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.
"An amazing and memorable book"
I've read two other novels by the author and hoped that this book would be as good. I wasn’t disappointed: it’s a remarkable creation that will stick in my mind for a long time.
I didn’t want it to end. It starts as a story of small town America and then diverges in all directions as the eponymous Owen and his close friend John grow from boyhood to manhood and we get to know their families, foibles and achievements. On the back of their story, populated by many larger than life characters, the author lets his imagination rip as he contemplates questions of morality, religion, politics, loyalty, love, war and patriotism to name but a few of the myriad of topics that enrich this marvellous book that tugs at the emotions but also very funny at times. Owen Meany is an extraordinary creation. Never exceeding 5 feet tall with a voice that has hasn’t broken he dominates the book and all around him. The narrator gives him such a memorable voice:, a cross between Twittie Pie and Donald Duck, that makes him endearing but not one to be pitied: he is an heroic character.
The narrator is outstanding and brought the characters to life in this memorable book.
"Just listen - it will captivate you"
Let it just keep going, because the start is a little slow. It's long - and it will be worth every minute of your time.
Beautiful writing, and such expert narration.
Sad and sobering though some of the story is, it's not written in a way that cynically tries to milk the pathos. In fact, most of the sad incidents are dealt with in such a matter-of-fact way, it helps you to deal with it, too. It is also a very funny book, with sly, sideways humour and sometimes some pure slapstick comic passages.
I really did love this boo and was very sad to leave it.
"An Oscar for Joseph Barrett."
Joe Barrett deserves an award for his beautiful reading of this beautiful book. (that's only 13 words)
"A moving masterpiece."
A beautifully crafted, funny, heartbreaking work of genius from a world-class writer at the top of his game, A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of those books that simply defies easy description.
It's about angels. And armadillos. THE VOICE. An armless Indian and an headless Holy Goalie. A lethal baseball, a Christmas pageant baby Jesus, and the precise connection between what the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come saw on a cardboard tombstone and the burned and blistered corpse of a helicopter pilot killed in Vietnam. Through all the quirky characters and masterful plotting, however, at its heart, A Prayer for Owen Meany is about family, friendship, community, and what it really means to be a hero.
Narrator, Joe Barret's, pitch perfect reading captured the spirit and voice of each unforgettable character, including that of Owen Meany, whose screeching, grating, damaged voice is portrayed in the novel in full caps. Somehow Barret accomplishes this feat in such a way that he fully embodies Owen's unforgettable voice, yet is still easy on the ears of audio book listeners.
This Audible version of A Prayer for Owen Meany made me laugh, made me fall in love with Owen Meany and, ultimately, broke my heart. When the book was over, I missed Owen, as if I'd known him.
"Stunningly well written & read"
Not my usual cup of tea, but 'A Prayer for Owen Meany' builds up over the length of the book into a great mix of characters and plots.
Throughout the entire storyline there are beautiful little references to seemingly innocuous past events, with the smallest details weaving such a wonderful picture, leaving the reader (listener) with a clarity of what this world looks like and what the people are like, but still allowing the imagination to form the shapes.
I wished my drive to work was longer so I could have listened to more in one go, and in fact there were occasions that I took a 'long-cut' just to hear a particular story line thread play out!
It is to a budding novelist as a Mozart concerto is to a wannabe musician who has just picked up a tambourine... You think you'd like to try your hand at writing, then you see this and realise what a really good author can produce.
I'm a great fan of the Jason Bourne series, and John Le Carre is by far my favourite author of a book series or genre, but Owen Meany is that exception to the rule. Truly mesmerising.
"This is what audiobooks are for!"
What a treat. It's long but I would have rather it hadn't ended... An immersive experience
"Such an annoying boy - but totally captivating..."
Prepare to be irritated, infuriated and enchanted by Owen Meany in equal measure. This is a book about friendship, love, religion and war - all the big themes - but beautifully woven into a vivid story about a charismatic boy in small town America, spanning the Fifties to the Eighties. Joe Barrett does a marvelous job of narrating this lengthy story, particularly in tackling Owen's screechy voice in an honest and unfliching way.
I recommend you listen to the final chapter, which is an interview with John Irving and an amazing insight into how an author understands his own work.
This a big time investment but probably one of the best you will ever make.
I would listen to Owen Meany again and I plan to. I read this book many years ago and was delighted to see it on Audible. To listen to it was so pleasurable and delightful.The narrator is really really good. Now I am looking for everything else he has done!
Owen Meany is the heart of it and the ending is just so surprising, I was on the edge of my seat and so affected for days.
It certainly made me cry.
"Will stay with me forever"
I have not read the print version
The nativity play and the car in the school made me laugh out loud.
The pathos throughout
I was desperately ill in hospital for about 3 months. Every evening I was able to listen to this book and shut out what was going on around me. It kept me sane.
They were all equally brilliant
Read it certainly but Joe Barratt's voice lulled me and enticed me like I was listening to an old friend. A very moving book.
"An excellent book on all levels"
It is well written, the story is very good and, mostly through the character Owen Meany, the book makes lots of important points about the absurdity of many aspects of life. I thoroughly recommend.
Joe Barrett is a good reader too.
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