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A Prayer for Owen Meany | [John Irving]

A Prayer for Owen Meany

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.


This production is part of our Audible Modern Vanguard line, a collection of important works from groundbreaking authors.

©1989 Garp Enterprises Ltd; (P)2008 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“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)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Stevon Tempe, AZ, United States 08-08-12
    Stevon Tempe, AZ, United States 08-08-12 Member Since 2015

    I love books!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "great book"
    Would you consider the audio edition of A Prayer for Owen Meany to be better than the print version?

    I considered reading this book some years ago but couldn't get into the premise of a little leaguer's foul ball killing the mother of his best friend and how it affected their lives. For some reason I was ready for it now. I know John is a great writer and this is a great book. If you grew up in the Vietnam era or are interested in a book with that in the background of two kids growing up in New Hampshire, you'll like this book. It's an intellectual, thought provoking story.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dan Indiana, PA, United States 07-25-12
    Dan Indiana, PA, United States 07-25-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Glad I listened- now I know"

    I liked this book-I never loved this book. I liked the story and narration, I liked the writing and underlying ideas. If it was half as long it wouldn't have been so deep and involved but would have advanced the story. I think that would have hurt the writer's vision. Stll, for me, I got deep into it and prayed for it to be over. I feel a bit bad about that. It was good, but not my style. It superficially presents one burning question and in the end answers it. That was what got me and held me til the end. Had it not intrigued me I might well have given up. As you see, I am conflicted. I liked it. I didn't like it's length. I'm sure I'm just not literate enough to have been deeply involved throughout. I could hear the first couple hours and the last couple and get about as much--but that's me. I liked it- I never loved it. Now I know.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol Napier, New Zealand 05-28-12
    Carol Napier, New Zealand 05-28-12
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    "This deserves 10 stars!"

    I read alot and listen to alot of audio books. When I listen to a book like "A Prayer for Owen Meany", I realize just how average most books are - good but not great. This book was GREAT!

    I will definitely listen to this again, and maybe even purchase the hardcopy; although the narration was so wonderful that I'm not sure reading it would be the same as listening.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rupe 05-27-12
    Rupe 05-27-12 Member Since 2003
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    "Enough already"

    I think you are a brilliant storyteller and writer Mr Irving, but get on with the story because your rambling on with Owen just got on my nerves. Sorry, I just shut it off with a loooong breakdown during the Christmas play rehearsals and the importance of details of baby Jesus or angels or whatever... It felt like empty filler paper.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharron Robinvale, Australia 05-22-12
    Sharron Robinvale, Australia 05-22-12 Member Since 2014
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    "A Must Read"

    This book would definately rate in my top 5. The narration was wonderful and Owen leaves his print in your heart.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rebecca Fort Oglethorpe, GA, United States 04-28-12
    Rebecca Fort Oglethorpe, GA, United States 04-28-12 Member Since 2008
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    "More than worth a credit!"

    I listened to this book because it was being read for a faculty book club. This was my first John Irving book and I found myself captivated - stopping occasionally to text someone else who had read the book to share I thought or question I had.

    The narration is wonderful. I was worried at first that Owen's voice would become tiresome, but it doesn't.

    This is one of those books that I'll seek out a hardcover copy of for my personal collection.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    thawstone Reno, NV USA 04-19-12
    thawstone Reno, NV USA 04-19-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Typical John Irving"

    In reviewing other Irving books some listeners stated that they weren't as good as A Prayer for Owen Meany, so I was looking forward to finally getting around to it. Although enjoyable, APFOM was probably my least favorite. If you've never read/listened to an Irving book before, I'd suggest Until I Find You. If you like it, consider yourself lucky - you've got a lot great Irving books awaiting.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    danni Sointula, BC, Canada 03-23-12
    danni Sointula, BC, Canada 03-23-12 Member Since 2015
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    "This is a beautiful book"

    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!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia 07-12-11
    Patricia 07-12-11 Member Since 2015
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    "Just OK"

    I liked this book, I can't say I didn't. I think my problem was that it was just a little too long... and that's coming from someone who looks for the longest books possible! I started to get bored 3/4 of the way through - maybe it was too repetitive, maybe it was 'the voice' I couldn't handle anymore. I don't know. I stopped reading it and read another book, then went back to finish it.

