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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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  •  
    Alan 03-28-11
    Alan 03-28-11 Listener Since 2009
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    "Outstanding"

    I listen to a lot of books while i drive my roadtrain in Western Australia, it keeps me going through the long nights. When I got this book I was a little concerned with its length and seemingly lack of interest in the plot etc.. Well all I can say is the narrator was fantastic and the story was great, quite often i wanted to sit in my truck after arriving at my destination after a 12 hour shift to listen to a bit more.

    41 of 43 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sandra Warren, AR, United States 06-01-11
    Sandra Warren, AR, United States 06-01-11
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    "A Prayer for Owen Meany"

    This is one of those books that has been on my list, and I never got around to reading it. Now I cannot wait to read other books by John Irving. This book captivated me on the first page and held my undivided interest until the very end. In fact, I found myself thinking about the book for days after I had completed it.John Irving develops the characters into people who are larger than life. I also really enjoyed this narrator. Seldom do I search by narrators, but now I look to find other readings by Joe Barrett.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Esther Robina, Australia 05-29-11
    Esther Robina, Australia 05-29-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Best ever audio book"

    I have listened to many books in the past but this has to be the best in my estimation. John Irving is a genius and Joe Barrett reads this book to perfection. A totally mesmerising story that has weaved its magic into my soul; I will be thinking about these complex characters for years to come. I will be downloading more of this author and will look for other books by this reader. Thank you John Irving

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marlène United States 03-24-11
    Marlène United States 03-24-11 Member Since 2010

    orchid62

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    "I love the atmosphere and the clever reflections"

    When the helplessness of certain characters, the weirdness of Owen, the sad death of a young woman become qualities on which this intricate and incredibly clever story is based, you can only raise your hat. The suspense with which you wait for the end may well keep you up - like me - for hours...

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    lisa San Francisco, CA, United States 08-28-11
    lisa San Francisco, CA, United States 08-28-11 Member Since 2015
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    "Long But Good"

    I do not at all agree w/ the reviewers that claim this is a "must listen!" This is a very particular type of story and certainly not for everyone. That being said, it was a very entertaining story and I did find myself drawn in by the story and many of the characters; I grew up in New England not long after this story though, and partially I think that accounts for much of my interest. I would say that the major draw-back is John Irving's overly, overly long digressions abut political info. or books the characters are reading that have no bearing on the main story whatsoever. several hours of this boring stuff could have been lopped off and the story wouldn't have changed one bit. otherwise, a totally original and very interesting read.

    19 of 21 people found this review helpful
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    Cherry North Bay, ON, Canada 06-11-11
    Cherry North Bay, ON, Canada 06-11-11 Member Since 2005
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    "formidable reading of a memorable book"

    The best! If you have or have not read the print version of A Prayer for Owen Meany by all means get this. This reader, Joe Barrett, gives believable life to the characters. ESPECIALLY OWEN'S. This is a bucket list read.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MaDonna Victoria, TX, United States 05-22-11
    MaDonna Victoria, TX, United States 05-22-11
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    "EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT!!"

    I really enjoyed this book, keeps reader interested and waiting for the next part. Highly recommend!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Annette Bradenton, FL, United States 03-17-11
    Annette Bradenton, FL, United States 03-17-11 Member Since 2014
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    "A Prayer for Owen Meany"

    I have always enjoyed John Irving's writing, but I haven't read anything by him in many years. This book did not disappoint.John Irving's has a wonderful skill of turning a phrase and makes the common ideas seem ridiculous and is always questioning convention. Brilliant! Joe Barrett's narration of this book is also brilliant. The range he uses to individualize each character enables the listener to "see" each character individually. I was a little skeptical to buy this book since I love John Irving and I didn't want the narration to "ruin" the story. I am enjoying this production tremendously and will encourage anyone to give it a listen.

