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 Irving’s book, you'll also get an exclusive Jim Atlas interview added to your library.
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.
©1989 Garp Enterprises Ltd; (P)2008 Audible, Inc.
“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 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.
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.
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.
A Prayer for Owen Meany is told like a memory. Out of sequence and not all at once. Memory as fragment intermixed with correlated memories and current observations. Like harmonics. Like arpeggios. It is a story about faith from the point of view of someone without faith. The layer upon layer of odd specificity of actions and characteristics can be somewhat irksome. It's like when reading Atlas Shrugged and each retelling of story doesn't actually add anything, but underlines it again and again. We see the predestination and the all the glaring oddity. It is obvious that these are not just character traits but cogs in a specific machine. A Rube Goldberg contraption which will damage each character in a specific way. Leave familiar scars. But it is our memory so it is perhaps obvious that we would remember the man he would be and underline again and again the harmonics. The omens. I don't know exactly how I feel about this book. I love when a story is told in pieces and I can assemble them and solve the story. But there was nothing to solve here. There are specifics that elude us until the end, but the clues are remembered over and over and underlined again and again. The outcome was never in doubt. We know the end before we ever remember the beginning. I don't think John ever finds faith, but it is obvious he still tries. John is an incomplete man. He was essentially created by Owen and left incomplete. That yearning plagues the reading. It is a little too long, too many memories, then ends all at once. I imagine that is how John feels.
Say something about yourself!
For some strange reason, I missed this one throughout my school years and then college and grad school. Not sure why but wow! What a novel. Do not miss this one. You will lie awake thinking about it years after you "read" it. Owen is a guy who does not fit in the group. This story is about why he is the way he is. So wonderful.
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.
Worth every minute of the time I spent listening to it. It isn't likely that I would have picked it up and read it, but since Joe Barrett was narrating and the description and many of the reviews piqued my interest. I decided to get the Audible version. Made a great choice, this time. Maybe it helped that I am a native of small town New England, myself or that the
two main protagonists are within a year or two of being my age. Also the "major"
events that affected them, affected me, as well. The novel was a sort of personal homecoming. But, besides those elements, Irving seems to be a very good writer who
knows how to keep a reader involved in his work for hours and hours. Nor does
he ever disappoint with sloppy transitions, simpleton characters or artificial plot
contrivances. Not that some of his ideas don't stretch things more than a bit. But he
always manages to pull these bits off very nicely. How he tells the reader what happens
at the end before the book is halfway through and still manages to keep one in total
suspense is absolutely masterly. And Joe Barret is one of, if not the best American narrator I've ever heard. (Try "Streets of Loredo" by Larry McMurtry for another great
Joe Barrett narration.)
This novel will not be universally appreciated, I believe. But I thought it was
Ghost writer of over 100 unpublished works...;).
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?
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!
At first, my not being particularly religious, I was a little leery of this book. It started off well but it had the potential to get preachy. I am happy to report that, though religion is a basic theme of the book, it never proselytized. It was a very logical and sometimes comical look at life with religion in it. John Irving did an amazing job of jumping back and forth between the present and the past without confusing the reader. I loved this book. The symbolism and intertwining stories were so well done I didn't realize much of it until it was specifically pointed out and I'm usually one who can figure out a book by the 1/2 way point. There was one character that disappointed me in the end but I understand why Irving wrote it that way. Joe Barrett does a great job narrating although I'm not 100% sold on his version of Owen's voice. Overall, this is a book everyone should read.
"Goed boek uitstekend voorgelezen."
Aangrijpend verhaal . Komt wat langzaam op gang. meesterlijk voorgelezen. Ik heb er van genoten
"WONDERFUL"The Voice" simply ROARS"
Spiritual, Inspirational, Perfection
Owen Meany - one of the truly great characters in modern literature
No - but he was simply brilliant - a tour de force
The book is simply astounding - its has layers of depth that evokes feelings, thoughts and ultimately emotions that stretch every aspect of a spiritual experience. A great book with humour, sadness, sense of loss and contemplation of both humanity and what it means to have faith and what it is like to lose it.
Just buy it
"Brings the voice to life!"
So many people have said how much they have loved this book that it was one of the first that I have listened to on Audible and I must say that I absolutely loved it! It is an incredibly unique novel and one that is so vivid and imaginative that I am sure it will stay in my memory for a long time.
The sound of Owen Meaney's voice is such an important part of this book that it is arguably one book that really MUST be listened to. Joe Barrett does the voice so well that I often found myself laughing out loud.
"A complex text, superbly read."
The plot is gripping and crafted, and the reading could not be bettered. Superb listening experience.
"About a friendship"
Both the story and the reader make this something I shall come back to again and again
The Dropper, which I think should replace "To kill a mockingbird" in English Lit. This seems almost the reverse of The Dropper and much longer. But both are coming of age of young people, boys in particular
The voice of Owen Meany.
There are so many moments that I just sat and listened. Usually I listen and work
Religion, War and Politics are not something I find interesting in a book of Fiction. But this book made me want to re-read about the War and Politics. The Religion (Like Owen Meany I was messed up, and experienced most of the torments and fairy tales of the various denominations) So I am now with Richard Dawkins. But the warmth of this book will certainly stay with me for some time. Definitely in the mould of John O Hara, and Scott Fitzgerald and the All American Novel
The storyline is absorbing and it made my wife and I laugh out loud at some incidents but be prepared to shed a tear sometimes too
This is a long book and yet we were sad to get to the end which always bodes well for a novel. We have recommended it to several others and frankly cannot speak too highly of it as a book. The narrator is also absolutely right for the story and only adds to the overall enjoyment. You will NOT be disappointed !
"A new favourite for me"
I don't know why it is wonderful but it is. It has held me in it's grip and I am going to be lost when it ends.
"What a creation...I gobbled it up with glee"
This is near the top of my list.
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.
I didn't know Joe Barrett before, but his narration was superb, particularly characterisation.
Emotions were heightened by the author's unforced and controlled way of dealing with pathos tragedy and comedy. Masterfully done.
I shall not forget this book in a hurry.
Gentle and calm plot development, drawing the listener in to the weave of the story.
Found story immersive and couldn't wait to loose myself back into the story.
Owen Meany of course.
Wanted to, but given its length, not possible I'm afraid.
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.
"Weird, wonderful and worthwhile"
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.
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