Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Prayer for Owen Meany” as Want to Read:
A Prayer for Owen Meany
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Prayer for Owen Meany

by
4.22  ·  Rating Details  ·  227,867 Ratings  ·  10,212 Reviews
John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany is the inspiring modern classic that introduced two of the author’s most unforgettable characters, boys bonded forever in childhood: the stunted Owen Meany, whose life is touched by God, and the orphaned Johnny Wheelwright, whose life is touched by Owen. From the accident that links them to the mystery that follows them–and the martyrd ...more
Paperback
Published (first published March 28th 1989)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Prayer for Owen Meany, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Neil Procter I'm an atheist and this is one of my favourite books. Yes it is about one person's belief in a supreme being coming as the result of the events he…moreI'm an atheist and this is one of my favourite books. Yes it is about one person's belief in a supreme being coming as the result of the events he witnesses, but it is not a Christian tract. I don't know what John Irving's religious beliefs are but I wouldn't dare assume form this book that he is a believer. It is a fiction, whose narrator has found reason to believe in God through the events that befall him. If an author wrote a book about a vicar it wouldn't mean it was a book just for Christians.(less)
Nina Blackwell You're right Magdalen, it is a very slow read and he repeats a lot. I got impatient at how long it was taking me, but I more or less enjoyed it. I…moreYou're right Magdalen, it is a very slow read and he repeats a lot. I got impatient at how long it was taking me, but I more or less enjoyed it. I love the movie Simon Birch which was "inspired" by this book and that movie only includes about 20% of the book and changes a lot.

Oh, just as a random comment, it always surprises me to see on literary sites such as this, the mis-use of the word "it's" when "its" is correct. If you are unsure of its usage, simply replace "it is" and see if the sentence still works....English grammar 101 people.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Nick G
Jan 08, 2010 Nick G rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm short on time for this review, but man, this is the closest thing to "a perfect story" as anything I've ever read.

***I'm back a few days later to edit my review, because I can't stop thinking about this book. It might be my favorite. I might be in love with this story. As the first sentence of the story starts out, "I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice...", well, I am, too.

***SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON IN THE REVEIW***

I think I fell in love with book as I read one specific sen
...more
Emily May
Apr 09, 2016 Emily May rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, 2016
“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've opted for the 3-star approach, but you shouldn't give it much weight where this book is concerned. Some people are really hung up on ratings - does it really only deserve 1 star? you seemed to like it, why not 5 stars? - when in truth, this book is so comp
...more
Marty
Jul 27, 2007 Marty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
A long time ago, I came across a story that my grandmother recommended. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I definitely hadn’t expected to read what would become my favorite book. The story begins as many do, giving background on the area that will provide the setting for our tale, a history as reference, but quickly catches up with the main characters and the supporting cast. And we quickly learn of Johnny and Owen Meany, two friends who forge an eternal bond despite their obvious mismatches - p ...more
Jason
Mar 12, 2009 Jason rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jesus Christ
I've been on a huge John Irving kick recently, and man, am I glad I didn't start with this book because I might have aborted the whole thing before I had a chance to read some of his better works.

This one just didn't do it for me. Whereas I left other Irving novels feeling recharged and alive, I left this one pissed off and ready to drink cheap tequila until I blacked out and woke up in a new world where there are no books or stories or any sort of entertainment derived from the written word.

Fi
...more
Tom
Jan 01, 2008 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I'm sure you can read a million reviews about this book. It seems to be many people's favorite. Let me just say that I have read 5 or 6 John Irving books, and this is the only one that is much more than a good story. About 10 years ago I was assisting a photography class for adults, and one of the particpants, a minister, saw that I was reading this book. He said that A prayer for Owen Meany had more to say about the nature of God than anything he had ever read. We had a fabulous conversation ab ...more
Nathan
Nov 30, 2010 Nathan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Someone really bored
I gave this book three stars because I figure that's the average of five stars and one star. Some of the things about this book were great; others were really terrible.

Irving's strong-point is definitely his ability to draw interesting characters in vivid--sometimes painful--detail. Owen, of course, is the central and most interesting character. He's a little runt of a boy with a bizarre voice, a sarcastic wit, an iron will, and an unwavering faith in God and in the fact that he is an instrument
...more
Diane
Aug 25, 2013 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the book that made me want to be a writer. I read it in high school, thanks to my favorite English teacher, Mrs. B, who had written down the title on a Post-It note and said, "You need to read this." I immediately went and found a copy and had it finished it by the end of the week.

There is no way I can write a review that is worthy of this novel, but I shall try. It is the story of two boys in New Hampshire in the 1950s: the narrator is Johnny Wheelwright, whose family is wealthy; and h
...more
Algernon
Aug 30, 2015 Algernon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015

It was Owen Meany who taught me that any good book is always in motion – from the general to the specific, from the particular to the whole, and back again. Good reading – and good writing about reading – moves the same way.

John Irving is a great believer in the power of opening and closing lines. The one I have chosen above comes from the middle of the novel, but it explains both my fascination with the hero of the story and my goals in reviewing – connect the universal with the individual. I
...more
Steve
Aug 08, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Write memorable characters. How many “How to Write” books have said that? Whatever the number, it’s a rule that John Irving must have taken to heart. