They say you’ve got to grab them in the first paragraph. A novel, a short story, I guess even nonfiction should get off to a fast start with something that will grab the reader. ‘A Prayer for Owen Meany‘ starts this way:
‘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.’
I guess that has a special hook for me as a Christian but I think that sentence would grab anybody. It plants questions that need answers. Who is this strange person, Owen Meany? How was he in involved in the mother’s death. What is there about him that planted faith in the narrator?
I first became aware of this book from a movie, Simon Birch, which was based on the book. A really good movie, partly because it has the very classy Ashley Judd in it. The movie captures the heart of the book but, as with most movies, it does some serious compression. The movie starts with the same sentence as the book. I saw the book title listed in the credits and I went looking for it.
The book was written by John Irving. I have a coffee cup that says ‘Choose an author like you would choose s friend.’ John Irving is my friend. He has been compared to Charles Dickens. He is a story teller. You don’t so much read his books to find out what happens. You settle down and get to know the people. Things happen that tell you something about the characters that may or may not have anything to do with plot. But there is a plot. Something does happen. There is a payoff that gets you thinking. How does God lead us? To what extent will He go to reach, to save, to redeem? I don’t as rule read Christian fiction. But I love to read books and watch movies where you kind of stumble across, kind of happen upon the hand of God at work.
I read some books and say at the end ‘I’m glad that’s over’. Others I say ‘That was pretty good’. Then there are those that I feel glad for the journey and satisfied with the conclusion. A Payer for Owen Meany is one of those.