Monday, May 13, 2013

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

I never re-read books, but I decided to read this one, twenty-two years after I first read it, because "he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany." That's a quote from the first sentence of the book, but it is true, literally true, for me, too.  I feel somewhat guilty that this book triggered my conversion, because it is not G-rated; in fact, it is a little crass.  It isn't sweet and it isn't fluffy and it criticizes religion and miracles and believers just as much as it celebrates them. But I don't think I read this book by accident. I have a vivid recollection of standing in the aisle of a used book store in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with this book in my hands. I think someone knew I needed Owen Meany to save my life. 

Rereading it was scary; what if it was stupid this time? The thought gave me, as Owen Meany would have said, THE SHIVERS.  But I was flattened by how . . . perfect . . . it was.  Two decades later, I was stunned to see the ways in which this was exactly the book that could present the kind of faith that would make sense to someone like me . . . someone who, like Owen Meany, absolutely believes in God, but is disgusted by the piously orthodox hypocrites that hide behind religion, someone who expects God to have a detailed plan for his life, but isn't a puritanical killjoy.  I thought its work was done the first time I read it, but, if anything, it was more of a gift the second time, as I realized how perfect this book was for someone like me.

It's almost as if Owen Meany was AN INSTRUMENT IN THE HANDS OF GOD.

Cross-posted to Times & Seasons.

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