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.
I was reluctant about this book at first once I heard Owen's annoying, screechy voice---how to listen to THAT for so many hours?!!!!
However, as I went along, I naturally came to love Owen and accept him as he was.
This is such a warm, funny, and endearing story. I'm so glad I stuck with it. It will be a long time before I forget these characters. I'm going to give Irving another shot with one of his last books!
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 peaceful, verdant valley 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.
"Audiobook of the Year!"
One of the funniest, the most well crafted, and possibly the most well-narrated book I've ever listened to. And quite by accident - I happened to catch part of BBA Radio 4's "A Good Read" and thought I'd give this a go. With an incredibly moving ending I never saw coming, the story also contains some of the funniest scenes I've ever heard. Outstanding.
I put off listening to this as I literally judged the book by it"s cover. This is a magnificent listen and I'm pleased I listened rather than read,: The narrator told the story more beautifully than I could ever hear it in my head. This is a book that you don't want to finish - you already know how it's going to end but not how the story comes together .. a wonderful story of how strength of character and unwavering faith overcome physical attributes .
"A good book but overlong"
I suppose so. It tended to drag on a little, with some of the passages looking like padding out rather than having real relevance to the story. Half way through, you realise what is going to happen to Owen, so the other messages in the story are a bit lost because they are all a lead up to the inevitable ending.
Isn't this the same question as the one I've just answered?
A couple of the characters were silly....Hester the Molester for example...completely crazy and unnecessary that she became a rock star.
"Brilliant Irving stuff"
Couldn't recommend this audible book more. Took me quite a few months to finish but such an enjoyable listen. The narrator is amazing, I couldn't imagine Owen Meaney's voice being anything other than this.
"Wonderful seemingly simple story that pulls you in"
This is a wonderful, gentle, seemingly simple story that pulls you in. Beautifully written and the performance is top notch.
I must admit to being irritated with the voice of Owen Meany at the start but all will be revealed as the story unfolds. Gripped me early on and didn't let go, with a tale that one doesn't forget. I've read innumerable books, most of which I could get half way through before realising I'd read it years before. Not so with A Prayer for Owen Meany, this is an excellent book that earns it's place on the shelf of classics. Highly recommended
"A Most, Exhilarating, Houmourous, Serious Journey"
A Prayer for Owen Meany will stay imprinted in my heart and mind forever AMUST!
"Very good listen. Great narration"
Great book. Compelling storyline. I just felt that it was overly long in places, in it's telling. Would've given it 5 stars otherwise. Stick with it though, as it's worth ploughing through these 'spare-parts'. A bit like The Beatles 'White Album'. 😉
26 hours, and too short. I could have listened to the stories of John and Owen for so much longer. It's a beautiful tale, it's perfectly told, and I miss Johnny and Owen now that it's over.
Simply fantastic. Superb characterisation, I feel as if I know Owen Meany. If I could meet one literary character it would be him. Super writing, super reading. I have waited years to "read" this book and it surpassed my expectations. Brilliant stuff!
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.
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