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)
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.
I don't know why I hadn't read this book before. If I had, I would have anticipated this recording eagerly. The book is wonderful. Irving's masterful writing spirals around, dropping hints, showing tidbits, keeping the reader 'turning pages' in rapture.
Thought provoking and inspiring, the ideas will stay with you after the book is finished, but it is also just downright entertaining.
I think the narration is perfectly matched to the writing and makes the book all the more personal and powerful. The editing is flawless!
John Irving is an outstanding wordsmith and storyteller. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this very well crafted and entertaining story exceptionally narated by Joe Barrett. Very entertaining! I'm hoping Audible will make the many other books written by John Irving available soon. More Joe Barrett too please :)
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.
A well written book is a gem.
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.
I read a review that mentioned how annoying the narrator's voice for Owen Meany is. I have listened to the first section; and even though I enjoy the story, I just can't bring myself to listen to any more of the book. The narrator's voice is good except when he speaks in Owen's voice or the voices of the other children. I just can't bear to listen any more. I'll probably get the book from the library and read the rest, because the book is well written and the story is very interesting.
54-year-old community college IT instructor. Over 500 titles in "My Library."
I would give the author and narrator 4 stars. However, my appeal for this story was 2 stars. So, I give an overall average of 3 stars.
I can see why some people liked this book. However, from my perspective, the story was too slow, too Bible-oriented, and too church-oriented. I also got "disoriented" with the constant jumping forward and backward in time. About a third into the second part (around 8.5 hours total invested time) I decided that I was not enjoying this series of short stories enough to keep listening. I was ready to move on to another book.
This might be categorized as a "faith-based" novel that would remind some people of The Mitford Series of books by Jan Karon. I found At Home in Mitford much more entertaining than A Prayer for Owen Meany.
So, I would only recommend this book for listeners that find this kind of writing enjoyable. It's a long ride. Not everyone will find the seat comfortable.
It has been years since I read this book. So many years it is hard to remember, except that it was a wonderful book. I had no idea when I downloaded the story, that the narrator would be so talented. The leading theme is Owen Meany's unusual appearance and his voice. This narrator's command of the many fascinating characters adds immensely to the story. In fact, I sent the book to my son but I want him to listen to the audio to get the dimension of Owen's personality as spoken through the narrator.
I think it was the tender, yet selfish "capture" of the dress dummy for Owen's benefit and his rationalization to help John.
I have not but am going to search right away. He is terrific and I will be interested in finding out if he is an actor.
I am very glad to have an Audible membership and this book made it worthwhile.
The narration brought my old friends to life in a way that I have never expected. I have read this book twice however this tops all. there was so much nuance that I had missed. I LOVED IT!!
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!
"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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