A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of those books that I kept hearing everyone rave about but I just never got around to. I’ve actually had the book on my shelf for over a year now, so when The Estella Society announced the book as its pick for a summer readalong, I figured it would be a good push to get the book finally crossed off my TBR list!
The book is about two boys, Johnny Wheelwright and Owen Meany, and their unique friendship that lasts from childhood through early adulthood. At first glance, the two are opposites. Owen is unusually small, with a squeaky and unique voice that’s WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS. He’s an extremely intelligent boy from a working class background. Johnny doesn’t know who his father is, but he’s a Wheelwright in a town where legacy is important; he lives with his grandmother and mother on a well-off part of town. The two boys are inseparable, and Owen is practically part of the family. Then the inexplicable happens: Owen kills Johnny’s mother in a freak accident. Rather than ending their friendship, the two become closer than ever.
The plot is mostly linear, though it’s narrated by a much older Johnny who is haunted by his past. He keeps looking back on his youth and thinking of all the ways that Owen changed his life. Owen would be a hard person to forget even under normal circumstances, what with THAT VOICE and all, but Owen was anything but unique. He believes that he’s an instrument of God, and that everything that happens to him or because of him is part of God’s plan. This is at times exasperating to Johnny, but nothing can dissuade Owen from that belief.
Alex Lyons is one of four writers for Chick Habit, a gossip blog that is quickly gaining a mass following. The writers are each required to score a total of one million hits a month, so the bitchier and more controversial their articles are, the more likely they are to draw page views. If a writer manages to find a juicy story, she might even luck out and have her post scheduled during the high-traffic lunch hour, when office workers across the city are surfing the web during their break while eating their sad desk salads.
Contrary to the exciting writing career her mother envisions, Alex’s life is actually falling apart. She wakes up at 6:20 every morning just in time to kiss her boyfriend before he leaves for work and is plopped on her couch less than five minutes later scanning the television networks and her online feeds to find material for the first post of the day. She’ll be on that couch all day, writing articles and consuming massive quantities of media, so paranoid about missing a scoop that it consumes her life and affects her relationship with her boyfriend. The only time she leaves the couch is to change into the same dirty muumuu and pop downstairs for five minutes to buy lunch (a sad desk salad, of course).
One day a scoop comes her way that will guarantee her million hits for the month: the daughter of How to Raise a Genius, Times Four author turned wannabe politician is caught on camera in a very private moment. Alex is torn between breaking the story — hence taking the smug author/politician down a few notches — or protecting the girl’s privacy. After all, the girl isn’t famous. Her mother is. Breaking this scoop could possibly ruin the girl’s life. The guilt spurred on by her work makes Alex completely neurotic.
Pen, Will, and Cat were inseparable in college. They met during the first week of their freshman year and formed a unique bond that no one could touch. They thought it would always be this way, but the trio suddenly dissolved after graduation, each person going their own way in a flurry of hurt and confusion.
Six years later, the three have moved on with their lives and are no longer in contact. Pen, whose point of view the reader sees the most, is now a single mother who is still reeling from her father’s death two years ago. She lives with her brother and is at a very confusing point in her life. Out of the blue, she receives an email from Cat, begging for Pen and Will to meet her at their upcoming college reunion. Pen and Will anxiously meet for the first time since their falling out and soon discover the reason behind Cat’s email; Pen and Will must put the past behind them in order to help their troubled friend.
The book is told in flashbacks that take readers through the highlight’s of the trio’s immediate friendship and ultimate demise. From the instant that they reunite, it’s clear that the bond between Will and Pen is still there, and they’ll do anything to help Cat and get the trio back together. And as much as I wanted to get on board with this story of unbreakable friendship, this is where the book derailed for me.
Jyotsna Sreenivasan’s debut novel, And Laughter Fell from the Sky, takes readers to two continents as her twenty-something protagonists struggle to find their place in the world. As the children of Indian immigrants, Rasika and Abhay often find themselves at odds with what their traditional parents expect of them. When the two old friends reconnect, the only thing that’s clear is their attraction to each other in spite of all the reasons a relationship would never work.
At twenty-five, Rasika is determined to be a good Indian daughter and have an arranged marriage, even if it means sacrificing her real desires. She came to the United States when she was eight years old, so she has slightly stronger ties to India than Abhay does. Rasika is materialistic and at times shallow, using her hard-earned money to buy herself nice things. She envisions herself a fashionable, well-kept wife with a large, tastefully decorated house and a wealthy, handsome husband. The image she presents to her parents is that of an obedient daughter, even though she has a secret side they know nothing about.
Abhay, meanwhile, has long since decided to march to his own beat: well aware that he’s falling far short of his parents’ expectations, he’s wandering through life trying to find his true calling. He’s an old schoolmate of Rasika’s younger brother, and though he’s incredibly smart and could have easily majored in something that would be lucrative down the road, he majored in general studies and doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. He spent the year after graduation living on a commune, and all he knows is that he’s interested in Utopian societies.
On the cusp of her thirtieth birthday, Lara thinks she has it all: a successful career, a hot boyfriend, and supportive presents. For once, she feels like she has control of her life. Then comes her thirtieth birthday party, and her world comes crashing to a halt: as she’s about to blow out her birthday candles, a woman claiming to be her birth mother shows up at the door.
Adopted in Nigeria at the age of three to white, middle class British parents, Lara has always felt different. Cruelly called an “alien” by classmates, she’s always had to deal with the attention she drew from onlookers whenever she was out in public with her light-skinned parents. Her parents certainly could have handled it better: any questions Lara had about her differences were always brushed aside — she didn’t even know the full story of her Nigerian adoption until she was eight years old. As Being Lara develops, readers begin to see why Lara’s parents made the decisions they did, but as a result, young Lara was left to process a lot of confusing experiences on her own.
The arrival of Lara’s biological mother brings back all of the confusion that Lara had managed to bury deep with herself. Suddenly, this woman is addressing her as “Omolara” and trying to build a relationship from scratch. Lara’s main coping mechanism is to distance herself as much as possible.