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 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
Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
I love books!
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.
"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
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.
"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.
"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.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.