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 Irvin's book, you'll also get an exclusive Jim Atlas interview that begins when the audiobook ends.
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.
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“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 really enjoyed this book, keeps reader interested and waiting for the next part. Highly recommend!
I found this audiobook to be a most entertaining book. There wasn't a dull character, or a dull chapter, or a dull scene anywhere to be heard. I didn't want it to end. I laughed and cried and managed to feel every emotion in between. High marks for the narrator, too. He was terrific.
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!!
Photographer's Moll, Chicken breeder, school administrator and owned by four dogs. Busy life, Happy life!
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.
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.
A Prayer For Owen Meany, although set in the 50"s through the 80's, has undercurrents and messages that are certainly applicable to today. Irving tells the story beautifully in first-person, through his protagonist, John Wheelwright. The cast of characters, quirky and flawed, is so clearly drawn. The flaws make the human and believable. I will miss these characters for quite some time
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
It's been about a quarter of a century since I read this the first time. I was amazed at how fast the beginning of the book moved. I remember the end of the book dragging on, but that's not true. Irving juggles time so that the actual book is always moving. It's the book's nominal timeline that drags. I am even more impressed the second time around with how Irving has constructed this book.
Normally, for me to enthusiastic about a novel, at least one of the characters has to undergo some kind of development. Despite having a slate of really interesting, well-defined characters, it is hard to say if any of them develop over the course of the book. The book is told by the narrator, John Wheelwright, as an extended reminiscence of the most important person in his life, Owen Meany. It is hard to say if Owen is ultimately a positive influence on John's life. I think that sort of murky mystery is part of my fascination. But frankly, I cared a lot more about what was going on with Owen than about the narrator. Sorry, John.
Somehow, I did not realize how much this book was about Vietnam the first time I read it. Not about the war per se, but about its effects on a generation of Americans. And from that perspective, I do care a great deal about what happens to John Wheelwright. It's just that Owen steals every scene that he's in.
For those of us who remember the era in which it is set, this is a dead-on evocation of what the America of those times felt like. I said painfully nostalgic in the heading, but that does the book a disservice. The fact is that Irving has layered together a great story that is at once timeless while being totally specific to a time and place. It doesn't get much better than that.
There is a bonus feature at the end: an interview with John Irving. This was an excellent addition with some key bits of insight and background information. Heartily recommended.
2nd time I've read (now listened) to this book, and I love it as much this time as I did many years ago. This may be one of my favorite books.
In a small, peaceful town on the Equator, the sun always sets at 6, and a good audiobook is always the perfect evening companion.
From its iconic, elegiac opening paragraph to its extraordinary finale, when disparate elements accelerate and converge like a meteor swarm, “A Prayer for Owen Meany” is an awe-inspiring John Irving masterpiece. He always begins writing a book from the end, he says in an appended interview, taking as much as 18 months to devise a “roadmap” of the story. It’s the only way to imagine the creation of such a complex, multilayered opus—long but never tedious, laced with chilling portent, and all at once engaging, funny, moving and tragic.
It begins with a fateful Little League game in 1953, and goes to times and places where only John Irving could take it.
There is a concept in journalism called “advancing the story,” where a writer continually reveals new developments, rather than heaping on details that simply make the story longer. Irving is a virtuoso at its fictional counterpart. Just a couple of hours into “Owen Meany,” you’ve heard so much, in such gripping and intimate detail, that you begin to wonder what could possibly fill the remaining 25 hours or so. You wonder how it could ever end, and then, later, you fear that it will.
I am not a religious person—neither, he says, is the author—but its religiosity is what gives the book such strength of character. My life has been enriched by listening to Joe Barrett’s masterful reading of “A Prayer for Owen Meany.” It’s that good.
Australian, living in beautiful central Victoria. Audio book addict otherwise fairly well balanced.
