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A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989)

by John Irving

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
16,538307236 (4.25)2 / 612
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.… (more)
Recently added byporgif, Rennie80, JessicaF217, coffeecrusader, Dan_Smith, sharvani, private library
  1. 132
    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. 122
    The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving (Booksloth)
  3. 51
    Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (jhedlund)
  4. 20
    The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (Ciruelo)
  5. 53
    A Son of the Circus by John Irving (Booksloth)
  6. 10
    The Tin Drum by Günter Grass (spiphany)
  7. 10
    The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint: A Novel by Brady Udall (sanddancer)
  8. 00
    Observatory Mansions by Edward Carey (potenza)
    potenza: Similar peculiar, poignant central character
  9. 00
    Simon Birch [1998 film] by Mark Steven Johnson (TheLittlePhrase)
  10. 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
  11. 11
    American Gods: Author's Preferred Text by Neil Gaiman (krazy4katz)
    krazy4katz: Both works have elements of religion and belief. They are both mystical in very different ways.
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English (301)  Dutch (3)  German (2)  French (1)  All languages (307)
Showing 1-5 of 301 (next | show all)
O God--please give him back! I shall keep asking You.

Yesssss!!!!!! Bawling.

Perfectly great ending, the way the meaning of everything that occurred in Owen Meany's life was revealed in those final, short moments. My jaw was on the floor.

I love that the author used all caps any time Owen spoke.

Also loved alllllllllllllll the great details about politics and religion.

The Foul Ball...remember that???
The Armadillo...remember that???
The Angel...remember that???
The Little Lord Jesus...remember that???
The Ghost of the Future...remember that???
The Voice...remember that???
The Dream...remember that???
The Finger...remember that???
The Shot...remember that??? -- Ahhhh you got me GOOD with that one, John Irving!!!! It gave me the shivers.

It's going on my "favorites" shelf and I must get myself a hardcover. ( )
  Jinjer | Jul 19, 2021 |
One of the best books ever. Read many years ago, and will re-read one of these days! ( )
  CaitlinMcC | Jul 11, 2021 |
Simultaneously rushing to the end and not wanting it to be over. My To Read shelf needs to be emptied out before another move or I think that I would just open this book up and start over again. Instead I'm going to make sure that someone else gets to meet it. Enjoy! ( )
1 vote ednasilrak | Jun 17, 2021 |
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.) ( )
  sarahlh | Mar 6, 2021 |
I'm still trying to figure out if I liked this book or not. I really enjoyed Irving's writing--he is fantastic at describing things so that you find yourself thinking, "I never thought of it like that." So, I loved that part of the book.

The story was interesting. I hear it's the story that's in the movie "Simon Birch," but I've never seen the movie so I can't verify that.

I think the problem with the book was that I would read for an hour and feel like I hadn't gotten anywhere nearer to finishing it. So, maybe the real problem is that I wasn't interested enough in the story to stop paying attention to how much closer to the end I got.

All in all, I probably wouldn't tell people to read this book, although I'm not sad that I read it. ( )
  pmichaud | Dec 21, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 301 (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)
 
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 Shortride | editBooklist (pay site) (Mar 1, 1989)
 
John Irving’s A Prayer For Owen Meany is yet another Irving book that absolutely held my attention, and had me racing to finish it. Irving, perhaps because of his own dyslexia, takes pains to write clearly and readably. He avoids labyrinthine construction. He earns his right to describe things by keeping the action moving.
 

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Irvingprimary authorall editionscalculated
Barrett, JoeNarratorsecondary authorsome 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 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.
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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Wikipedia in English (2)

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.

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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.
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