yes yes yes!!! the cover of this book calls this book 'extraordinary' and it is nothing less. there is so much i want to write - i want to write that philip roth needn't have written american pastoral because this was already written a decade before. (and far better, i might add.) ok, so some of their issues are different, but overall, this booked so evoked american pastoral for me, and the difference in quality for me is obvious. this book is definitely not for everyone. but i loved it. this is easily the best john irving i have ever read (i have only read 3 others - the 158 pound marriage, the hotel new hampshire, and a widow for a year) but this book soars above the others. i don't feel irving is a terribly good closer, and the same is true of this book, but the rest of it more than makes up for what the ending lacks. this book is funny in a way that i didn't expect from irving, and also touching.it goes between the main character in 1987 and his memories of growing up in the late fifties and through the sixties. so vietnam is crucial to the book, as is reagan and the iran contra affair. the commentaries on government and reagan are so appropriate today as well. details aside, it could have been written about current events.i love what he does with religion in this book, which is also crucial to the story. i love what he does with the religious people in the book to humble them, and make them perhaps less 'christian' than others in the way they live their lives. and that they question their faith, sometimes more than any lay people do. and the icing on the cake regarding finding lost faith. (i won't spoil it as it comes at the end, but it's brilliant.)ok, so john irving has issues around sex. this book emphasizes them far less than the others i've read. for him, really, hardly at all. i would say, though, that in this book his female characters are disappointing. there's really only two major female characters and one is sex-crazed, and while a strong woman, not exactly well adjusted. the other major character is present throughout the book but remains pretty undeveloped. the other featured female is a perfect ideal, but she doesn't get to live long enough for us to know if she would have lived up to that ideal or not. based on other characters in the book (and the fact that she's not the jesus character in the book) we can assume that she wouldn't have.the following quotes are a good takeaway, and kind of a supershort overall summary of the book, but first, something that i take away, but i'm actually not sure if irving meant this or the exact opposite (spoiler alert; skip to after this paragraph if you don't want the spoiler): the entire book is centered around this character that you know is going to die doing something heroic. everything prepares you for this, and on faith, you accept it. after all, throughout the book you're told the value of faith. you are, of course, also told the value of doubt, but this is something the reader doesn't doubt. and then when it finally happens, you finally find out about the hero's death, it could hardly be more anticlimactic. maybe that's just my opinion of it, but it seemed totally a wasted death to me, and maybe that's irving's point after all. that everything led up to this penultimate moment, and it was a complete letdown for everyone - the hero did save lives, but only after putting them in danger in the first place, and not in the way he'd imagined. he shaped his life around this one moment, and it was for naught. the hero would have served the world far better without his sacrifice. i love it. so intense.i enjoyed this so much, from beginning to end."...I have a church-rummage faith - the kind that needs patching up every weekend.""...if you're lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.""Although the sun had set, vivid streaks of vermilion-colored light traced the enormous sky, and through one of these streaks of light I saw Owen's plane descending-as if, wherever Owen Meany went, some kind of light always attended him."