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A Prayer for Owen Meany | [John Irving]

A Prayer for Owen Meany

Of all of John Irving's books, this is the one that lends itself best to audio. In print, Owen Meany's dialogue is set in capital letters; for this production, Irving himself selected Joe Barrett to deliver Meany's difficult voice as intended. In the summer of 1953, two 11-year-old boys – best friends – are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy's mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn't believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God's instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul ball is extraordinary and terrifying.
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Publisher's Summary

Of all of John Irving's books, this is the one that lends itself best to audio. In print, Owen Meany's dialogue is set in capital letters; for this production, Irving himself selected Joe Barrett to deliver Meany's difficult voice as intended.

In the summer of 1953, two 11-year-old boys – best friends – are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy's mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn't believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God's instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul ball is extraordinary and terrifying.

Why we think it’s a great listen: For 20 years, John Irving believed that his ambitious novel could never be adequately executed in audio – and then he met narrator Joe Barrett.... In the summer of 1953, two 11-year-old boys - best friends - are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy's mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn't believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God's instrument.


This production is part of our Audible Modern Vanguard line, a collection of important works from groundbreaking authors.


©1989 Garp Enterprises Ltd; (P)2008 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“John Irving, who writes novels in the unglamorous but effective way Babe Ruth used to hit home runs, deserves a medal not only for writing this book but for the way he has written it. . . . A Prayer for Owen Meany is a rare creation in the somehow exhausted world of late twentieth-century fiction—it is an amazingly brave piece of work . . . so extraordinary, so original, and so enriching. . . . Readers will come to the end feeling sorry to leave [this] richly textured and carefully wrought world.” (Stephen King)

"Roomy, intelligent, exhilarating, and darkly comic...Dickensian in scope....Quite stunning and very ambitious." (Los Angeles Times Book Review)

"John Irving is an abundantly and even joyfully talented storyteller." (The New York Times Book Review)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Amber Tempe, AZ, United States 05-27-12
    Amber Tempe, AZ, United States 05-27-12 Member Since 2011

    I'm a pretty eclectic woman who happens to use a wheelchair. I love to read, and adore this site.

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    "got me hooked on Audible! Pure gold performance!"

    Joe Barrett is a genius! This was the book that made me decide to become a member. There is so much more depth to the story in the audio version!

    I've been a fan of John Irving since high school. Being physically disabled, reading was often my escape from real life, and he writes well and in such detail.

    Owen's story is by far my favorite, but not just because the main character has a disability as well. Because the disability, while being a character in itself in some ways, because it is part of everything Owen attempts, is also very understated. In most ways, it doesn't really affect the story much.

    However, what Owen and his best friend, who is the narrator of the story, via the device of flashbacks, choose to do with the hands that they have been dealt is very much a part of the story.

    It should be noted that there is a movie called Simon Birch which is very loosely, and I do mean very loosely, based on this book. I did enjoy the movie, but you would be doing the story, and yourself, a great disservice, by not reading the book itself.

    And if you choose to listen to it by getting it from here, you will not be disappointed. I promise.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kimberl Ie L. Perry LINCOLN, RI, United States 05-19-12
    Kimberl Ie L. Perry LINCOLN, RI, United States 05-19-12

    Kimber

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    "A reader's jigsaw puzzle."
    What made the experience of listening to A Prayer for Owen Meany the most enjoyable?

    The most enjoyable part is getting to live out the book again. Hearing the emotion in Joe's recitation that I have felt each time I have read the book. Tt is like getting to relive favorite moments in your life.


    What other book might you compare A Prayer for Owen Meany to and why?

    Many come close. but no one can really touch this book. It is an all time favorite of mine.


    What about Joe Barrett’s performance did you like?

    Everything but Owen's voice. He does a great job of bringing the characters to life.


    If you could take any character from A Prayer for Owen Meany out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    John Wheelwright. I think his views and inspiration for his actions would make a terrific evenings worth of conversation. I first read this book in the early 1990's when i picked up a copy that had been left in the vacation home of a fried. the vacation home was in New Hampshire. I lost myself in the story and as i read the book found a kindered spirit in John and know him like i know myself. A true friend who i would gladly spend any amount of time talking with about the world and all its stuff.


    Any additional comments?

