like I wrote the book. I know it is not rational, but you can't help the way you feel. This is my favorite John Irving book too.
.."


Yes, I know! If I really loved the book, it hurts to hear it criticized. It's almost like they criticized my child. Sometimes I feel bad for the author even when I didn't love it myself. I read a comment last month that really stood out (and made me hope I didn't do this to anyone): A woman said that she hesitates to talk about her favorite book, because if someone says anything bad about it, she feels a pain in her soul.


message 20: by NancyJ, Moderator (last edited Jun 21, 2018 08:41PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
I'm about 18% of the way through and I'm loving it. Irving is not a linear writer, by any means, but that's fine with me (because I'm not either). I'm only in chapter 3, but he jumped around enough to give us highlights of Johnny's life from early childhood to middle age, and his friendship with Owen.

The older I get, the more I see offshoots and connections between ideas I never thought were related before. Nothing happens in isolation. Everything is related. It's too soon to tell, but I think this philosophy might be relevant to ideas in this book.

I love how Owen figures out what he wants and uses logic and persuasion to get his way. For instance, he really wanted to be invited up north to go skiing or swimming, and he planned various approaches with Johnny, his cousins, and finally Johnny's mother to secure an invitation. It was like a battle strategy.

I fell for Dan, Tabitha's husband, as soon as he gave Johnny the stuffed Armadillo. I really hope he will continue to be in the story as Johnny grows up. I loved his wisdom in telling Johnny to give back Owen's cards, and telling him to give Owen the armadillo as a way to express that he cares.


message 21: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 68 comments NancyJ wrote: " Don't you hate it when your book group doesn't like a book you love? I feel personally affronted somehow, like I wrote the book. I know it is not rational, but you can't help the way you feel. Thi..."

I agree! It can hurt when people trash a book you love. I'm starting to get used to it with Goodreads though. If I don't like a book, I often don't go on discussion threads for this very reason. I don't want to offend anyone. I may say something like "This just wasn't for me" or other mild criticisms. I certainly will never imply or argue why someone should hate a book.

I will be harsher in a review, but if it's not a classic, I don't want to offend the author either, so it's hard (I'm sure some look through reviews of their books). In general, I don't often rate books below a 3 anyway. I can usually find some value in everything I read (since I know how to weed out what I'm likely to hate).


Diane I read A Prayer for Owen Meany last year during the summer and really liked it a lot. I won't be re-reading it - but I'm enjoying reading the comments on this thread as people are reading it. It brings back memories of the story - especially the armadillo! Enjoy the book! I've started A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - to get a jump on the next scheduled read.


message 23: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Sue wrote: "NancyJ wrote: " Don't you hate it when your book group doesn't like a book you love? I feel personally affronted somehow, like I wrote the book. I know it is not rational, but you can't help the wa..."

It's interesting to read reviews when there are a lot of 5's and a lot of 2's and 3's (but not many 4's). That's when specific comments in a review are really helpful, but sometimes, it's more about the readers than the books. The age of a reader makes a difference with some types of books. A younger reader might be charmed by something that an older reader has simply seen way too many times. I'm often afraid to read books I loved when I was young, because I don't want to ruin my great memories of the book. (I'm still charmed by A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.)


message 24: by Ella (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 300 comments Sue wrote: "NancyJ wrote: " Don't you hate it when your book group doesn't like a book you love? I feel personally affronted somehow, like I wrote the book. I know it is not rational, but you can't help the wa..."

My rating is usually in almost direct opposition to GR. But then, I've rarely seen a GR average of under 3 - and let's face it, not all books are average or better. There are some really bad books out there. What I find helpful is to know who will rate similarly to me, but this takes time and it's not a foolproof method.

I have 2 RL book groups. One is hilarious. We routinely pick books that we all hate or better yet, don't even bother to read. I seem to be more picky. (I also read a lot more books than they do b/c they sleep and have children, husbands and stuff like that.) They're used to me saying "I didn't like this as much as you guys" and since we've been together for a long while and really like each other as people, they laugh and give me 90 seconds to pick my top peeves. I usually make like 2 points and shut up. Then I leave having been convinced I was wrong and I should read the book again (rarely does that happen.) I have another RL group that meets less often and we only read a certain kind of book and we all have very similar backgrounds, lives, even marital status. We tend to agree more (which I think is good b/c we read a lot of nonfiction and stuff that gets close to politics. I don't want to fight with people about politics unless I have to.)

