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A Prayer for Owen Meany (Modern Library) by…
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A Prayer for Owen Meany (Modern Library) (original 1989; edition 2002)

by John Irving

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13,598229156 (4.27)2 / 447
Member:JWP321
Title:A Prayer for Owen Meany (Modern Library)
Authors:John Irving
Info:Modern Library (2002), Hardcover, 672 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

Work details

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (1989)

  1. 102
    The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving (Booksloth)
  2. 102
    The World According to Garp by John Irving (dele2451, shesinplainview)
    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.
  3. 51
    Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (jhedlund)
  4. 20
    The Tin Drum by Günter Grass (spiphany)
  5. 10
    The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall (sanddancer)
  6. 43
    A Son of the Circus by John Irving (Booksloth)
  7. 00
    She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb (shesinplainview)
  8. 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.
  9. 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
  10. 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 (224)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  All languages (229)
Showing 1-5 of 224 (next | show all)
I really wanted to give this book more than 3 stars because John Irving is clearly to me a talented writer. Parts of the book, especially the beginning, hooked me right in, and I thought wholeheartedly that this was a winner. The problem for me is that half way through the book it started to drag. The book was entirely too long. The best I could do was 5 pages at a time and I'd be sleeping. This went on for about 200 pages. I didn't care for the anti American comments throughout the book either. It didn't add any value to the story and for me it detracted. I still don't understand what Reagan had to do with the story. It seems to me that the author interjected too many of John Irving's opinions into the story for the purpose of his own personal rant. The book redeemed itself at the end. I stayed awake and was able to finish the last 50 pages in one sitting. I'm sad to say that this will be my one and only John Irving read. ( )
  valorrmac | Aug 19, 2015 |
perhaps it was because i have finished the world according to garp only a few short weeks ago, maybe it's because i'm an atheist (though admittedly not of the ilk that other people's faith somehow offends me), but i was expecting to rocked/shattered by a preayer for owen meany. don't get me wrong it was a fantastic read, and i really enjoyed it. it just wasn't as amazing as i had expected. ( )
  mkclane | Jul 31, 2015 |
Really liked this one! ( )
  S_Trenti | Jul 11, 2015 |
Incredible, unique story. Wonderful story about friendship and faith. ( )
  shesinplainview | May 25, 2015 |
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.

This is one of the mot powerful opening sentences I have ever read in a novel, and it sets the tone for the rest of the novel. I read this book at the behest of two high school friends, Laurie and Ginny. We three live in different parts of the country, have lived very different lives, and likely come at the themes of A Prayer for Owen Meary from very different perspectives. I mention this only because I feel that this novel is rich with important themes and one's life experiences and personal beliefs play a significant role in the interpretation of those themes.

The story is narrated by John Wheelwright from the perspective of his middle-aged self, telling the stories of his youth in Gravesend, New Hampshire and interspersing them with commentary on his present. His stories center on his best friend, the title character Owen Meary. John comes from an old, well-established family, while Owen comes from a working class family in the granite industry... an industry that John's aristocratic grandmother deems to be "dirty."

John, while from a privliged family, has never known his father. His mother referred to John as the product of a "little fling," refusing to disclose the identity of his father to him, or to her mother and sister. Despite the scandal of having a child out of wedlock at that time, she held her head high and was never ashamed. She loved her child and she loved to sing, and she did them both without shame. But then a freak accident takes his mother, an accident that changes Owen, too. It is that accident that causes John to begin to wonder about his father. Owen encourages his quest, insisting that God will show him the answers he seeks.

Owen is a bit of a misfit, small for his age and brilliant and wise beyond his years. There is something about him that commands attention, from his peers and adults alike. He is strong in his faith and feels that he is God's hand on earth. His dialogue is present in all caps, further underlining the idea that Owen is somehow more than human, somehow divine. He constantly reminds John, as he falters in his faith, that faith takes practice and that sometimes he just has to accept that.

The religious themes are prevalent throughout the novel and, at first, this was a bit off-putting for me. I tend to stay away from strongly religiously-themed novel, generally finding them to be more "preachy" than I enjoy. I think your own personal experience/relationship with religion really plays into those themes. I was raised Episcopalian, but I pretty much have eschewed orgainized religion, being more spiritual than religious. So I probably had different feelings and ideas about those themes than others who embrace their faith more readily. But the pressure on Owen to live up to his parents' (and his own) assertations about his destiny is something that I think anyone can have empathy for.

And there is no question that the Army girl still in me had some conflicted feelings about the military/war themes. I had a hard time really feeling for the narrator, outside of his love for Owen. There was a purposeful lack of clairty for most of the book about the motivations behind some of his adult choices, vague due to the story arc, and it led me to believe that John was something/someone other than who he turned out to be. My assumptions, which I think were perhaps intended by the author, led me to dislike the adult version of his character due to my own military experiences. Some of his ideas presented by his adult self, while I understood the reasons behind them, sometimes rubbed me the wrong way. There was also a moment in which Owen decides to dramatically help John try to avoid the draft that also conflicted me. It was a drastic moment, one that was done out of love, but it was the acceptance of Owen's dubious gift by John that bothered me, once again because of my own military experiences. But, then again, the subjects of war and politics are often those of controversy, aren't they?!

My Recommendation: This is a thinking book, not a light read. There are strong themes in this novel, themes that make you question your own thoughts, beliefs, and faith. Yet there are also moments that are suprisingly funny. The author has a witty way with words that give a tongue-in-cheek humor to a lot of situations and it is something that I truly appreciated. I think that this is a book that will continue to reveal more of itself with subsequent readings. ( )
1 vote Kiki870 | May 19, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 224 (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 Shortride | 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 editionsconfirmed
Broek, C.A.G. van denTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Veenbaas, JabikTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vink, NettieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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
Dedication
This book is for Helen Frances Winslow Irving & Colin Franklin Newell Irving my mother & 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.
Quotations
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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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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