    Ok, let's say that we can all agree that Owen's voice would be difficult for anyone to emulate. However, I have to say that while Joe Barrett did a great job on all other characters, because 'THE VOICE' in my head was so different from what he provided it was the one thing about this audiobook that I would change.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristina Paradise, CA, United States 05-06-12
    Kristina Paradise, CA, United States 05-06-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Never thought I would say "Couldn't Put it Down""
    If you could sum up A Prayer for Owen Meany in three words, what would they be?

    Thoughtful, heart breaking, engaging.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I liked the scene/time changing, fluctuation; the effect of knowing the end or outcome of situations and later getting all the backstory. This method of story telling engages my brain and kept me fresh and interested throughout this lengthy book (it never seemed long). This was the story of Owen's life, but also the story many other characters who were well developed. In many ways it is the story of America in the 1950/60s. The author developed such a range of ideas, morals, generational differences and similarities, so it is difficult to figure out what I liked best.The reader is given reasons and resolutions to many things that happen, but is also left with enough questions that the story and characters continue to populate the mind.This book may cause the reader who was around during that time to take another look at what happened then and since then. The younger reader may get a different perspective not found in text book histories.


    What about Joe Barrett’s performance did you like?

    The best thing about the performance was Owen's voice. But overall the voice, the emotion, the pauses at the correct moment, all were fantastic.


    Any additional comments?

    I found this book on a list suggested for a high school class and think it is an excellent choice for young adult readers. But there is so much depth to the characters and story, that readers of all ages will enjoy it and learn from it. Readers who experienced the 1950/60s will find a lot to like and to dislike in the tale; and see some truths they may have missed while "living through it".

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kate Redwood Estates, CA, United States 04-27-12
    Kate Redwood Estates, CA, United States 04-27-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Unexpected and compelling"
    If you could sum up A Prayer for Owen Meany in three words, what would they be?

    When I first heard Joe Barrett speak I wondered what made me pick a book this long where I have to listen to such a gravelly irritating reader. That thought only lasted a few minutes as the story unfolded with such richness as each character got their unique and identifiable voice. Especially Owen Meany's, which when the book is read shows up in capital letters now doesn't have to as Joe pushes out that nasally whiney voice with conviction. Through Joe's loving portrayal of this complex character I looked forward to the inevitable insights that came from that irritating voice. And grandmother's voice always made me laugh.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of A Prayer for Owen Meany?

    The volkswagon on the stage


    What about Joe Barrett’s performance did you like?

    He makes each character interesting and unique with the shading of his voice.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    If I could have...I would have.


    Any additional comments?

    Unexpected and beautifully wriiten.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff Pickering, Ontario, Canada 04-25-12
    Jeff Pickering, Ontario, Canada 04-25-12 Member Since 2007

    50yrs old / audible member for 5 yrs library. 75% nonfiction, 15% classics and 10% fiction. History/Science/biography/Eng.18th cent fiction

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "HILARIOUS NARRATION"

    I just finished this and Ill tell you, it was hard to finish the book BEFORE writing the review.The narration alone is worth the cost of admission. Sometimes its hard to imagine just reading the book when you get narration like this. Barrett does an amazing job of the voices of Owen and the grandmother.I often found myself laughing out-loud

    . The book lags a bit in the middle, and for me it would have been much better if it was tightened up,.but its worth persevering to get to the end, which is very good. All in all its a rich rewarding read involving every emotion.

    John Irving is BRILLIANT at exploring people, lives, and time periods from his utterly rich, unique,and mature vantage point .No one writes like him, or could write like him for that matter. I think he is a very brave writer who is willing to take great chances with his story's. What transpires from his brilliance, courage and originality is always something very special and worthy of your time. His books make the best book club selections because there are so many layers and areas to explore. The smarter you are, the more you will get out of his work.
    SPOILER ALERT= DONT LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW THAT COMES WITH THIS PURCHASE TILL YOUR FINISHED READING THE BOOK.
    As a side note, I enjoyed the fact that parts of the book take place in Toronto, since that's where I live .

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margot Lexington, KY, United States 04-22-12
    Margot Lexington, KY, United States 04-22-12 Member Since 2010
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    "WOW!"

