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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

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Sandra Warren, AR, United States 06-01-11
    Sandra Warren, AR, United States 06-01-11
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    "A Prayer for Owen Meany"

    This is one of those books that has been on my list, and I never got around to reading it. Now I cannot wait to read other books by John Irving. This book captivated me on the first page and held my undivided interest until the very end. In fact, I found myself thinking about the book for days after I had completed it.John Irving develops the characters into people who are larger than life. I also really enjoyed this narrator. Seldom do I search by narrators, but now I look to find other readings by Joe Barrett.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maureen North Branch, MI, United States 05-27-11
    Maureen North Branch, MI, United States 05-27-11
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    "I just can't keep listening to this book"

    I read a review that mentioned how annoying the narrator's voice for Owen Meany is. I have listened to the first section; and even though I enjoy the story, I just can't bring myself to listen to any more of the book. The narrator's voice is good except when he speaks in Owen's voice or the voices of the other children. I just can't bear to listen any more. I'll probably get the book from the library and read the rest, because the book is well written and the story is very interesting.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CHESTER LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 04-23-11
    CHESTER LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 04-23-11 Member Since 2007

    Chet Yarbrough, an audio book addict, exercises two cocker spaniels twice a day with an Ipod in his pocket and earbuds in his ears. Hope these few reviews seduce the public into a similar obsession but walk safely and be aware of the unaware.

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    "FAITH"

    Like quick sand, every chapter creates a mystery that pulls the listener deeper into the story.
    Why is Owen Meany???s voice so high pitched and single noted? Who is the ???lady in red???? Who is Owen Meany???s illegitimate friend???s father? Why do the main characters keep practicing ???the shot???? What is Owen Meany???s recurring dream? Right foot, left foot, body, and brain; soon you are consumed by Irving's mysteries.
    Joe Barrett???s spoken presentation is terrific because it enhances the written meaning of the story. James Atlas precedes the narration with an interview of John Irving, the author. The Atlas??? interview sets the table for what you are about to hear.
    Irving writes a story about growing up in Anywhere, America where the pious are weak, the rich are intimidating and the children are indulged. It is an age like today with ministers preaching and not believing, parents teaching right and doing wrong, and children maturing physically and wasting mentally. Owen Meany is an exception, as this story tells the listener.
    Owen Meany is modeled like the little man in The Tin Drum, a book about a dwarf like German citizen observing the beginning, progress, and ending of the WWII German tragedy. Owen Meany is a stunted American citizen living at the beginning of an evolving Vietnam American tragedy.
    The subject of Vietnam is generally understood as an American disaster. It earned its American anti war rebellion. Irving???s story crystallizes the anxiety and frustration of that time. He offers an answer to what we can do when we become anxious and frustrated about things that seem beyond our control. It is not an easy path but redemption for atrocity begins with people of faith who see reality, have an inner morale compass, and act with a relentless commitment to stop senseless acts of war.

    13 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judy Bowna via Albury, Australia 10-28-13
    Judy Bowna via Albury, Australia 10-28-13 Member Since 2011

    Photographer's Moll, Chicken breeder, school administrator and owned by four dogs. Busy life, Happy life!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "My favourite book"

    What a beautiful story. Owen Meany made me laugh out loud in parts (the Nativity Play) and I cried quietly in others. I have no doubt that I will listen to this book again.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Houston, TX, United States 03-30-13
    Robert Houston, TX, United States 03-30-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Top notch performance but a mediocre book"

    I really enjoyed the narration with distinct and evocative characterizations. I could have done without the moralizing on Vietnam and Iran-Contra which distracted from the narrative. Irving does his usual job of making unusual characters interesting and humanizing them. But a little editing could have gone a long way in this one.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MaDonna Victoria, TX, United States 05-22-11
    MaDonna Victoria, TX, United States 05-22-11
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    "EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT!!"

    I really enjoyed this book, keeps reader interested and waiting for the next part. Highly recommend!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kenneth Cary, NC, United States 04-01-11
    Kenneth Cary, NC, United States 04-01-11 Member Since 2007
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    "What a story!"

    At first, my not being particularly religious, I was a little leery of this book. It started off well but it had the potential to get preachy. I am happy to report that, though religion is a basic theme of the book, it never proselytized. It was a very logical and sometimes comical look at life with religion in it. John Irving did an amazing job of jumping back and forth between the present and the past without confusing the reader. I loved this book. The symbolism and intertwining stories were so well done I didn't realize much of it until it was specifically pointed out and I'm usually one who can figure out a book by the 1/2 way point. There was one character that disappointed me in the end but I understand why Irving wrote it that way. Joe Barrett does a great job narrating although I'm not 100% sold on his version of Owen's voice. Overall, this is a book everyone should read.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Timothy Walkertown, NC, United States 04-05-11
    Timothy Walkertown, NC, United States 04-05-11 Member Since 2002

    54-year-old community college IT instructor. Over 500 titles in "My Library."

