My new blogging friend, Coleen Patrick, let me in on this amazing giveaway sponsored by YA author Beth Revis.  Beth is giving away 19 books, and the one thing you have to do to enter is blog about one book you are grateful for and why.  Awesome right?

My first thought was, how on earth do I choose just one book?  But as quickly as I had the question, I already knew the answer.  Because A Prayer for Owen Meany is simply, “The One.”

First of all, forget the oft-quoted first sentences of Moby Dick and Pride and PrejudiceOwen has the best first sentence ever written.

“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 ask you, how much more intrigue could you pack into a single sentence??

I have long believed that books choose their readers rather than the other way around.  How many times have you picked up and read a book at the exact right time for you to appreciate it or receive its message?  It’s happened to me more times than I can count, but it began with A Prayer for Owen Meany.

Here’s the Story

This is not the most modern cover, but it's the cover of the book I read almost 20 years ago

October, 1993:  I was living in England and attending graduate school.  I was also suffering from a common malaise – a broken heart.  This was not my first breakup, and it was not quite the last.  It was, however, the most painful as it involved a seminal relationship.

If you have experienced such a breakup of your own, I’m sure you can relate to my strategy for dealing with it: I kept myself as busy as humanly possible in order to leave no time to wallow in my misery.  The strategy worked well during the days and evenings, occupied as they were with graduate work.  At night, however, when the lights went out and I found myself alone in the dark – well, that’s another story.

So I did what any book lover would do.  At night, I read until I was so exhausted I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore and could fall asleep without thinking.

I remember so clearly going to the bookstore in Coventry and plucking Owen off the shelf.  Owen was not at all typical of the type of books I was reading at that stage, but the title caught my eye.  Then I read that first sentence and was hooked.  Plus, the cover had an armadillo on it and I wanted to know why.

The night I started reading Owen, I stayed up until 3:00 in the morning.  At one point, I was laughing so hard I could barely breathe. (For those of you who’ve read the book, it was the ‘waterskiing with the cousins’ scene).  Little did I know that I would be crying equally as hard by the end of the book.

Owen is still one of the most original books I have ever read, yet its themes are grounded in the universal life questions: What makes a family? Does each person have a purpose and a destiny in life? Can we shape our own destiny or is it pre-ordained? How do the people in our lives change its course?  What is the relationship between faith and religion?  Between politics and religion?  Why can you eat two pounds of Chinese food and still be starving afterwards?

Okay I made that last one up, but the others are all there.

This book not only kept me company during those long nights, but it would forever change my view of reading and writing.  It’s fair to say that outside of the classics I had read for school, Owen was the first real taste I had of modern literary genius.  A book like no other.  A book that only one person could have written.  A book that would haunt you and keep you thinking about it years later.  A book that changes you from the inside out.  Those were the types of books I wanted to read from now on.  Those are the books I want to write (and yes, you can write books for children with all of those qualities).

Two years ago, I finally had the courage to read Owen again.  I was so afraid I would be disappointed, that it wouldn’t live up to my memory.  Well, I am happy to report I was wrong.  I enjoyed it even more the second time around because life experience has given me a whole new perspective on its themes.  The book is epic and brilliant and beautiful.  I know I will read it again.  And again.

P.S. If you want to see more of my favorite books, last year I wrote a post listing 200 of them.  You will find a very familiar cover on the post and A Prayer for Owen Meany in the #1 spot.

What is one book you are grateful for?

Categories: Authors, Books, Children's Books, Giveaway · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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11 Comments

  1. Julie, this is one of the most awesome posts I’ve ever read about the power of reading to change lives. Excellent!

  2. Wonderful that a book could touch you this way. I don’t know that I could pick one book that had that kind of an effect. I wish I could. But I’ve read several that have touched me deeply or been deeply thought-provoking and stayed with me for a long time after reading, among them The Time Traveler’s Wife, Stolen, The Vanishing Act Of Esme Lennox, Animal Dreams, and I Married Adventure.

  3. Wonderful post Julie–i love the idea that books choose their readers!! And thanks for the shout-out 🙂
    Plus, i love your log-line!

  4. Wow, Julie, this is brilliant. And you’re right about that first line…another wow.

  5. Wow, I so want to read that Owen book now. What a great giveaway from Beth and wonderful post from you Julie.

  6. It’s wonderful when a book changes us forever. Simplify Your Life by Elaine St. James fulfilled that role for me. It gave me permission to BE ME! 😀

  7. I loved your post! I think the best thing about this giveaway is getting to read all the great stories of the books people are thankful for.

  8. P.S. A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of my favorites as well.

    ~ Bell @ I’ll Read Anything Once

  9. Thank you for sharing a very personal experience Julie. Now I just want to run out and find that book. Thanks!

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