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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.

As an added bonus, when you purchase our Audible Modern Vanguard production of John Irving’s book, you'll also get an exclusive Jim Atlas interview added to your library.

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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  •  
    John S MA 01-10-14
    John S MA 01-10-14 Member Since 2014

    Avid audible listener for over 10 years.

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    "Favorite book of all time."

    John Irving is not for everyone, and if you have not listened to one of books choose this one. If not this one, then Cider House Rules. I have over 500 books in my Audible library and this by far is my favorite. John Irving books are by no means" thrillers", but the characters he creates are memorable, especially Owen Meany. Sad, funny, poignant this book should be on everyone's list of great American fiction. Told during the turbulent 60s the book is set in a small town in NH and follows the life of the main character (narrator) and Owen Meany, who is deformed in body but not in spirit . The ending will bring tears to your eyes:


    And they were also lifting up Owen Meany, taking him out of our hands. O God -- please give him back! I shall keep asking You."

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patti Chittenango, NY, United States 06-14-13
    Patti Chittenango, NY, United States 06-14-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Very Intriguing"

    I did not connect John Irving to Cider House Rules at first. But after listening for awhile, the same delightful humor style came rushing back and I was thrilled. How Irving unravels this story, interweaving current with past is tricky and clever. And just as in Cider House Rules, he plays out a rather political theme ever so carefully that you do not even realize it is happening.

    The narration is also rather clever. At first it was annoying when "the voice" was used even for one-word illustrations. But it truly added to the story. I began to anticipate it.

    There is a wonderful interview with John Irving at the end. That was great, getting some insight on his writing style.

    There were so many fascinating twists and turns to the story. It also brought back some wonderful (I see I am using "wonderful" a lot but truly that is how I feel) memories of my own childhood. It all made me wonder why I have not read more of John Irving. I plan to do just that!!

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 04-23-11
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 04-23-11 Member Since 2015

    Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.

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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.

    20 of 24 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cindy United States 05-29-14
    Cindy United States 05-29-14 Member Since 2015

    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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Arthur 08-29-12
    Arthur 08-29-12 Member Since 2011

    Ghost writer of over 100 unpublished works...;).

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    ""Don't be afraid. Nothing bad will happen to you.""

    I'm a big fan of Garp and Hotel New Hampshire, so I was expecting thick thematic plots with laugh out loud humor. Truthfully, for the first few hours, I was afraid I would be disappointed.

    Stick with it. It gets good. Very good.

    In fact, if you're familiar with John Irving's work (or just have a knack for these things), you may be able to tell the very moment when things begin to unravel. From then on the pace is quicker.

    The narrator, John, works in two timelines, one in the 1950s-1960s in which he and Owen are growing up together, and one in the 1980s, where we see what has become of the boy from Gravesend. Irving works these sequential timelines effortlessly. As I followed John's story, I thought about miracles, war, friendship, and what it means to be complete.

    Owen Meany is one of the most memorable characters I've ever met. I'll definitely pick up the printed version, so I can read it again for the first time.

    The Meany voice...what a challenge. The narrator did a good job with it. I'm not sure about some of his pronunciations, though. Maybe it's a New Hampshire thing! Does "can't" rhyme with "want" where you live?

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jill Franklin, CT, United States 08-02-11
    Jill Franklin, CT, United States 08-02-11 Member Since 2010
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    "A Wonderful Book!"

    The World According to Garp was one of my favorite books back in the 80's. I loved the characters and Irving's sense of humor when dealing with serious issues. I had not read A Prayer for Owen Meany, so I decided to buy it. What a treat! The characters are amazingly crazy, and Owen Meany is a special guy in more than one way. The descriptions of childhood memories, such as a Christmas play, had me laughing out loud and chuckling later. I think Irving's indulgence in railing against the Reagan administration unfortunately made the book more dated in its outlook and a bit annoying, but it did not take away from my overall love for the total book. He tied things together well at the end, and actually ended up more balanced than I feared earlier in the book. Also, Joe Barrett did an absolutely amazing job on the reading, authentically portraying a New England accent. I am amazed that he could make his voice move around to do the different characters, particularly Owen Meany. Now I think I will revisit T.S. Garp!

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charmaine 06-13-11
    Charmaine 06-13-11
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    "Do not miss listening to A Prayer for Own Meany!"

    John Irving is an outstanding wordsmith and storyteller. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this very well crafted and entertaining story exceptionally narated by Joe Barrett. Very entertaining! I'm hoping Audible will make the many other books written by John Irving available soon. More Joe Barrett too please :)

    7 of 8 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".

    6 of 7 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!

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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.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Larry Marietta, GA, United States 05-17-13
    Larry Marietta, GA, United States 05-17-13 Member Since 2008
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    "Epic"

    One of the best. Uplifting. Intriguing. Makes one think. Couldn't wait to hear the next chapter.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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  • Kirstine
    Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom
    5/17/14
    Overall
    Performance
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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.

    11 of 11 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.

    12 of 13 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)

    5 of 5 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.

    4 of 4 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

    4 of 4 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.

    5 of 5 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.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Sioux
    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.

    3 of 3 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.

    3 of 3 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.

    10 of 13 people found this review helpful

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