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.
©1989 Garp Enterprises Ltd; (P)2008 Audible, Inc.
“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)
I think when you get to hour 11 in an audio book, and find yourself tthinking... OK, What's the point? Or, please stop describing the minutia of Church Christmas Plays, because you're not sufficiently compelled to read-on, it's time to abort. I chose this book due to the critical acclaim. I applaud the descriptive narrative. However, if there ever was a point or plot to this book, it was lost on me. Surely, the 10 hours that I "forced" myself to hang in for, could have been downsized to a couple of hours. That said, I wonder ... without having completed this book, how much the remaining 16 plus hours or so could have been condensed. The narration was terrific, but I jumped ship in favor or the cliff-notes version to discover some kind of meaning in all the babble.
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!!
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.
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.
Avid audible listener for over 10 years.
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."
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!
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 :)
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.
Say something about yourself!
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.
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.
I dont know if I could have truly experienced the character of Owen Meany without the voice.
This book mad me laugh and made me sad at times.
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".
Ghost writer of over 100 unpublished works...;).
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?
"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.
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.
This is a secret to be discovered if you have not already read it, It is brilliant, the story, the narrator, everything. I recommend it highly, and Owen Meany will stay with you for a long time. I am definitely going to get another book by Johns Irving, Don't miss this diamond story.
I rarely write reviews of the audiobooks I have listened to, but in this case I feel compelled to say how much I enjoyed it. It is now several weeks since I finished listening and the character of Owen Meany is still with me. I think this is because he was such a compelling character but it is also a tribute to the narrator and his ability to portray 'the voice'. There were a few points where I felt the story was developing rather slowly but when I look back I realise how important all elements were. It took me a long time to be able to listen to another book afterwards as I felt almost as if I had lost a friend.
"I love this audible book"
I had been trying to read the book for my book club but could not get into it. I could not imagine Owen's voice or understand why it was always written in capital letters. This audible really brought the characters to life and I laughed and cried my way through it.
this is a beautifully written piece. First quarter is so interesting as Owen is developed alongside other characters. The second half of the novel can feel long winded but is worth sticking out to the end. Irving writes his books from the end of to the beginning and i was glad I stuck the last half out as the plot comes tragically and poetically together in the end it may bring you to tears.
"Old Time America..... a beautiful book..."
A beautiful story, yet meandering and possibly too slow and long for some - but I loved it - please try and bear with it. The characters are marvellous, and I didn't want it to end. It will live with me.
I think that should I have picked this book up to read I might have become a bit bored, but the narration by Joe Barrett is nothing short of Diva performance...absolutely excellent- and I can't help thinking that he probably loves this book as much as me.
I highly recommend it.
This was a wonderful reading of a modern classic, capturing the idiosyncratic nature of Owen, his relationship with his best friend John and the humour, exasperation and sadness of the novel with perfection
"Can you ever forget Owen Meany"
This is a brilliant narration of an excellent book! I read it about ten years ago and loved it, and wasn't sure if an audio version could improve it. I was totally captivated!! Owen Meany really does come to life!! An unforgettable character perfectly portrayed!
"Superb story brilliantly narrated and performed."
I just loved this book from start to finish. The story is charming, intriguing and thought-provoking and the characters will stay with me forever. It is brilliantly narrated and performed. I'm not sure if Joe Barrett is the only reader, but if he is he has an astonishing range of voices, from men to women, children, old ladies and the titular star of the show whose distinctive voice I will be hearing in my head for a long time to come. I cannot recommend this product highly enough.
If you are familiar with and fond of John Irving's work the style and tone of this book will not be unfamiliar and will not disappoint. I have read Garp and The Hotel New Hampshire, but this is better by far.
I both laughed (a lot) and also, I confess shed a few tears.
It is rather longer in the listening than you might expect. I'm not sure how many pages it had as a book, but I suspect a lot as the listening time clocks in at something like 27 hours.
Nevertheless, it's well worth your investment in time.
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