“A Prayer for Owen Meany” is one of three books I’m reading at this time. The John Irving novel is about a friendship that develops between two boys who meet in the 1950s. The narrator is Johnny Wheelwright and he talks about what an amazing person his best friend, Owen – who also has dwarfism – turns out to be. (Apparently, this book became the movie, “Simon Birch.”)
Prior to reading this novel, I completed “The Third Life of Grange Copeland” by Alice Walker. Quite different from Owen Meany, this was about the trials and tribulations of Grange Copeland, who worked as a sharecropper in the segregated south. Frustrated with his life circumstances, he abandons his wife and son. When he returns, his wife is dead and his son has become an abusive husband and father to his three daughters. After a tragedy, Grange’s son is sent to jail and Ruth – Grange’s granddaughter – is sent to live with Grange.
Both novels are about relationships, one that forms through gender and another that is formed through guilt. It is unclear how Johnny and Owen became best friends, but it is a bond that deepens when Owen accidentally hits a baseball that kills Johnny’s mother. Grange and Ruth are strangers, but Grange’s guilt draws him closer to his son’s family. And when his son commits a murder, a bond is formed between Grange and Ruth.
There’s no Sistahood in either book, but it’s nice to see the healthy brotherhood that grows between Johnny and Owen. (Of course, I haven’t finished the book yet, so who knows what will happen in the end) In the Grange Copeland book, Ruth has no female friends or role models, only her grandfather. While that seems to stunt her social development as a young woman, it still gives her the strength she needs to face ongoing obstacles.
The Alice Walker novel ends on a semi-tragic note; I suspect a similar ending for Owen Meany. Still, both books show the ongoing importance of relationships – no matter what kind.