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A Prayer for Owen Meany (Ballantine Reader's…

A Prayer for Owen Meany (Ballantine Reader's Circle) (original 1989; edition 1997)

by John Irving

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
15,538288214 (4.26)2 / 583
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)
Title:A Prayer for Owen Meany (Ballantine Reader's Circle)
Authors:John Irving
Info:Ballantine Books (1997), Paperback, 560 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Literary Fiction

Work details

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (1989)

  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. 53
    A Son of the Circus by John Irving (Booksloth)
  5. 20
    The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (Ciruelo)
  6. 10
    The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall (sanddancer)
  7. 10
    The Tin Drum by Günter Grass (spiphany)
  8. 00
    Simon Birch [1998 film] by Mark Steven Johnson (TheLittlePhrase)
  9. 11
    American Gods: The 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.
  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

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English (282)  Dutch (3)  German (2)  French (1)  All languages (288)
Showing 1-5 of 282 (next | show all)
More like 3.5 stars, but whatever. ( )
  Adammmmm | Sep 10, 2019 |
Abandoned. A dramatic beginning. But after 200 pages of 600, I expect more. I'm not interested in a vague mystical belief in the powers of a Christ child. Or the tug of war between the Congregationalist and Episcopal churches. Or an amateur nativity play and adaptation of A Christmas Carol. There are, in the first third, some humorous moments, but the plot never thickens and I can't say I care for any of the characters. The writing is average but functional. If you like a nice easy read to take up your summer, go ahead with this. Just be prepared to slog it out to reach the punchline you hope exists. ( )
  jigarpatel | Jul 16, 2019 |
Although this book moves at a glacial pace, I enjoyed it up until the last 75 pages or so - basically once the main characters graduated from college and changed from engaging people to wooden stereotypes (except for Johnny who became a dishrag instead). The elements of Christianity became increasingly heavy handed too - including long passages quoted from the New Testament. Overall though, Owen Meany was a wonderful creation - and putting his dialogue in all caps was a genius way to portray The Voice. ( )
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
Still trying to figure out how I felt about the ending to this book, which I guess is a good thing. The earlier chapters made me laugh out loud, which is always a good thing. ( )
  sblock | Feb 11, 2019 |
This is the story of a boy who was born different. Owen was born tiny, with a strange voice, and a funny walk. He never grew to be bigger than 5 feet tall. His best friend, John, and he spent their lives looking out for each other. Owen was a firm believer in God and stated to anyone who would listen that he was "God's instrument". He had a dream that told him when and how he was going to die, and he was at peace with it.

John grew up under the watchful eye of his rich grandmother. His mom had never told John who his father was - telling him she would let him know when he was old enough to understand. Then John's mother is killed in an unusual accident, he is left to figure out who his father is on his own.

The story travels through John and Owen's childhood and early adulthood. The story flips between John and Owen's early life to John's middle aged years. He tells the story as he remembers his best friend and how Owen gave him his faith in God.

This was a really good book. I have seen the movie "Simon Birch" which this book is based on. I re-watched it after reading this, and it follows the book pretty closely - for awhile. Owen doesn't make it past being a young boy in the movie, where in the book he lives into adulthood.

The book is quite long, but it never felt boring. It flowed well. The banter back and forth between John and Owen will make you chuckle. The characters you are supposed to like - you really do. Even the saucy old grandmother grows on you after awhile. It is interesting to see how Owen shaped John's life choices - long after Owen had died.

I highly recommend it. It will take you a bit to get through it, but it will be worth it in the end. ( )
  JenMat | Jan 10, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 282 (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 (13 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.
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(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.
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