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A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
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A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989)

by John Irving

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
14,700266135 (4.26)2 / 540
  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 (259)  Dutch (3)  French (2)  German (2)  All (266)
Showing 1-5 of 259 (next | show all)
A 500 page novel that sets up a slam dunk.

This was recommended to me by a friend about 15 years ago and I at last got round to reading it this month. Vivid, wonderful writing and a fascinating story. The narrative hops around in time, so you have to read it without long gaps between sessions, otherwise it gets too easy to forget who some of the minor characters are. The length is perhaps my only criticism - I think that it could have lost 100 pages without losing much of its impact. ( )
  AJBraithwaite | Aug 14, 2017 |
Eloquent writing. Owen Meany is an unforgettable character you love instantly and want to root for. However, I felt that it was difficult me to truly love this book. I don't know why. ( )
  CherieKephart | Aug 3, 2017 |
A great novel, unusual and intrigue with bizarre characters. ( )
  bevok | Jul 31, 2017 |
I had read this book twenty plus years ago and loved it. My husband had not read it, so I bought an audio book version, and we listened to it together. This is such an amazing book. The characters, the symbolism, the humor, and tragedy...
This is, I feel, the best of Irving's books. These characters and this story are the best that American literature has to offer. ( )
  DrApple | Jun 7, 2017 |
This is the first John Irving book I have read (listened to on Audible), and I will definitely be reading more. This audio book is long - around 27 hours, where most literary books clock-in at a decent 6-9 hours. It has taken me 6 months to finish listening. The story was sometimes slow-going, but it was all interesting, all the minutiae of small town life. When I had a few minutes to finish up dishes or travel out of town, I would listen as Irving told a tale full of characters that included the incorrigible little person, Owen Meany and his best friend, John Wheelwright, the narrator of the story.

Most of the story centers around John Wheelwright's mother, her death, the identity of John's father, and Owen Meany's belief that he has seen the date of his own death. Although this description leaves one with the idea that the book will be heavy and dark, it is rather a funny, light-hearted read most of time. But, it also has heart and emotion and darkness when needed.

Though it took me a long time to finish this book, I never felt lost or a need to rewind and listen to chapters again. The author takes you back to certain events that are important to the story along the way as characters or plot points develop.

And, the end. Have you ever had the experience while approaching the end of a book where all the pieces start dropping into place like dominoes, or the meaning of a book opens up like a flower as your turn the last few pages? That is how I felt while reading (listening to) the last 3-5 chapters of Owen Meany. The end is the perfect wrap-up of all the events in the book and a map of all the things you didn't understand before. Perfect. Wrap-up. Just amazing.

If you don't mind a long read, check this one out. You won't regret it. ( )
  ouroborosangel | May 30, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 259 (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 kthomp25 | editBooklist
 
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 (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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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.
Publisher's editors
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References to this work on external resources.

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)

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)

» see all 7 descriptions

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