    11 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katherine 06-29-12
    Katherine 06-29-12 Listener Since 2008
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    "A wonderful story"

    Excellent narration of a difficult subject - how to reproduce "The Voice" of Owen Meany - it could have been irritating but Joe Barrett has succeeded in making it believable.
    John Irving has everything in this story - growing up, family life, tragedy, mystery, politics, religion, faith and humour.
    I love this book.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tango Texas 08-16-14
    Tango Texas 08-16-14

    Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.

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    "A Modern Classic"

    If I could choose one phrase to summarize this masterpiece, I couldn't do better than the title of Jan's review - "Not written - crafted...exquisitely" (nicely said, Jan!). Although APFOM has an interesting plot and a shattering ending, if you read this book just for the story, you will miss the best part; APFOM is truly a modern classic with some of the best and most engaging use of literary devices and provocative thought I've ever seen. To list a few:

    1. Enveloping and evocative use of setting - both historical and geographic - to set the tone and pacing
    2. Masterful use of the first person form. First person is challenging when you want to portray detail for many characters. A Prayer not only provides detail characterization for a great cast of eccentrics, its primary protagonist is not the POV character. In lesser hands, the reader would not be able to relate to Owen Meany with all his strangeness when portrayed only from the POV of his friend, John Wheelwright, but Irving not only slowly makes you understand Owen, but truly love him.
    3. Foreshadowing, allusion, and symbolism so subtle and finely woven into the narrative that you will not realize until the ending that you have been told repeatedly what is going to happen and still the ending is gut-wrenching and shocking and inevitable.
    4. Some of the most insightful commentary on religion and faith that I have ever read in fiction. The beautiful, tragic, and repulsive aspects of religion are all woven into this narrative with little jewels of wisdom scattered throughout. One of my favorite quotes, "My belief in God disturbs and unsettles me much more than not believing ever did. Unbelief seems vastly harder to me now than belief does, but belief poses so many unanswerable questions." In the end, A Prayer is a real tribute to active Faith.

    I read the book many years ago when it was first published and I think it can be advantageous to see this book in print to understand how Irving wrote it (Owen's dialog is in all caps and Irving often throws a word said in Owen's voice into the middle of John's sentences) so you will appreciate the phenomenal narrative interpretation of the book by Joe Barrett - truly an outstanding performance of a challenging book. I have had a permanent place on my bookshelves for APFOM for years, but not re-read it just because the ending is hard. However, I couldn't resist the audiobook when it was on sale and now I realize I should have picked it up long ago because it is more than worth full price. If you have read the book, I strongly encourage you to listen to the audiobook - you will not be disappointed. And, Irving packs so much beautiful prose and food for thought in this book, it is one that really should be read or heard more than once.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
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  • Amanda
    Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    8/22/12
    Overall
    "Captivating, and extremely thought provoking"

    Have just finished this book, and don't think I've ever read a book which has preoccupied my thoughts as much as this has, there's so much in it to think about, I want to start it again and listen to all 26 marvellous hours of it all over again. It is narrated perfectly - I often find it a bit irritating when narraters put on different voices for different characters, in this book it is done beautifully, especially the grandmother!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • susan
    Battle, United Kingdom
    8/11/12
    Overall
    "A prayer for Owen Meany"

    This was absolutly brilliant! Better than reading it. Joe did such a good job of making Owen real. I had read the book twice before and am a big John Irving fan, I wish there were more of his books on Audible. I have read Son of a Circus too.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • William Stewart
    Neston, United Kingdom
    6/3/12
    Overall
    "A very long listen....However !!"

    This is a listen I will happilly listen to again, Simply a supurb story and very well narated by Joe Barrett, this is an extraordinary tale and well worth the listen.
    throughout the entire tale you do not get what will happen at the end.
    Well recomended.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • C T Jones
    9/24/10
    Overall
    "Loved it!"

    A really engrossing novel which I was sorry to reach the end of. The 'big' themes in the book, such as fate and God's role in our lives, are thought-provoking but it was the friendship between Owen and his friend John that captivated me in particular. I would thoroughly recommend this book!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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