    I've read many books by John Irving, and while I've really enjoyed most of them (esp. Garp), I think this is my favorite. You should know that it is very long and you might have to make a real investment to enjoy it. There are many bits and pieces to this book, so there is a lot to keep track of, and the story spans a few decades. The narration is the best I've ever heard. I don't laugh out loud too often while listening to books, but I did several times during this one. This is one of the few books that I believe is better listened to (so long as Joe Barrett is the narrator). I don't think that I would have understood the character of Owen as well if I'd read the book myself. If you are an Irving fan it's very likely that you will love this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Belleville, Ontario, Canada 04-22-12
    Karen Belleville, Ontario, Canada 04-22-12 Member Since 2009
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    "Very annoying voice for Owen Meany"
    What would have made A Prayer for Owen Meany better?

    The reader could use a less horrible, abrasive voice for Owen Meany.


    Would you ever listen to anything by John Irving again?

    Yes


    Would you be willing to try another one of Joe Barrett’s performances?

    No


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    I only listened for a couple of hours...it was slow moving and not enough action for me.


    Any additional comments?

    Boring!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Sparks, NY, United States 04-19-12
    John Sparks, NY, United States 04-19-12 Member Since 2008

    NV, not NY

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    "Typical John Irving"

    In reviewing other Irving books some listeners stated that they weren't as good as A Prayer for Owen Meany, so I was looking forward to finally getting around to it. Although enjoyable, APFOM was probably my least favorite. If you've never read/listened to an Irving book before, I'd suggest Until I Find You. If you like it, consider yourself lucky - you've got a lot great Irving books awaiting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Focco Willemstad, Netherlands Antilles 04-18-12
    Focco Willemstad, Netherlands Antilles 04-18-12 Member Since 2011
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    "It will give you the shivers in an awesome way!"
    What made the experience of listening to A Prayer for Owen Meany the most enjoyable?

    The story and the wonderful narrator


    What does Joe Barrett bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    The voice of Owen and the voices of the other characters


    Who was the most memorable character of A Prayer for Owen Meany and why?

    Owen, of course


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roger Schaumburg, IL, United States 04-03-12
    Roger Schaumburg, IL, United States 04-03-12 Member Since 2011
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    4
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    "You will not be disappointed!!!!"
    If you could sum up A Prayer for Owen Meany in three words, what would they be?

    Funny, Poignant, Awesome


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Owen Meany was my favorite. The way John Irving fed us information about his character was well done. He never revealed too much but allowed us to learn about this individual.


    Which character – as performed by Joe Barrett – was your favorite?

    My favorite character had to be Owen Meany. The voice of Owen Meany was unique in many ways and exactly how I pictured Owen Meany talking.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    There were times I received strange looks from drivers in others cars when stopped at a traffic light. It had to look pretty strange from their perspective as I was laughing out loud at what I was hearing. Totally made me smile many, many times.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 171-180 of 208 results PREVIOUS117181921NEXT
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  • Kirstine
    Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom
    5/17/14
    Overall
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    "An amazing and memorable book"

    I've read two other novels by the author and hoped that this book would be as good. I wasn’t disappointed: it’s a remarkable creation that will stick in my mind for a long time.
    I didn’t want it to end. It starts as a story of small town America and then diverges in all directions as the eponymous Owen and his close friend John grow from boyhood to manhood and we get to know their families, foibles and achievements. On the back of their story, populated by many larger than life characters, the author lets his imagination rip as he contemplates questions of morality, religion, politics, loyalty, love, war and patriotism to name but a few of the myriad of topics that enrich this marvellous book that tugs at the emotions but also very funny at times. Owen Meany is an extraordinary creation. Never exceeding 5 feet tall with a voice that has hasn’t broken he dominates the book and all around him. The narrator gives him such a memorable voice:, a cross between Twittie Pie and Donald Duck, that makes him endearing but not one to be pitied: he is an heroic character.
    The narrator is outstanding and brought the characters to life in this memorable book.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • B. Dayne
    Wales
    7/29/10
    Overall
    "A moving masterpiece."

    A beautifully crafted, funny, heartbreaking work of genius from a world-class writer at the top of his game, A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of those books that simply defies easy description.

    It's about angels. And armadillos. THE VOICE. An armless Indian and an headless Holy Goalie. A lethal baseball, a Christmas pageant baby Jesus, and the precise connection between what the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come saw on a cardboard tombstone and the burned and blistered corpse of a helicopter pilot killed in Vietnam. Through all the quirky characters and masterful plotting, however, at its heart, A Prayer for Owen Meany is about family, friendship, community, and what it really means to be a hero.