    I didn't read this book before listening to it, so I don't know if I would have felt differently if I had. I know I had heard of it before and all indications were that it was a great book. It was good; just not great.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marsha UPLAND, CA, United States 02-08-11
    Marsha UPLAND, CA, United States 02-08-11 Member Since 2010
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    "A Prayer for Owen Meany"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • Esther
    Wales
    5/21/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A good listen"

    I doubt I would have finished this book if I had been reading it, but I use audiobooks as a means of getting to sleep and so for the most part I found the somewhat repetitive writing soothing. It was beautifully read. The story is about a diminutive boy/man with a very high pitched voice (this almost grated but never quite did) who seems to have a disproportionate effect on those around him, including killing his friend (the narrator's) mother. As it neared the end, I lost hours of sleep as I awaited the denouement.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Norah
    Herefordshire, England
    5/18/14
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    ""Don't be afraid""

    I can only bless the previous commentators........without their reviews I would never have chosen this book.
    The narration is awesome.

    If you are having trouble choosing a book, look no further.......it may possibly change the way you approach both life and death.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Miss
    RICHMOND, United Kingdom
    4/23/14
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    "A good performance of an Irving Classic"

    I've read the physical book time and again, so I was hesitant to get the audio but I was glad I did.

    Hearing it opened up and added depth to areas is seemingly not recalled as vividly in the reading of it myself, and the performance of Owen's 'Granite Mouse' voice was wonderfully executed, as ear jarring to listen to as one would require it to be for authenticity. Good job!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Victoria
    Witney, United Kingdom
    3/9/14
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    "An outstanding Book, don't give up on it!"
    What did you like most about A Prayer for Owen Meany?

    I loved every twist and turn. I can't rate this book high enough.
    Just keep on with it as it just gets better.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of A Prayer for Owen Meany?

    The final tragic scene.......


    Which character – as performed by Joe Barrett – was your favourite?

    My favourite character was Owen, such a powerful figure in the book, not to be underestimated.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    This book is a compelling. Just too long for a one hit listen.


    Any additional comments?

    This book was chosen for my book group. I will score it 10 out of 10.
    It made me cry!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Petra
    Tewkesbury, United Kingdom
    2/26/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An outstanding performance"
    What did you like best about this story?

    A Prayer for Owen Meany is, in many ways, a response to Gunter Grass's The Tin Drum, and if you liked Grass, you will love Irving's version, too. Grass's Oskar Matzerath is a little deformed demon whose warped growth and point-of-view aptly embodied the fascist world. Owen Meany is a novel of similar baroque exuberance but the central character is much more loveable, and a more ironic and poignant comment on America's twentieth-century nightmare, the Vietnam War. The political commentary is not heavy-handed, though, but integrated into the story in a way that makes it germane to Owen's character. There's a point to the peculiar voice, it turns out, and it's a voice wonderfully rendered by the narrator. There's a point to the stunted growth and the preoccupation with practising basketball moves. There's no point to the Vietnam war, which is, literally, brought home in the final section.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    It's hard to say what's most enjoyable about this book: the reading, the characters, the plot? The story comes in the shape of a Bildungsroman, a novel of education and personal growth, but this progress evolves in vignettes that are expanded to their full dramatic potential: a baseball game; an amateur dramatic staging of Dickens' A Christmas Carol; the running of a High School newspaper, and so forth. Core to this novel is also the friendship between the narrator and Owen Meany, and as such it's a great buddy story. there's a love interest, there's a powerful examination of religious belief, there's a discussion of why literature matters, there are countless hilarious comedic moments - there's something for everyone.


    Any additional comments?

