” DON’T BE AFRAID,” Owen told me. “YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU WANT TO DO—IF YOU BELIEVE YOU CAN DO IT.”
I’ll never forget the first movie that made me cry and neither will my mother. I was about 12 or 13, I think, and we rented a movie called “Simon Birch”. We were huddled on my mom’s bed watching the movie and by the end of it I was in hysterics, just ask my mom. The story of a child who is smaller than the rest and speaks a little differently than the others affected me more than words could express. Now, fast forward almost 13 years and I find myself again affected by a a small boy who is just a little different than the rest.
Let me get this out of the way first, even though “Simon Birch” is based on John Irving’s novel it is completely different and I hold both in high regard. I intend to watch “Simon Birch” again because just reading The List is not enough for me, I am also trying to watch the corresponding movies (I will blog about that adventure in a few days). The story of Owen Meany a boy who is different begins with one of John Irving’s favorite lines:
“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.”
The story is told in an almost diary like style through the eyes of Owen’s best friend, Johnny Wheelwright, and even though the story is ultimately about Owen you learn just as much about Johnny as you do of Owen. I will say that I don’t think this story would’ve worked if told from the point of view of Owen Meany. I feel that you needed that sense of mystery surrounding him through out the entire thing so that the ending really hits home. Owen Meany is a special boy, though it takes you a while to see that. It’s mentioned quite early on, but John Irving is writes in the voices and thoughts of a 12 year old so well that you don’t really grasp the scope of how special until he also understands.
I wasn’t a fan of how at some points in the novel Johnny Wheelwright would take over and speak of the “current” wars going on and his feelings on Reagean and the way that America handled things at that time. I’m sure it’s pertinent to show the way Johnny feels about war but it took away from the true underlying emotion of the novel. I will also say that the first couple hundred pages went very slowly for me. I’m not sure if it’s because of the fact that John Irving speaks in a child’s voice so well that I found it dull, but either way once the boy’s grow up (and you can tell when they do) the book just flew from that point on for me. The end had me in tears, much like the movie, but unlike the movie it was also bone chilling.
Owen is a special boy and he is someone you won’t easily forget once you put the book down. As “Life of Pi” said “this is a story that will make you believe in God.” I feel this is also one of those stories. It is a book that will make you believe in God and the astounding effect that one person can have on a community.