So I'm used to "book people" disagreeing. But what does bother me is when I make a recommendation or give a copy of a book to a close friend (and I don't do this often - I can think of like 3 times in the last 5-6 years and they were 2 different people.) I only do this when I REALLY feel like the person will at least like the book or have good reasons to dislike it (which always makes a good discussion.) What hurts is when those people don't get around to reading the book within a year or two of me gifting it. I have no idea why this bothers me so much, but I'd rather someone hate a book and argue with me about it than just ignore it completely.

This leaves out my sisters' kids -- I've built those kids libraries and I don't really care what they read so long as they read.


message 25: by NancyJ, Moderator (last edited Jun 22, 2018 05:45PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Ella wrote: "Sue wrote: "NancyJ wrote: " Don't you hate it when your book group doesn't like a book you love? I feel personally affronted somehow, like I wrote the book. I know it is not rational, but you can't..."

Well Ella, I just deleted a book from my list because you hated it. It was the 'reason' you gave that persuaded me. It was about a wimpy female CIA analyst (your railroad tracks description made me think of Perils of Pauline.) It's the kind of thing that I don't always notice right away, but when I think about it later, I feel shame that I was blind to it. There is a WWII book that I hated because of stereotypes that really bothered me, but they didn't bother anyone else.


message 26: by Julie (new)

Julie Lewis (riobrewster) | 22 comments Well all of you seem to love this one but I'm kind of struggling with it. I'm still on the first chapter after a week. (I read all of Outlander in a week or less.) I'm kind of waiting for him to get on with the story. Hopefully it picks up?


message 27: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 68 comments Julie wrote: "Well all of you seem to love this one but I'm kind of struggling with it. I'm still on the first chapter after a week. (I read all of Outlander in a week or less.) I'm kind of waiting for him to ge..."

It may just not be for you Julie. It's not plot driven it's character driven. Nothing much happens other than everyday life type stuff until the end, and that's a long way off. I loved it but we can't all love everything.


Tammy Julie...this book isn't for everyone. The style is heavy on details and repetition. I think if the first chapter has taken you a week it just might not be your thing. And that is okay! Let me tell you...the narrator can go on tangents. It's kind of who he is. I don't want to discourage you, but I don't want to keep you reading if it is drudgery. There are some pretty funny parts in the Christmas pageant if you can hold out.


message 29: by Ella (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 300 comments Tammy wrote: "Julie...this book isn't for everyone. The style is heavy on details and repetition. I think if the first chapter has taken you a week it just might not be your thing. And that is okay! Let me tell ..."

Amen to everyone and Julie. I did have many moments early on in this book when I seriously wondered why Irving's editor didn't cut massive amounts of text (I'm not a huge Dickens lover until I've read the book - it's like a delayed payoff that I don't want to have to buy again.) '

We can't all like the same things - there are far too many aspiring writers for we readers to do that! (There's a pet peeve - stop trying to teach me to write my own book, bookstores & book lists! I don't have time. I'm reading.)

Nancy, that book was truly horrible. I mean, SO bad. I felt offended that it even existed, and I really rarely have that kind of reaction, but a bad spy story is just a bad thing to me. I was thinking of some childhood cartoon with someone called Penelope Pittstop or somesuch when I imagined her tied to the railroad tracks.


message 30: by Julie (new)

Julie Lewis (riobrewster) | 22 comments Thanks Ladies. That is very helpful.

Ah yes - Crazy Races! Of course PP had the car with the big - ahem - fenders.


message 31: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "Thanks Ladies. That is very helpful.

Ah yes - Crazy Races! Of course PP had the car with the big - ahem - fenders."


Ella wrote: "I was thinking of some childhood cartoon with someone called Penelope Pittstop or somesuch when I imagined her tied to the railroad tracks.
.."


Perils of Pauline was a very old film series. The cartoons came later I think. The villain in one of them had a huge mustache. I was thinking of the Dudley Doright cartoon, but Penelope Pitstop sounds like she should be on Crazy Races.


Paula Sue wrote: "Julie wrote: "Well all of you seem to love this one but I'm kind of struggling with it. I'm still on the first chapter after a week. (I read all of Outlander in a week or less.) I'm kind of waiting..."

