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A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

A Prayer for Owen Meany (original 1989; edition 1990)

by John Irving

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
14,438262138 (4.26)2 / 528
Title:A Prayer for Owen Meany
Authors:John Irving
Info:Corgi Adult (1990), Paperback, 640 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (1989)

  1. 122
    The World According to Garp by John Irving (dele2451)
    dele2451: Garp and Owen would make a great literary double feature. I wish I didn't have to wait so many years between reading both of these wonderful books.
  2. 112
    The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving (Booksloth)
  3. 51
    Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (jhedlund)
  4. 53
    A Son of the Circus by John Irving (Booksloth)
  5. 10
    The Tin Drum by Günter Grass (spiphany)
  6. 10
    The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall (sanddancer)
  7. 00
    American Gods - The Tenth Anniversary Edition by Neil Gaiman (krazy4katz)
    krazy4katz: Both works have elements of religion and belief. They are both mystical in very different ways.
  8. 11
    The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall (sruszala)
    sruszala: The style--many characters, complicated but compelling story, the humor--all remind me of John Irving
  9. 06
    A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (spiphany)
    spiphany: The production of "A Christmas Carol" is one of the most memorable scenes from the novel - I think it's interesting to go back and (re)read the source of inspiration.

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English (255)  Dutch (3)  French (2)  German (2)  All (262)
Showing 1-5 of 255 (next | show all)
Reread in August 2014 after originally reading about 25 years earlier
  chronic | Mar 23, 2017 |
Originally posted at Dangerously Cold Tea

There are novels. And then there is "A Prayer For Owen Meany". It's spirit and scope is so large that it is almost inconceivable that Iriving was able to encompass so many things in one novel - but he did. And wow, what a wonderful novel it is. I could go on for pages and pages on the fantastic writing, the wit and the heartbreak, the character that is Owen Meany - but honestly, if you haven't read "A Prayer For Owen Meany" yet, it would be better to go in as fresh as possible, knowing as little as possible of the story. It was a bit difficult just to find a synopsis that wasn't terribly spoiler-filed (avoid both Amazon and Barnes & Noble if you wish to remain spoiler-free as both reveal a Very Big Plot Event in their summaries).

This book is wildly acclaimed by critics all around. Its so dangerously thought-provoking that, as Banned Books Challenge points out, it was banned/censored around the U.S. for its stances on religion and warfare. If you want a great story with equally great characters and a wonderful writing style - just do yourself a favor and pick up "A Prayer For Owen Meany" and read it. Then read it again. And keep it close to your heart. I cannot recommend this book enough.

(Note: Although I have not seen the "adaptation" of the book that is Simon Birch . . . I have the feeling that it is probably better to avoid watching it. As you read the book, you'll see why it was deemed pretty much unfilmable for so long.) ( )
  SarahHayes | Feb 20, 2017 |
So glad I finally read this. I would rank it in my top 10 best books ever. It is wonderfully crafted on many levels and has the best first line I have ever read.
“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.” ( )
  maggiehasbrouck | Jan 23, 2017 |
The prayer and examination of faith in fate I found very moving. Meany is a wonderful character who grew on me throughout the novel and I was very moved by the conclusion of the novel. Highly recommend. ( )
  kale.dyer | Jan 13, 2017 |
Some people love, love, love this book. My opinion is that IF one takes the symbolism and allusions seriously, this is basically a book mocking the whole idea of sincere faith, specifically faith in predestination, and the concept that one can be an "instrument of God." In that, Irving is hardly breaking new ground. But, because his narrative is so "cleverly" disjointed and rambling, it may be that most readers don't take his ideas very seriously, or take the whole idea of religious faith as a quaint, old-fashioned conceit anyway. I don't know. I didn't think this book was all that original or insightful. It seemed to me that both the narrator and apparently the author are stuck in a kind of adolescent, misogynistic, anti-religious bitterness that they believe to be original thought. ( )
  kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 255 (next | show all)
"Owen Meany" is as sappy as a book can get without having a title like "Coddled By The Light" or "Sauntering Towards the Light" or "Picking Posies in the Fields of the Light," but it's never nauseating or treacly or overly wholesome. It's a nice good fun read, like a quiet vacation. Irving isn't wrangling us with extremes, here -- he gives us a break. You've been beat up enough, he says. I'll do the work for you this time. The result is merciful, healthy, warm and gladdening.
added by stephmo | editSalon.com, Cintra Wilson (Sep 30, 1996)
The characters capable of representing such scepticism don't look good on paper, while the book puts all its efforts into promoting a belief in belief. But a belief in belief is something this book lams into elsewhere: the Americans' propensity for decisiveness in the absence of policy. On the green award of the Gravesend Academy, it may seem innocent enough; in the jungles and deserts of international trouble spots, it looks fatally naive.
added by stephmo | editThe Guardian, Stephen Games (Jun 5, 1989)
Despite its theological proppings, A Prayer for Owen Meany is a fable of political predestination. As usual, Irving delivers a boisterous cast, a spirited story line and a quality of prose that is frequently underestimated, even by his admirers.
added by johnsmithsen | editTime, R. Z. Sheppard (Apr 3, 1989)
Mr. Irving shows considerable skill as scene after scene mounts to its moving climax. But the thinking behind it all seems juvenile, preppy, is much too pleased with itself. There is something appropriate in the fact that so much of the book takes place in and around a New England academy. The heavily emphasized ''religious'' symbols at the center of the book - the contrast to American aggressiveness offered by the clawlessness of the armadillo, the armlessness of the Indian founder of the town, even John Wheelwright's imbecile joy at being mutilated as still another symbol of his sacrifice of sex to right thinking - all this reminds this long-tried teacher of all the ''Christ symbols'' his students find in everything and anything they have to read.
added by stephmo | editNew York Times, Alfred Kazin (Mar 12, 1989)
Diminutive Owen Meany, believing himself to be God's instrument, unlocks life's mysteries for his closest friend in this imaginative mix of humor and tragedy.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
added by kthomp25 | editBooklist

