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A Prayer for Owen Meany
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Prayer for Owen Meany, American novelist John Irving's seventh novel, is about two childhood friends whose lives intersect with class, war, family, and faith. There are lots of mature themes in this darkly comedic read, particularly about politics, war, and religion, and there is some candid sex talk. There's drinking and smoking, sometimes to excess, destruction of property, causalities of war, and class issues. Though it's dense and challenging at times, A Prayer for Owen Meany is also a deeply affecting story with unforgettable characters and thought-provoking themes.
What's the story?
John Wheelwright and Owen Meany are best friends growing up in smalltown New Hampshire. As a Wheelwright, John was born into the town's elite, with all the entitlements that come with a prestigious name and notable ancestors. Owen's the only son of distant, financially strapped parents in the granite quarry business. But despite his diminutive size and "wrecked" voice, Owen's magnetism, brilliance, and self-assurance make him stand out as something truly special. As John and Owen move through life together, facing death and tragedy, controversy and spirituality, Owen has a deep impact on everyone he meets. And as he grapples with his faith while challenging the conventions of church, school, and country, his fate becomes clear -- and he refuses to turn his back on it.
Is it any good?
A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY is a dense and darkly comedic novel that has heavy themes and explores serious issues. But it's also incredibly affecting and relatable. The characters are brilliantly crafted and the dialogue is so rich that it's easy to get swept into the story and feel every plot twist and downturn along the way. Irving's ability to lace heavy subject matter -- like war, religion, and tragedy -- into the tribulations of endearing and flawed characters makes for truly a distinctive story.
A Prayer for Owen Meany is an emotional investment, but it's satisfying from start-to-finish. It's ludicrous and heartbreaking, hilarious and horrifying -- and ultimately unforgettable.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the character of Owen Meany. Why do you think the author created a character with such distinctive physical characteristics? Why does he consider himself "God's instrument"?
Talk about the meaning of faith. What's the difference between faith and religion?
Talk to kids about the Vietnam War and the turbulent anit-war movement. Do you think John and Owen were right to take extreme measures to avoid the draft?
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.