What I see as the method for story telling here is a sort of diary. Irving even has his narrator use dates to open sections from his life in Canada. He writes as if he's having a conversation because he strays from his topic then comes back to it. I know practically no one who doesn't do that.

There's a definite story here, but you really do have to read for the appreciation of the writing as well as getting the story of John Wheelwright, Owen Meany, Dan, the cousins and all the characters who live in Gravesend, New Hampshire. Even the armadillo and a dress maker's dummy get some pretty amazing stage time.

I hope you don't shelve it before you finish. The story really does get better. And Owen proves to be an astute young man. But if you dnf it, that's not to say you won't enjoy the next book we select. It must be popular with some readers to be on the GAR list. Happy Reading!


message 33: by NancyJ, Moderator (last edited Jun 28, 2018 06:37PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Overall I'm enjoying it. Some sections are very funny, while others dragged a bit. What I really like are these little gems of insight Irving displays about people, and unusual interactions.

Example:
Barb (one of the minister's wives) is a real piece of something I haven't quite seen before! Whoa! She kisses this boy as he's about to go on stage, and she seems to revel in the physical reaction. She did it to punish him I think. Irving comes up with amazing little interactions between people that are surprising but insightful about how different people might behave in certain circumstances.


message 34: by Julie (new)

Julie Lewis (riobrewster) | 22 comments I'll give it some more time. I agree that Owen is pretty insightful.

It's kind of annoying that everything he says is in all caps.

And I did laugh when the Grandmother "recognized" the voice.


message 35: by NancyJ, Moderator (last edited Jul 01, 2018 10:36PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Beverly wrote: "Kgrinch wrote: "aPriL does feral sometimes wrote: "I have read and enjoyed many Irving novels- except this one."

Even hotel New Hampshire? There was a very inappropriate relationship in that book...."


Beverly I had a hard time with Hotel New Hampshire too. The bears were really funny, but the incestuous relationship was excessive I think. That seems to be a recurring theme in Irving's book. It's a lot more tame in this book (well, so far anyway.)


message 36: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "I'll give it some more time. I agree that Owen is pretty insightful.

It's kind of annoying that everything he says is in all caps.

And I did laugh when the Grandmother "recognized" the voice."


If you think it's annoying to READ the caps, you should hear the recording. At first I didn't mind it at all, it was rather charming even. But I've had headaches for the last few days and I can't listen to it at all. I'm waiting for a large print or kindle, but in the meantime I tried reading the regular book. When I saw the words in caps I swear I HEARD his voice just as loud as on the audio. Crazy, I know.


Jessica I really don't see how this book gets all the praise and love that it does. I've just finished reading chapter two and I'm determined to finish the book just to see what all the hype is about (and also would like to participate in this book club since the catch-up book club is on hiatus).

It's just so.. bad. I'm honestly surprised and disturbed at how rampantly prominent that childhood incest is a theme. Oof.

Sorry to the people who love this book.


message 38: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Jessica wrote: "I really don't see how this book gets all the praise and love that it does. I've just finished reading chapter two and I'm determined to finish the book just to see what all the hype is about (and ..."

Owen Meany is a book a lot of people love and a lot of people hate.(The incest in this one is nothing compared to another of Irving's books I read 20 years ago.) I put it on hold while I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which I loved. Have you read it?

We also have three new reads coming up for you to chose from. Lonesome Dove has extremely high ratings, and is surprising people, so I'll be reading it very soon.


message 39: by Tammy (last edited Jul 13, 2018 05:07AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tammy Are we talking about Hester and John's fumbling around? I'm not recalling any incest in this book.


Paula Tammy wrote: "Are we talking about Hester and Owen's fumbling around? I'm not recalling any incest in this book."

I've read this book more than once and I also don't recall incest. If it's there, maybe I'm too naive to see it.


message 41: by Hal (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hal (halbgold) | 17 comments About a third of the way through the book and haven't found any incest suggested. Certainly, some insightful comments, and really funny situations. Very much enjoying the book.
This is my first opportunity to be a part of a book reading community and appreciate everyone's observations, thoughts, and comments. I wish I was as fast a reader ( or had more free time) to get through books as quickly as some of you as I would enjoy absorbing and enjoying books at a faster clip. None the less, do enjoy the sharing !