Ah Owen Meany. I still think it's one of the best books ever written and this superb audio treatment does it justice. Joe Barrett brilliantly captures 'the voice' - such kudos to him for this read. I hope he wins an award for it. If you've read and enjoyed Owen Meany, then you simply must listen to this. If you haven't, I'm jealous. You have a wonderful experience still ahead of you.
Yes, I would definitely recommend this to a friend who would have the patience to listen to this very long but unforgettable novel. The narration is first class and because it is so good, you can really invest in the characters. Owen's voice is amazing and unforgettable and the 40 year time span of the story brings alive the society, politics and history of this time.
Owen Meany, without a doubt as he makes you believe that there is good still around in the world. He also makes you confront your prejudices and revisit and ask yourself, what kind of person you are! Thank you Owen & John.
He brought the period totally to life and the voices were all different and memorable. His voice had a very warm and non judgmental tone which made you want to invest in the characters. His rendition of 'the voice' was particularly good and I will remember the phrases 'unspeakable outrage' and 'God's instrument', for as long as I live in the squeaky voice of Owen.
There were many but the totally moving climax at the end of the book moved me to tears and sadness that I would no longer be able to listen to the wonderful Owen & John again.
This is a very long listen, but totally worth the investment of your time. I tried to read this book, but gave up, so I am so glad that Joe Barratt brought it alive for me and thank you John Irving for having such insight and understanding of belief.
This book got hold of me, drew me in...and it was an unprecedented experience- unpredictable, troubling, disturbing, uncomfortable...and also hugely enjoyable and life-enhancing - in equal measure. It took me over...and took over my days , my nights, my head and my heart. I am still recovering...-and processing it. I may have been permanently changed by it.
The perfect book to be executed in audio. The narrator is really excellent, especially when you consider the task before him of the consistent delivery of that voice! Really brilliant
"unable to stop reading"
good book great storey liked it a lot. characters are interesting and funny but without being silly best book I've read in ages.
"Excellent book excellently read."
Funny, humane and suited to being read aloud.
This is a character based novel a background of the sociopolitical events and mores of first the 50s then the 60s in america before and after the start of the Vietnam war - but before the full debacle. The narrator also gets to comment on events in the 80s and the corruption and hypocrisy of the great communicator (sic) Reagan. It's a coming of age novel full of poignant portraits and humourous observations and commentary on life.
Owen Meaney (obvs!)
I really enjoyed it and recommend others to either read or listen to it.
"A book made for listening to"
Brilliant narration of a book huge in length and scope. I thought I knew what it would be like, but it defied my expectations in a most gripping way. It managed to be both universal and personal; unusual and familiar. I realise I had unfair prejudices about this author based solely on his American maleness, and will now read more of his work.
"Great story and great narration"
Well above average
Most memorable moment is the nativity scene
More than any other book I've read, the 'sound' of the main character is vital, and it's supposed to be an unusual voice (to say the least - I think in the original his speech is all written all in capitals). Joe Barrett certainly had his work cut out then. The voice could have been just annoying, but he conveyed the character brilliantly and it was consistent throughout
Yes, would have done if I could
"A strange and difficult but compelling story"
As Owen Meany is decribed as having a dreadful voice- a "permenent scream"- I was worried that an audio version of this book would be unbearable to listen to. But Joe Barrett's performance manages to balance listenability and catching enough of Owen's voice to bring hime alive.
Wonderful book, but what really impresses is the narrator. This book is a challenge to narrate: there are a raft of core complex characters who need to be differentiated for the listener and Owen Meany himself is a unique test. I'm glad I had not read any of it beforehand or I may have had a view of how the capitalised text from the book should be rendered for an audio version. But all I can say is that the job done was faultless. This is a powerful but subtle story and to do it justice it needed a strong narrator performance -delivered!
Reading a prayer for Owen Meany was a journey so powerful that I have thought about and missed him every day. I have now listened to this wonderful book and it moved me even more because I knew what was coming.
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