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    "Not My Type of Story"

    I would give the author and narrator 4 stars. However, my appeal for this story was 2 stars. So, I give an overall average of 3 stars.

    I can see why some people liked this book. However, from my perspective, the story was too slow, too Bible-oriented, and too church-oriented. I also got "disoriented" with the constant jumping forward and backward in time. About a third into the second part (around 8.5 hours total invested time) I decided that I was not enjoying this series of short stories enough to keep listening. I was ready to move on to another book.

    This might be categorized as a "faith-based" novel that would remind some people of The Mitford Series of books by Jan Karon. I found At Home in Mitford much more entertaining than A Prayer for Owen Meany.

    So, I would only recommend this book for listeners that find this kind of writing enjoyable. It's a long ride. Not everyone will find the seat comfortable.

    16 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shannon Dayton, TX, United States 05-23-13
    Shannon Dayton, TX, United States 05-23-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Awesome book!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of A Prayer for Owen Meany to be better than the print version?

    Yes, because you get to here the voice of Owen Meany. At first the voice he uses for Owen Meany is weird and that is what the characters in the book also think but then the voice grows on you and you grow to love him as do the characters in the book.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Everything!


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

    I dont know if I could have truly experienced the character of Owen Meany without the voice.


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

    This book mad me laugh and made me sad at times.


    Any additional comments?

    This book had so many facets to it. There is friendship, faith, history, miracles, love and mystery and it all comes around and makes an amazing, complete circle. I can't believe I had never heard of this book. Owen Meany's name will always be locked in my head just like Atticus, Scout and Boo Radley from "To Kill a Mockingbird" and Amir and Hassan from "The Kite Runner".

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cindy United States 05-29-14
    Cindy United States 05-29-14 Member Since 2007

    Say something about yourself!

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    "omg, get this book immediately"

    For some strange reason, I missed this one throughout my school years and then college and grad school. Not sure why but wow! What a novel. Do not miss this one. You will lie awake thinking about it years after you "read" it. Owen is a guy who does not fit in the group. This story is about why he is the way he is. So wonderful.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 11-20 of 187 results PREVIOUS12319NEXT
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  • Tom
    West Wickham, United Kingdom
    5/31/10
    Overall
    "A fine book"

    This is a fine book, and in Owen Meany, the author has created a truly memorable character. It is not a fast paced listen, but somehow manages to retain your interest throughout. John Irving's prose can plod at times - I did muse what this story might have been like in the hands of, say, Vladimir Nabokov - and this plodding is not helped by what at times is a rather worthy narration, but to be fair to the narrator he does do Owen Meany himself brilliantly, and generally holds your interest.

    All that said, I did enjoy the book a lot, and have downloaded another of John Irving's books as a result.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Annie
    Twickenham, United Kingdom
    9/24/09
    Overall
    "Amazing"

    Absolutely amazing, have just finished it and want to start it all over again. , this is the first Irving novel that I have read and cannot wait to read another. He is a modern master story teller, a la Dickens. Intellegent and spell binding and beautifully narrated.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Alan
    BASINGSTOKE, United Kingdom
    6/28/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Immersive!"
    What did you like most about A Prayer for Owen Meany?

    Gentle and calm plot development, drawing the listener in to the weave of the story.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Found story immersive and couldn't wait to loose myself back into the story.


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

    Owen Meany of course.


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

    Wanted to, but given its length, not possible I'm afraid.


    Any additional comments?

    Narration is excellent, and strong tho the story is I feel it probably plays better as an audio book........because of the quality of the narration.
    The book felt like a complex jigsaw, where the author constructs small areas, slowly bringing the areas together to eventually complete the whole story, and, as with jigsaws, you can leave it to return to continue your enjoyment, without loosing plot.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Vivienne
    Esporles, Spain
    6/18/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Weird, wonderful and worthwhile"
    Any additional comments?

