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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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  •  
    John S MA 01-10-14
    John S MA 01-10-14 Member Since 2005

    Avid audible listener for over 10 years.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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."

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    AudioAddict Austin, Texas, USA 08-12-13
    AudioAddict Austin, Texas, USA 08-12-13 Member Since 2013

    I can find a book to love in any genre -- a beautifully written classic, an interesting mystery or sci-fi, a trashy romance. Bring it!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Prayer for You (to be able to finish this book)"

    STORY - This is without a doubt the most conflicted review I've written. Having just concluded the book with its stellar ending, I'm inclined to rate it a 10, but I cannot forget how I literally suffered through about 90% of the story. Another reviewer of this book said something like "This story is for listeners who like to ramble in rich characters and funny events." So true. The themes switch back and forth between criticism of American politics and the Vietnam war, religion, friendship and the coming of age of the main characters in small town USA. There is not an obvious plot that continues to progress, just hours of character development and hints that Owen is different and very special.

    Johnny, Owen's best friend, tells the story, and they are about 10 years old at the beginning. Their pre-adolescent viewpoints and antics will make you chuckle, and as they mature their close friendship continues. The last several hours of the story when loose ends FINALLY start to come together are surprisingly powerful. You will see how special Owen really is, and the deeper messages of the book become clear. The problem for me is it was just way, way, way, way, way too long.

    NARRATOR - The narration was adequate. Owen's voice as described in the story is high-pitched and irritating, and it definitely was performed well. Sometimes Owen's high voice would pop into the middle of a sentence for only one word. It's as if that word was typed in quotes for special emphasis but the narrator read it in Owen's voice by mistake. That was a constant distraction, IMHO.

    OVERALL - Again, I'm conflicted, but I would probably not recommend this book. It's just too long. If it were only, say, 10 hours in length, I would say to download it immediately. (Be sure to listen to at least the beginning of the author interview at the end. There are some very vague, subtle hints of something throughout the book which is really not clear until you hear it from the author's lips in this interview.)

    3 of 4 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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sue Williamsburg, VA, United States 04-29-13
    Sue Williamsburg, VA, United States 04-29-13 Member Since 2011
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    "A well written book"

    Although the author uses a lot of foreshadowing and imagery techniques throughout the novel, it is the story and narration that make it an outstanding book for me. The narrator's voice for Owen Meany is annoying at times, but it is essential to the story.

    The book grabbed me from the start and it was very hard to put down. I had never listened to or read a John Irving novel, but I have now added more to my wish list.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gail jackson, NJ, United States 04-03-13
    Gail jackson, NJ, United States 04-03-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Cliff Notes Were a Better Read"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharon Brisbane, Australia 02-19-13
    Sharon Brisbane, Australia 02-19-13 Member Since 2011

    I am an Australian woman who enjoys reading many different styles of books, from history to sci fi and mystery to poetry.

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    "A terrific book"

    I truly loved this story and the narration is wonderful, the narrator captures nearly all of the characters beautifully.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    neil FORT PIERCE, FL, United States 12-28-12
    neil FORT PIERCE, FL, United States 12-28-12 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Offbeat Gem"

    Worth every minute of the time I spent listening to it. It isn't likely that I would have picked it up and read it, but since Joe Barrett was narrating and the description and many of the reviews piqued my interest. I decided to get the Audible version. Made a great choice, this time. Maybe it helped that I am a native of small town New England, myself or that the
    two main protagonists are within a year or two of being my age. Also the "major"
    events that affected them, affected me, as well. The novel was a sort of personal homecoming. But, besides those elements, Irving seems to be a very good writer who
    knows how to keep a reader involved in his work for hours and hours. Nor does
    he ever disappoint with sloppy transitions, simpleton characters or artificial plot
    contrivances. Not that some of his ideas don't stretch things more than a bit. But he
    always manages to pull these bits off very nicely. How he tells the reader what happens
    at the end before the book is halfway through and still manages to keep one in total
    suspense is absolutely masterly. And Joe Barret is one of, if not the best American narrator I've ever heard. (Try "Streets of Loredo" by Larry McMurtry for another great
    Joe Barrett narration.)
    This novel will not be universally appreciated, I believe. But I thought it was
    excellent.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K San Francisco, CA, United States 10-23-12
    K San Francisco, CA, United States 10-23-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Great Book, Fantastic Reader"

    Probably Irving's best work. I've read this book a few times and was concerned that Owen's voice would not work as a audiobook but man was I worried for nothing. The narrator does a brilliant job of bringing this book and especially Owen to life. Great story, beautifully written with a depth and a real search for truth in the characters that makes this well worth the time invested.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Seattle, WA, United States 10-23-12
    Laura Seattle, WA, United States 10-23-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Yes, listen to this book"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    A Prayer For Owen Meany is both one of my favorite books, and one of my favorite audio books. It's the kind of book that reminds me why I read fiction, why I love stories. I think it's Irving's best book. Hilarious, sad, and very human. If you love good stories, you'll love this one. Barrett is an excellent narrator, and (as I believe) a quality book in the hands of a quality narrator becomes even better.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul CORDOVA, TN, United States 10-19-12
    Paul CORDOVA, TN, United States 10-19-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Narrator brings a masterpiece to life"
    If you could sum up A Prayer for Owen Meany in three words, what would they be?

