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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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  •  
    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.

    4 of 5 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".

    4 of 5 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.

    8 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steve Delray Beach, FL, United States 08-11-13
    Steve Delray Beach, FL, United States 08-11-13 Member Since 2013

    A well written book is a gem.

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    "A Perfect Confluence of Narration and Writing."

    I savored every moment of this book. Yes, it's long, but you are listening to the work a master craftsman and it's read to you by Joe Barrett who absolutely nails it. It is also about religion and predestination and I am not at all a religious person. But the story is a great examination on religion or what makes us religious. I was at first put off by the opening chapter and the narrator's easy familiarity with his religion. But while the story at first sounds like an endorsement on religion it reveals itself otherwise as the many elements of the characters and the story unfold. There is a great undercurrent of humor and irony though out this religious examination that made the story compelling to me.
    In listening to John Irving's interview at the end, he says his premise for writing the book was to ask, "What would it take to believe in God? What would you have to witness before you could be a believer?" The character of Owen Meany and his story challenge us with that premise. Enjoy the ride.

    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
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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.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharon Brisbane, Australia 02-19-13
    Sharon Brisbane, Australia 02-19-13 Member Since 2015

    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
  •  
    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?

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stevon Tempe, AZ, United States 08-08-12
    Stevon Tempe, AZ, United States 08-08-12 Member Since 2015

    I love books!

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    "great book"
    Would you consider the audio edition of A Prayer for Owen Meany to be better than the print version?

    I considered reading this book some years ago but couldn't get into the premise of a little leaguer's foul ball killing the mother of his best friend and how it affected their lives. For some reason I was ready for it now. I know John is a great writer and this is a great book. If you grew up in the Vietnam era or are interested in a book with that in the background of two kids growing up in New Hampshire, you'll like this book. It's an intellectual, thought provoking story.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dan Indiana, PA, United States 07-25-12
    Dan Indiana, PA, United States 07-25-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Glad I listened- now I know"

    I liked this book-I never loved this book. I liked the story and narration, I liked the writing and underlying ideas. If it was half as long it wouldn't have been so deep and involved but would have advanced the story. I think that would have hurt the writer's vision. Stll, for me, I got deep into it and prayed for it to be over. I feel a bit bad about that. It was good, but not my style. It superficially presents one burning question and in the end answers it. That was what got me and held me til the end. Had it not intrigued me I might well have given up. As you see, I am conflicted. I liked it. I didn't like it's length. I'm sure I'm just not literate enough to have been deeply involved throughout. I could hear the first couple hours and the last couple and get about as much--but that's me. I liked it- I never loved it. Now I know.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 21-30 of 212 results PREVIOUS123422NEXT
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  • susan
    wolverhampton, United Kingdom
    7/15/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "What a creation...I gobbled it up with glee"
    Where does A Prayer for Owen Meany rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is near the top of my list.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The character of Owen, however seemingly far-fetched never felt false, and I was fascinated by the relationships in the book, particularly the central one between Owen and John.


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

    I didn't know Joe Barrett before, but his narration was superb, particularly characterisation.


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

    Emotions were heightened by the author's unforced and controlled way of dealing with pathos tragedy and comedy. Masterfully done.


    Any additional comments?

    I shall not forget this book in a hurry.

    0 of 0 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
    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
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