    The narrator was quite amazing. How he managed to "do" Owen Meaney's voice for so long without damage I don't know. The story was very well plotted and the reader had absolutely no idea what way it would go. In parts - John - the narrator in the story - was rather didactic and apart from him being such a faithful friend to Owen, I could have thought him very nit picking. I feel that British readers may wish for less detail on Vietnam or the politics of the time, however, it is essential to the plot to understand. An astounding feat of writing - and narration.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Esther
    Wales
    5/21/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A good listen"

    I doubt I would have finished this book if I had been reading it, but I use audiobooks as a means of getting to sleep and so for the most part I found the somewhat repetitive writing soothing. It was beautifully read. The story is about a diminutive boy/man with a very high pitched voice (this almost grated but never quite did) who seems to have a disproportionate effect on those around him, including killing his friend (the narrator's) mother. As it neared the end, I lost hours of sleep as I awaited the denouement.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Norah
    Herefordshire, England
    5/18/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    ""Don't be afraid""

    I can only bless the previous commentators........without their reviews I would never have chosen this book.
    The narration is awesome.

    If you are having trouble choosing a book, look no further.......it may possibly change the way you approach both life and death.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Miss
    RICHMOND, United Kingdom
    4/23/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A good performance of an Irving Classic"

    I've read the physical book time and again, so I was hesitant to get the audio but I was glad I did.

    Hearing it opened up and added depth to areas is seemingly not recalled as vividly in the reading of it myself, and the performance of Owen's 'Granite Mouse' voice was wonderfully executed, as ear jarring to listen to as one would require it to be for authenticity. Good job!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Victoria
    Witney, United Kingdom
    3/9/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An outstanding Book, don't give up on it!"
    What did you like most about A Prayer for Owen Meany?

    I loved every twist and turn. I can't rate this book high enough.
    Just keep on with it as it just gets better.


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

    The final tragic scene.......


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

    My favourite character was Owen, such a powerful figure in the book, not to be underestimated.


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

    This book is a compelling. Just too long for a one hit listen.


    Any additional comments?

    This book was chosen for my book group. I will score it 10 out of 10.
    It made me cry!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Petra
    Tewkesbury, United Kingdom
    2/26/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An outstanding performance"
    What did you like best about this story?

    A Prayer for Owen Meany is, in many ways, a response to Gunter Grass's The Tin Drum, and if you liked Grass, you will love Irving's version, too. Grass's Oskar Matzerath is a little deformed demon whose warped growth and point-of-view aptly embodied the fascist world. Owen Meany is a novel of similar baroque exuberance but the central character is much more loveable, and a more ironic and poignant comment on America's twentieth-century nightmare, the Vietnam War. The political commentary is not heavy-handed, though, but integrated into the story in a way that makes it germane to Owen's character. There's a point to the peculiar voice, it turns out, and it's a voice wonderfully rendered by the narrator. There's a point to the stunted growth and the preoccupation with practising basketball moves. There's no point to the Vietnam war, which is, literally, brought home in the final section.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    It's hard to say what's most enjoyable about this book: the reading, the characters, the plot? The story comes in the shape of a Bildungsroman, a novel of education and personal growth, but this progress evolves in vignettes that are expanded to their full dramatic potential: a baseball game; an amateur dramatic staging of Dickens' A Christmas Carol; the running of a High School newspaper, and so forth. Core to this novel is also the friendship between the narrator and Owen Meany, and as such it's a great buddy story. there's a love interest, there's a powerful examination of religious belief, there's a discussion of why literature matters, there are countless hilarious comedic moments - there's something for everyone.


    Any additional comments?

    The reading is a triumph; the versatility of intonation and character performance displayed by Joe Barrett makes for a totally engrossing listening experience. For several weeks I found myself completely indifferent to the roadworks on the A14 because no matter how long the journey took I would spend it in the company of Owen Meany. It's a long book, and takes about an hour or so to get into, but it has no longeurs. You don't want it to end, and although you increasingly suspect how it will end, when it does it comes as a shock.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Zoe
    Stourbridge, United Kingdom
    12/1/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Heart-warming and spell-binding"
    What made the experience of listening to A Prayer for Owen Meany the most enjoyable?

    I really enjoyed John Irving's narrative style, even though he signposts the various tragic events early on in the story you still feel compelled to hear the whole thing for yourself. Owen Meany is a fantastic character - funny, intelligent and earnest. He lives under the weighty knowledge of his fate but instead of being crushed by it he embraces it with incredible virtue and courage. I am not a religious or superstitious person but the references to God's plan and absolute faith did not prevent me from falling in love with this story.


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

    Joe Barrett narrates this excellently and has to cope with the added strain of replicating Owen's extraordinary voice. He does a wonderful job of this and it certainly adds to whole experience. I understand that in the novel Owen's speech is always WRITTEN IN CAPITALS! This could perhaps detract from your enjoyment but listening to his voice via Joe Barrett brings this wonderful character to life.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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