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Irvingprimary authorall editionscalculated
Broek, C.A.G. van denTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Veenbaas, JabikTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vink, NettieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
—The Letter of Paul
to the Philippians
Not the least of my problems is that I can hardly even imagine what kind of an experience a genuine, self-authenticating religious experience would be. Without somehow destroying the process, how could God reveal himself in a way that would leave no room for doubt? If there were no room for doubt, there would be no room for me.
—Frederick Buechner
Any Christian who is not a hero is a pig.
—Leon Bloy
This book is for
Helen Frances Winslow Irving and
Colin Franklin Newell Irving,
my mother and father
First words
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.
One can learn much through the thin walls of summer houses.
She was just like our whole country—not quite young anymore, but not old either; a little breathless, very beautiful, maybe a little stupid, maybe a lot smarter than she seemed. And she was looking for something--I think she wanted to be good. Look at the men in her life—Joe DiMaggio, Arthur Miller, maybe the Kennedys. Look at how good they seem! Look at how desirable she was! That's what she was: she was desirable. She was funny and sexy—and she was vulnerable, too. She was never quite happy, she was always a little overweight. She was just like our whole country... And those men... Those famous, powerful men—did they really love her? Did they take care of her? If she was ever with the Kennedys, they couldn't have loved her—they were just using her, they were just being careless and treating themselves to a thrill. That's what powerful men do to this country—it's a beautiful, sexy, breathless country, and powerful men use it to treat themselves to a thrill! They say they love it but they don't mean it. They say things to make themselves appear good—they make themselves appear moral. That's what I thought Kennedy was: a moralist. But he was just giving us a snow job, he was just being a good seducer. I thought he was a savior. I thought he wanted to use his power to do good. But people will say and do anything just to get the power; then they'll use the power just to get a thrill. Marilyn Monroe was always looking for the best man—maybe she wanted the man with the most ability to do good. And she was seduced, over and over again—she got fooled, she was tricked, she got used, she was used up. Just like the country. The country wants a savior. The country is a sucker for powerful men who look good. We think they're moralists and then they just use us.
Every day is different; you never know how busy you'll be—most people don't die on schedule, most families don't order gravestones in advance.
. . . twenty-two-year-olds are stubborn.
You can't understand anything by reading the news.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Please distinguish between (a) the complete novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany; (b) the first part only; and (b) the second part only. Thank you.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
A Prayer for Owen Meany is the story of a a boy names John (the narrator) and his best friend Owen. Small, and dwarf-like, with a high pitched voice stressed by capital letters, Owen becomes John's inspiriation, and the reason why he becomes a Christian. While the book entails alot of religious aspect, it is not at all overwhelming, or attempting to sway you towards converting to a Christian. It is simply the reaction of John Wheelright to the occurances that happen to him and his best friend, and how he came to interpret them all. The book is querky, sinister, and humerous to say the least. I highly recomend this book to anyone.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345361792, Mass Market Paperback)

Owen Meany is a dwarfish boy with a strange voice who accidentally kills his best friend's mom with a baseball and believes--accurately--that he is an instrument of God, to be redeemed by martyrdom. John Irving's novel, which inspired the 1998 Jim Carrey movie Simon Birch, is his most popular book in Britain, and perhaps the oddest Christian mystic novel since Flannery O'Connor's work. Irving fans will find much that is familiar: the New England prep-school-town setting, symbolic amputations of man and beast, the Garp-like unknown father of the narrator (Owen's orphaned best friend), the rough comedy. The scene of doltish the doltish headmaster driving a trashed VW down the school's marble staircase is a marvelous set piece. So are the Christmas pageants Owen stars in. But it's all, as Highlights magazine used to put it, "fun with a purpose." When Owen plays baby Jesus in the pageants, and glimpses a tombstone with his death date while enacting A Christmas Carol, the slapstick doesn't cancel the fact that he was born to be martyred. The book's countless subplots add up to a moral argument, specifically an indictment of American foreign policy--from Vietnam to the Contras.

The book's mystic religiosity is steeped in Robertson Davies's Deptford trilogy, and the fatal baseball relates to the fatefully misdirected snowball in the first Deptford novel, Fifth Business. Tiny, symbolic Owen echoes the hero of Irving's teacher Günter Grass's The Tin Drum--the two characters share the same initials. A rollicking entertainment, Owen Meany is also a meditation on literature, history, and God. --Tim Appelo

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:53 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Owen Meany, the only child of a New Hampshire granite quarrier, believes he is God's instrument. He is. This is John Irving's most comic novel; yet Owen Meany is his most heartbreaking character.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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