    The reading is a triumph; the versatility of intonation and character performance displayed by Joe Barrett makes for a totally engrossing listening experience. For several weeks I found myself completely indifferent to the roadworks on the A14 because no matter how long the journey took I would spend it in the company of Owen Meany. It's a long book, and takes about an hour or so to get into, but it has no longeurs. You don't want it to end, and although you increasingly suspect how it will end, when it does it comes as a shock.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Zoe
    Stourbridge
    12/1/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Heart-warming and spell-binding"
    What made the experience of listening to A Prayer for Owen Meany the most enjoyable?

    I really enjoyed John Irving's narrative style, even though he signposts the various tragic events early on in the story you still feel compelled to hear the whole thing for yourself. Owen Meany is a fantastic character - funny, intelligent and earnest. He lives under the weighty knowledge of his fate but instead of being crushed by it he embraces it with incredible virtue and courage. I am not a religious or superstitious person but the references to God's plan and absolute faith did not prevent me from falling in love with this story.


    What does Joe Barrett bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    Joe Barrett narrates this excellently and has to cope with the added strain of replicating Owen's extraordinary voice. He does a wonderful job of this and it certainly adds to whole experience. I understand that in the novel Owen's speech is always WRITTEN IN CAPITALS! This could perhaps detract from your enjoyment but listening to his voice via Joe Barrett brings this wonderful character to life.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • malcolm
    Anstruther, United Kingdom
    11/26/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "loved it"
    Would you consider the audio edition of A Prayer for Owen Meany to be better than the print version?

    I love audiobooks, sometimes they fail to be as good as the print version, this is not the case, it is long but worth the listen


    What was one of the most memorable moments of A Prayer for Owen Meany?

    it is great as a whole


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    yes if I had 48hours to sit!!!


    Any additional comments?

    It is long but holds you right the way through, john irving at his best.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Tracy
    London
    11/14/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Inspirational!"

    I had difficulty with the "Voice" at first, I am so glad I gave it another go, I can't tell you how much it touched me. Owen Meany had unshakeable faith, was so sure of himself. He made his world a better place so gently. Listening felt just like eavesdropping on something so real and personal I wanted to join in, Owen was my friend. The writing was seamless, the narration was amazing, it is true this book needs to be listened to for the full effect. I mourn the end of this book and will listen again and again. This review cannot do justice to either John Irving or Joe Barrett but I urge you to listen and have Owen Meany as your friend.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Nicholas
    Abergavenny, United Kingdom
    7/9/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Compelling book, excellently narrated"
    What made the experience of listening to A Prayer for Owen Meany the most enjoyable?

    The fantastic writing from first to last. The great descriptive episodes like the Nativity play, Owen's introduction to the family, and the boys' journey through education, add to the compelling narrative of Owen's - and America's - journey. The narration was faultless.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The way the narrative built and built, never losing interest, and only giving enough away about the end result to add even more to the compelling listen...


    Have you listened to any of Joe Barrett’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    This is the first Joe Barrett narration I have heard.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I was never likely to have 27 hours to spare, but a few very long cycle rides and car journeys sped by while I listened!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Stuart Pawsey
    uk
    12/26/12
    Overall
    "Literary grandeur."

    John Irving has occupied a special place in the pantheon of mainstream american writers for many years; however I would regard " A Prayer for Owen Meany" as a 20th century masterpiece.

    This may seem obvious to those who have had the pleasure of reading/ listening to this wonderful tale,but for those who have yet to immerse themselves I would say do so, you will only benefit from the experience.

    It takes the reader on a journey of childhood,through adolescence into adulthood and never in an expected way. The experience of religious belief and mysticism is most convincing . Owen Meany is a force to be reckoned with. His is a faithful,complex personality that it is a sheer joy to spend time with.

    The one thing that sets the audio version above the written word is the voice. Owen Meany has a remarkable voice and the narration by Joe Barrett is an acting tour de force. His vocal impression of Owen drives the story in a way that lifts it above the norm.

    Listen to this and wonder. You will laugh and yes, maybe cry,I know I shed a tear or two. I have spent a lifetime reading but this novel is on of the unforgettable ones. Thank you John Irving.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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