Tammy Hal, I'm glad you mentioned funny, because I remember reading this the first time and thinking it was so funny. I don't see a lot of people mentioning that. Keep reading and let us know what you think when you are done! Go at your own pace.


Paula Hal wrote: "About a third of the way through the book and haven't found any incest suggested. Certainly, some insightful comments, and really funny situations. Very much enjoying the book.
This is my first op..."


Hal, I've found that the slower I go, the more I'm bound to remember about a story. When I plow through, some of the great stuff is subject to my Teflon Brain Syndrome. Everything just slides right off. Take your time with Owen Meany, and it will be worth it.


message 44: by Hal (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hal (halbgold) | 17 comments Thank you Tammy and Paula for your thoughts from experience and support! Very helpful :-)


message 45: by NancyJ, Moderator (last edited Jul 13, 2018 10:08PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Tammy wrote: "Are we talking about Hester and John's fumbling around? I'm not recalling any incest in this book."

I only remember the kissing between the cousins, and their being tied together by her brothers. It's more blatant in two of Irving's other books. John has a lot of impure thoughts about her for long afterwards I believe.

I left about half way through, but I'll get back to it soon. I just got the pickup notice that the new large print book is in. (The old one was lost on it's way to my branch.) My main difficulty with the book is Owen's voice in the audio. My migraines have made reading (and listening) more difficult.


message 46: by Ella (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 300 comments Tammy wrote: "Are we talking about Hester and John's fumbling around? I'm not recalling any incest in this book."

I guess the cousin thing? I'm not sure, but I usually notice things like that pretty starkly, so if I can't remember it, it must not have registered as incest for me.

I hate to say this, but Irving seems to have some issues with sexuality. Think about John's asexual homosexuality he lives with in adulthood. Irving tries to say that's Owen's fault in the interview I read, but I can't really figure out how that would be Owen's fault. Yanyhoo.


message 47: by Jessica (last edited Jul 14, 2018 08:02AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Jessica NancyJ wrote: "Jessica wrote: "I really don't see how this book gets all the praise and love that it does. I've just finished reading chapter two and I'm determined to finish the book just to see what all the hyp..."

I have not read any of the other current reads. I maybe should have started off with those. I'm stubborn enough to finish a book that I hate. I want to give every book a chance, especially if it's on the top 100 Great American Reads. Maybe there'll be some redeemable aspects in it (although, I'm not too hopeful).

WARNING: SPOILERS FROM CHAPTER 1 & 2
@Everybody else: Yes, I'm talking about John and Hester forced to "fool around" by Hester's two elder brothers. John is explicitly described to have a hard-on and where it is explicitly described that ALL of these children are prepubescent. Moreover, the part where John and Owen are talking about John's mother's breasts, and how they are ABSOLUTELY THE BEST. Is that not creepy to anybody else?

Another gripe I have is that this book sexualizes every young female character. Is this what it's like to be an 11 year old boy? Haha.


message 48: by Ella (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 300 comments At least if I take only what I've read about young boys on the brink of puberty, yes - they seem to be sex-starved, cruel and obsessive about sexuality and getting some woman or girl to let them play out their fantasies.

Now, if you spoke to a boy about these things, they wouldn't tell you, but this kind of sexualized play is actually normal -- for boys and girls. And while we see it as incestuous, if you've not grown up or spent a lot of time with family members, they tend to be seen as just other young people.

As for John having an erection, that's just biology, and one can't really fault him for it. (Much like we don't fault women's bodies for physically responding to sexual assault. That is often a source of shame that women need to learn is not shameful - it's simply biology and physiology working.)

I'm not excusing any of this, but I don't find it shocking.


Linda | 10 comments Afraid I’m just kind of burned out on reading these past few weeks, then the holidays and all......I’m about 20% of the way through it.....enjoying it, you just have to get used to Irving’s writing style, I enjoy everyone’s comments so far.....


message 50: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Ella wrote: "Tammy wrote: "Are we talking about Hester and John's fumbling around? I'm not recalling any incest in this book."

I guess the cousin thing? I'm not sure, but I usually notice things like that pret..."


Hmm, he blames the character he wrote himself? I guess we all have different parts of ourselves that we might blame for things. If writers infuse some of themselves into every character they write, I guess it could work in reverse as well. Sort of like an actor getting so far into a role that it will always be a small part of them.


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