A Prayer for Owen Meany

A Novel
Irving, John, 1942- (Book - 1997 )
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
A Prayer for Owen Meany

Item Details

In the summer of 1953, two 11-year-old boys--best friends--are playing in a Little League baseball game in New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills his best friend's mother. Owen Meany believes he didn't hit the ball by accident. He believes he is God's instrument. What happens to Owen after 1953 is extraordinary and terrifying. He is Irving's most heartbreaking hero.
Authors: Irving, John, 1942-
Statement of Responsibility: John Irving
Title: A prayer for Owen Meany
a novel
Publisher: New York :, Ballantine Books,, 1997, c1989
Edition: 1st Ballantine Books trade ed
Characteristics: 543 p. ;,20 cm.
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Report This Mar 29, 2014
  • MarioEnriqueRiosPinot rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This is almost an epic...600 pages. I've read 200 and I'm still hooked. I think its the only Irving novel I've ever read. I like the humor maybe a little predictible? but not really. Then there is death and then there is A Christmas Carol, with the magical dwarf, Irving's alter ego? and then the Episcopalians. Thank you. PS Viet Nam, Reagan, USA.

Report This Jul 18, 2013
  • the17pointscale rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

There are some things that are made infinitely better by their endings. Take, for example, Ding Dongs and Butterfingers, THE SIXTH SENSE, "Hey Jude" and "I Will Always Love You," Lutheran Mass. Sure, the chocolate coating you get with a Hostess or Nestle treat is all right and Haley Joel Osmond and Bruce Willis are fine all movie long, but when Whitney Houston and Paul McCartney take it up a notch and really start to belt out their refrains or when my pastor at Phinney Ridge says, "Andrew, the body broken for you" and then leaves us all with a benediction--that's the stuff. That's when the not-so-great or OK or good jumps the track and inches toward the truly great. And so it is with A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY. We can see it coming. We know that John Irving has something up his sleeve. In the novel's opening, the narrator famously explains that "I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany." We know something big is in the works, and we can tell all novel long that the book is building to something epic. As that ending approaches, we can even see some of the signs, but somehow the novel still manages to surprise, and it really does achieve a kind of transcendence. It really does communicate a piercing sadness. But it has its flaws. Irving sometimes does absurdity well, but in this novel I felt the moments of absurdity were at odds with the overarching narrative. In fact, the book often feels juvenile, as if Irving is attempting to pander to his junior high readers. And the narrator, who is perhaps just a stand-in for Irving himself, seems obsessed with Reagan and US politics in a way that doesn't quite seem necessary to the story and thus seems odd and whiny and uninteresting to a reader in 2012. And finally, our little Mr. Meany and the various other characters in the novel, including the narrator, all seem distant in a way that makes the book's final scene and closing lines less real to me somehow. It's as if the absurdities of the characters overshadow any of Irving's attempts to make those characters two dimensional, and so they become funny archetypes rather than real people with whom and for whom I can mourn. If you live for a good ending, for a book that gathers its many strands together in a way that will explode your head, this is a book for you. But I warn you: you'll still have to contend with some of that annoying chocolate coating.

Report This Jul 07, 2013
  • mogie rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

I'm not sure about this book. I skipped several pages as the book progressed. I definitely didn't love it. I found the pacing kind of strange, like it just kind of plodded along. It gets an "ok" from me. I wont read it again and probably won't suggest it for anyone else. I just don't have the love for it that others seem to.

Report This Jun 05, 2013
  • crankylibrarian rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

My favorite 20th century novel. John Irving confronts the big questions: faith, friendship and fate in this dark tragicomedy of a peculiarly small boy with a peculiarly piercing voice. Impossible to summarize without trivializing its power, but once you read Owen's story, you will never look at baseball, Christmas pageants, or armadillos the same way again.

Report This Jun 21, 2012
  • Languid5 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Love this book

Report This Apr 08, 2012
  • jaeden rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Forget the movie - it has little semblance to the book. One of my top ten favourites, I have read and re-read this book many times and will undoubtedly read it again one day. Four-star rating from me - storytelling does not get much better than this.