    Narrator, Joe Barret's, pitch perfect reading captured the spirit and voice of each unforgettable character, including that of Owen Meany, whose screeching, grating, damaged voice is portrayed in the novel in full caps. Somehow Barret accomplishes this feat in such a way that he fully embodies Owen's unforgettable voice, yet is still easy on the ears of audio book listeners.

    This Audible version of A Prayer for Owen Meany made me laugh, made me fall in love with Owen Meany and, ultimately, broke my heart. When the book was over, I missed Owen, as if I'd known him.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Brendan
    Ballinasloe, Ireland
    1/8/13
    Overall
    "An Oscar for Joseph Barrett."

    Joe Barrett deserves an award for his beautiful reading of this beautiful book. (that's only 13 words)

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • LB
    UK
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "Stunningly well written & read"

    Not my usual cup of tea, but 'A Prayer for Owen Meany' builds up over the length of the book into a great mix of characters and plots.



    Throughout the entire storyline there are beautiful little references to seemingly innocuous past events, with the smallest details weaving such a wonderful picture, leaving the reader (listener) with a clarity of what this world looks like and what the people are like, but still allowing the imagination to form the shapes.



    I wished my drive to work was longer so I could have listened to more in one go, and in fact there were occasions that I took a 'long-cut' just to hear a particular story line thread play out!



    It is to a budding novelist as a Mozart concerto is to a wannabe musician who has just picked up a tambourine... You think you'd like to try your hand at writing, then you see this and realise what a really good author can produce.



    I'm a great fan of the Jason Bourne series, and John Le Carre is by far my favourite author of a book series or genre, but Owen Meany is that exception to the rule. Truly mesmerising.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Catherine
    Cambridge, United Kingdom
    4/9/13
    Overall
    "This is what audiobooks are for!"

    What a treat. It's long but I would have rather it hadn't ended... An immersive experience

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Alison
    Burnham-on-Sea, United Kingdom
    4/4/13
    Overall
    "Just listen - it will captivate you"

    Let it just keep going, because the start is a little slow. It's long - and it will be worth every minute of your time.



    Beautiful writing, and such expert narration.



    Sad and sobering though some of the story is, it's not written in a way that cynically tries to milk the pathos. In fact, most of the sad incidents are dealt with in such a matter-of-fact way, it helps you to deal with it, too. It is also a very funny book, with sly, sideways humour and sometimes some pure slapstick comic passages.



    I really did love this boo and was very sad to leave it.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Robert
    Tonbridge, United Kingdom
    12/23/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "wonderful wonderful"
    Would you listen to A Prayer for Owen Meany again? Why?

    I would listen to Owen Meany again and I plan to. I read this book many years ago and was delighted to see it on Audible. To listen to it was so pleasurable and delightful.The narrator is really really good. Now I am looking for everything else he has done!


    What did you like best about this story?

    Owen Meany is the heart of it and the ending is just so surprising, I was on the edge of my seat and so affected for days.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    It certainly made me cry.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Sue
    Little Whelnetham, United Kingdom
    9/23/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Will stay with me forever"
    Would you consider the audio edition of A Prayer for Owen Meany to be better than the print version?

    I have not read the print version


    What was one of the most memorable moments of A Prayer for Owen Meany?

    The nativity play and the car in the school made me laugh out loud.
    The pathos throughout
    I was desperately ill in hospital for about 3 months. Every evening I was able to listen to this book and shut out what was going on around me. It kept me sane.


    Which character – as performed by Joe Barrett – was your favourite?

    They were all equally brilliant


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Both


    Any additional comments?

    Read it certainly but Joe Barratt's voice lulled me and enticed me like I was listening to an old friend. A very moving book.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Lyra
    Portugal
    4/7/13
    Overall
    "An excellent book on all levels"

    It is well written, the story is very good and, mostly through the character Owen Meany, the book makes lots of important points about the absurdity of many aspects of life. I thoroughly recommend.



    Joe Barrett is a good reader too.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • James
    winchester, Hampshire, United Kingdom
    9/12/09
    Overall
    "A Prayer for Owen Meany"

    great book, lovely narration, a fantastic way to spend 26hrs.

    though is just shame a about the music. particularly at the end, as it kicks in when you are lost in the story and it brings you round like a slap the face just when you want to be left with your thoughts. why is it there ? as you can tell it has left an unfortunate final impression on this version. this is as shame as otherwise I loved this book.

    9 of 12 people found this review helpful
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