    Powerful, redemptive, darkly funny


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

    Owen's dual performances as The Prince of Peace and The Ghost of Christmas Future stand out as one of the most ingenious, hilarious, memorable,and celebratory literary experiences I have ever had. The narrator is masterful at conveying all of Irving's dark irony.


    Any additional comments?

    This book is an example of one of Audible's main benefits for me: allowing or "forcing" me to read fine, powerful books that, for one reason or the other, I never got around to reading. (Other examples include "The Poisonwood Bible" and "The Kiterunner.") It was obvious from the opening paragraphs that I was going to enjoy this reading of an American masterpiece.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 21-30 of 189 results PREVIOUS123419NEXT
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  • 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
  • malcolm
    Anstruther, United Kingdom
    11/26/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "loved it"
    Would you consider the audio edition of A Prayer for Owen Meany to be better than the print version?

    I love audiobooks, sometimes they fail to be as good as the print version, this is not the case, it is long but worth the listen


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

    it is great as a whole


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

    yes if I had 48hours to sit!!!


    Any additional comments?

    It is long but holds you right the way through, john irving at his best.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Tracy
    London
    11/14/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Inspirational!"

    I had difficulty with the "Voice" at first, I am so glad I gave it another go, I can't tell you how much it touched me. Owen Meany had unshakeable faith, was so sure of himself. He made his world a better place so gently. Listening felt just like eavesdropping on something so real and personal I wanted to join in, Owen was my friend. The writing was seamless, the narration was amazing, it is true this book needs to be listened to for the full effect. I mourn the end of this book and will listen again and again. This review cannot do justice to either John Irving or Joe Barrett but I urge you to listen and have Owen Meany as your friend.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Nicholas
    Abergavenny, United Kingdom
    7/9/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Compelling book, excellently narrated"
    What made the experience of listening to A Prayer for Owen Meany the most enjoyable?

    The fantastic writing from first to last. The great descriptive episodes like the Nativity play, Owen's introduction to the family, and the boys' journey through education, add to the compelling narrative of Owen's - and America's - journey. The narration was faultless.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The way the narrative built and built, never losing interest, and only giving enough away about the end result to add even more to the compelling listen...


    Have you listened to any of Joe Barrett’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    This is the first Joe Barrett narration I have heard.


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

    I was never likely to have 27 hours to spare, but a few very long cycle rides and car journeys sped by while I listened!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Stuart Pawsey
    uk
    12/26/12
    Overall
    "Literary grandeur."

    John Irving has occupied a special place in the pantheon of mainstream american writers for many years; however I would regard " A Prayer for Owen Meany" as a 20th century masterpiece.

    This may seem obvious to those who have had the pleasure of reading/ listening to this wonderful tale,but for those who have yet to immerse themselves I would say do so, you will only benefit from the experience.

    It takes the reader on a journey of childhood,through adolescence into adulthood and never in an expected way. The experience of religious belief and mysticism is most convincing . Owen Meany is a force to be reckoned with. His is a faithful,complex personality that it is a sheer joy to spend time with.

    The one thing that sets the audio version above the written word is the voice. Owen Meany has a remarkable voice and the narration by Joe Barrett is an acting tour de force. His vocal impression of Owen drives the story in a way that lifts it above the norm.

    Listen to this and wonder. You will laugh and yes, maybe cry,I know I shed a tear or two. I have spent a lifetime reading but this novel is on of the unforgettable ones. Thank you John Irving.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Tony
    LETCHWORTH GARDEN CITY, United Kingdom
    1/21/12
    Overall
    "I can still here the voice."

    I love this story, it is wholly unique and surprising and is about such a small and yet big idea that it knocks your socks off. Read this story.

    I just wish it were true.. I know its not, but it has embedded itself into my mind as if it is. In senility in years to come i'll tell people about little Owen, and his strange life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Burcin
    Hellerup, Denmark
    12/11/11
    Overall
    "difficult to go through"

    There is an interesting story in this book but really really taking long time to get through. I rather preferred reading the book instead of listening then I could skip some pages more quickly. I am in the last 6 hours and feeling like I can't breathe anymore while trying to get it done. Narration is excellent, the accents are very well done, story is good but unnecessarily long.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Veronica
    Prestwich, United Kingdom
    11/12/11
    Overall
    "Brilliant narration of a wonderful novel"

    I have always loved this book and the narration is superlative, adding to the marvellous characters which inhabit this novel. Laugh out loud funny and doesn't detract at all from your imagining of Owen and the inhabitants of Gravesend.
    Highly recommended. Quirky, humourous and beautifully written. Love it!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Richard
    Leamington Spa, United Kingdom
    10/2/11
    Overall
    "Magnificent book, beautifully read."

    A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of my all time favourite novels, so I approached this audio version with a little trepidation: how was the narrator going to do THE VOICE. I need not have feared: Joe Barrett is superb. It is clear from the reading that the narrator is on Irving's wavelength and all of the characters spring to life from the ipod as much as they did from the page and if anything the narration adds a new dimension to the book.
    I cannot recommend this highly enough.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Steven
    8/21/10
    Overall
    "A Prayer for Owen Meany"

    This was absolutely superb. Myself and my wife had both read the story about ten years ago, but still throroughly enjoyed this audiobook. The reader was superb and his characterisation was a real addition to the book. If you've not heard or read the book yourself, I'd throughly recommend this. Friends have said it is their favourite story and I'm planning on making a gift of the audiobook to them, which shows the quality.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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