Report This Jan 04, 2012
  • zavirani rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

John Irving is a terriffic writer, but he drones on and on in this well told, but kind of boring tale about John Wheelright and his best friend through the years. The prose is beautifully written, but he does go on about mystical belief in God, his personal feeling about Christianity, and the like. The religious message was a little too blind faith and "purpose" oriented for my taste, and I personally thought the characters were relatable to an extent, but also very very unlikable at times (especially the character of Owen Meany himself). But overall, a pretty good read because of the very skillfully crafted prose.

Report This Dec 02, 2011
  • TonyTucci rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Irving is a genius at creating densely rich worlds peopled with quirky and imperfect individuals who travel a long and tortuous path to their ultimate goal, and oftentimes, their redemption as well. Owen Meany is a funny little guy with a funny little voice who grows into a larger-than-life quasi-religious figure who overcomes his physical disadvantages to improbably dominate and shape his milieu against fearsome odds. Is he the second coming of Jesus? Is he a prophet? A magician? A great actor? The devil? I like Irving more with every book of his that I read. He often foreshadows the book's climax, which he delays exposing until nearly the end, and builds a story in the present, while dipping often and at length into the past while foreshadowing the future. This trick is a lot harder than it looks, but it's one that Irving does exceedingly well and to maximum effect in enriching, elaborating and unwinding the story. It's a technique he uses particularly well in a later novel, "Last Night in Twisted River" which I would also highly recommend. This is vintage Irving and a great read. Enjoy.

Report This Jul 18, 2011
  • Raiiner rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Absolutely beautiful.

Report This Sep 20, 2010
  • sharon711 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

The greatest of all accidents is an accidental birth - unless it is an accidental death... which brings us back to the first sentence of Owen Meany: I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice - not because of his voice or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany. A spectacular read - you will never regret spending time trying to understand what was behind Owen Meany.

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"Faith takes practice," said Owen Meany.

"...good friends are nothing to each other if they are not supportive."

Report This Jan 17, 2009
  • DavidB rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

I could have told her that it was only our illusion that Owen Mean weighed 'nothing at all.' We were only children--we are only children-- I could have told her. What did we know about Owen? What did we truly know? We had the impression that everything was a game-- we thought we made everything up as we went along. When we were children,we had the impression that almost eveything was just for fun-- no harm intended, no damage done. When we held Owen Meany above our heads, when we passed him back and forth-- so effortlessly-- we believed that Owen weighed nothing at all. We did not realize that there were forces beyond our play. Now I know they were the forces that contributed to our illusion of Owen's weightlessness; they were the forces we didn't have faith to feel, they were the forces we failed to believe in-- and they were also the lifting up Owen Meany, taking him out of our hands. O God-- please give him back! I shall keep on asking You.

Report This Jan 17, 2009
  • DavidB rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

By the time she came back, of course, we'd forgotten everything about whatever 'it' was-- because as soon as she left the room, we would fool around with a frenzy. Because being alone with our thoughts was no fun, we would pick up Owen Meany and pass him back and forth, overhead. We managed this while remaining seeted in our chairs- that was the challenge of the game. Someone-- I forgot who started it--would get up, seize Owen, sit back down with him, pass him to the next person, who would pass him on and so forth. The girls were included in this game; some of the girls were the most enthusiastic about it. Everyone could lift up Owen. We were very careful; we never dropped him. His shirt might become a litle rumpled. His necktie was so long, Owen tucked it in his trousers--or else it would have hung to his knees-- and his necktie often cam untucked; sometimes his change would fall out (in our faces). We always gave him his money back.

Report This Jan 17, 2009
  • DavidB rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

In Sunday school, we developed a form of enterainment based on abusing Owen Meany, who was so small that not only did his feet not touch the floor when he sat in his chair-- his knees did not extend to the edge of his seat: therefore, his legs stuck out straight, like the legs of a doll. It was as if Owen Meany had been born without realistic joints

Report This Jan 12, 2009
  • DavidB rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice-- not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.


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Irving, John, 1942-
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