A Prayer for Owen Meany

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A Prayer For Owen Meany is a novel by American writer John Irving, first published in 1989.

The novel is told through the eyes of an older, matured John Wheelwright who elaborates on the events surrounding his teenage friendship during the 1950s and 1960s with Owen Meany, whom John credits as being the reason he believes in God. Owen is impaired by an underdeveloped body: he is disproportionately short and needs to shout to be heard because of his underdeveloped vocal chords (Owen's dialogue is all written in capitals for emphasis of this point). Owen's short stature makes him the butt of many jokes and cruel pranks but also the recipient of many special privileges, such as getting to play the baby Jesus in a Christmas pageant because he is the only person who can fit in the manger.

The novel deals with several lofty spiritual issues, such as the importance of faith, social justice, and fate. John and Owen both offer criticizms of some aspects of organized religion and the hypocrisy of some religious people throughout the novel. The spiritual dimension is also emphasized by Owen's repeated foretelling of his own impending death. He is quite certain that his death will be the result of his being an "instrument of God", that his death will serve some good purpose. He even believes that he knows the date of his death, and that an heroic act on his part will kill him, but also save some children. He is a bit unclear, however, about where it will happen.

John is skeptical of Owen's unquestioned belief in the purpose of all things for several reasons, namely, his mother's premature death (as the result of the impact of a baseball hit by Owen), and his mother's failure ever to disclose his father's identity. John is depicted as being spiritually apathetic throughout the novel until the conclusion, which brings these spiritual pieces of the story together. Since the novel is written retrospectively, much of the novel takes the tone of John's newfound wisdom.

John occasionally withdraws from the past to offer criticisms of the Vietnam War and Iran-Contra scandal.

The 1998 feature-length film Simon Birch, directed by Mark Steven Johnson, was loosely based on the novel. The film starred Ian Michael Smith, Joseph Mazzello, Ashley Judd, Oliver Platt and Jim Carrey. It omitted much of the latter half of the novel and altered the ending. The movie does not share the book's title at Irving's request; he did not believe that this novel could successfully be made into a film.

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