Book/movie recommendations with similar feel as A Prayer for Owen Meany?
May 28, 2014 12:00 AM   Subscribe

Looking for books or movies (fiction) that have a character who is "different" in that they have been prepared (perhaps "predestined"?) to fulfill a purpose that is often misunderstood or ignored by others. They may intuitively know about this purpose from the start, or it might be slowly revealed to them, or it only comes together at the sentinel event; as a result, they may have some quality of "otherness" (as best I can describe it). Some examples below the fold.

Some examples I have loved:

A Prayer for Owen Meany [recommended from here!] is a perfect example of this
A Wrinkle in Time - Charles Wallace's character

Signs - Mel Gibson understanding his wife's (seemingly incoherent) last words

I'm wide open to genre; spiritual/religious elements are fine but not required. Doesn't have to be fine literature. I just am interested in stories of intuition, purpose, making sense of seemingly strange events or clues, and strength in the moment when it matters most. Thanks.

I hope I am explaining this well; I didn't know what to search for in previous questions because I couldn't formulate a concise summary. Apologies, I'm a long-time lurker and an (anxious) first-time poster.
posted by sealee to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Donnie Darko was the first thing I thought of.

Some good TVTropes pages:

The Chosen One
It Sucks to be the Chosen One
Messianic Archetype
I Just Want to be Normal
posted by Rhaomi at 12:22 AM on May 28, 2014

Daniel Deronda
posted by kagredon at 12:55 AM on May 28, 2014

John Irving's Cider House Rules fulfils this criteria. And is such a wonderful novel.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:51 AM on May 28, 2014

A Prayer for Owen Meany reminds me a lot of Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy, and in particular the character of Magnus Eisengrim. Plus, the book is awesome.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 1:54 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

The character Aenea from Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos.
posted by neushoorn at 4:00 AM on May 28, 2014

This is kind of an oddball suggestion, but A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of my all - time favorite books and I connected the same way to Ender's Game. It's ultimately about a little kid outcast who is chosen to do this big thing and no one really understands him or his methods. I think you would really enjoy it.
posted by Kimberly at 4:06 AM on May 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Jonas in Lois Lowry's The Giver, perhaps?
posted by undue influence at 5:07 AM on May 28, 2014

Is Harry Potter too obvious?
posted by bleep at 5:09 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Lyra in the His Dark Materials trilogy
posted by bleep at 5:10 AM on May 28, 2014

Rather light, in a young adult and punny kind of way, but Piers Anthony's A Spell for Chameleon would fit the bill.

The movie The Sixth Sense also comes to mind.

Also, Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow.
posted by maxim0512 at 5:18 AM on May 28, 2014

Well, the film adaptation of "A Prayer for Owen Meany" was simplified and renamed "Simon Birch". You may want to check that out.

Then there is the more recent film "The Odd Life of Timothy Green".
posted by inturnaround at 5:33 AM on May 28, 2014

I think Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence would qualify (the character Will Stanton, specifically). They're pretty good books, though you may want to start with the second book in the series ("The Dark is Rising") and skip/postpone "Over Sea, Under Stone."
posted by orthicon halo at 5:37 AM on May 28, 2014

RE: the suggestions above of Ender's Game and The Giver (and your own example of A Wrinkle in Time), you will find this trope over and over again throughout YA fiction. It's reassuring for children, pretty much all of whom at one point or another feel "othered" by their peers. Harry Potter is another popular example.
posted by telegraph at 5:51 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yet another YA one is Matilda by Roald Dahl. But if you want fighty fighty then you want Kung Fu Hustle. Sing's early signs of difference are pretty subtle from memory.

Never Let me Go has all the pre-destiny and preparedness, but the world at large knows their fate (I think.... I've only seen the movie. The viewer/reader doesn't initially.)
posted by Trivia Newton John at 6:30 AM on May 28, 2014

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime fits the storyline you describe - the difference is that it's not an otherworldly special difference - the main character has autism and doesn't realize that what he thinks of as his special purpose and otherness is actually pretty easily explainable (not a spoiler). It's a fantastic read.
posted by Mchelly at 6:31 AM on May 28, 2014

I read "The Art of Fielding" soon after Owen Meany (earlier this year) and it felt pretty darn similar in tone.

(Seconding the Cider House Rules and Never Let Me Go recommendations from above as well.)
posted by cvp at 8:19 AM on May 28, 2014

This might not be quite the tone you're looking for, but the first thing that came to mind for me was The Omen.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 8:47 AM on May 28, 2014

Randle Patrick McMurphy (character) from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (novel).
posted by alex1965 at 9:34 AM on May 28, 2014

Everything Matters! by Ron Currie Jr sounds like exactly the thing you're looking for.
posted by snaw at 9:55 AM on May 28, 2014

Seconding The Deptford Trilogy. I'll add The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor.
posted by perhapses at 10:02 AM on May 28, 2014

Slan by A.E. van Vogt.
posted by Rash at 10:58 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. Otherness to the nth degree, though with no 'higher' purpose other than loving being other.
posted by feistycakes at 2:30 PM on May 28, 2014

I think Joshua in Lamb by Christopher Moore would fit this criteria, since he is literally Jesus. It's a fantastic book too.
posted by escapepod at 3:04 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wow, what great responses! Thank you for making my summer reading list awesome!
posted by sealee at 9:31 PM on May 28, 2014

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