Growing up in small-town New England during the middle of the last century was a heady time. A tidal wave of changes were coming to this country that would have a lasting affect on everyone who lived through them. Johnny and his best friend Owen Meany were no exception. Though it's not where the book starts, their story very much begins when Owen, as a young boy, accidentally kills Johnny's mother. Their friendship survives and deepens after this incident, bringing them closer together while they struggle to through the common and not so common problems of adolescence.
I'll be the first to admit, I was wrong about this book. I've avoided it for a couple years because I just wasn't all that impressed by the only other John Irving novel I've read. However, people kept recommending it to me, it is on the list of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, and I owned a copy of it. It felt like it was just the time to get the monkey off my back. I am so thankful I did. I truly enjoyed every moment of this book.
The author did a great job of describing a time and a place, and though I was not alive during the Vietnam War, I think the placement in time was well done. A lot of the characters were a bit eccentric, but what I liked is that they were human, they (well with the exception of maybe one) weren't caricatures of what you expect someone living through 1960s America to be. I was particularly enamored with Owen Meany. He wasn't at all like any other character I've ever read. From his size, to his off-putting voice, to his surety of faith, he was just so unique and special. Johnny was the perfect best friend and as the witness to Owen Meany's particular story, also the perfect vehicle to narrate his story. I don't think that this book could have been done well without the deft touch that Irving took with his characters. It could have been very easy to mess this story up. Between the death of Johnny's mother and the very strong religious tones, there were some pretty heavy plotlines to deal with. It's not a book that just anyone could have written.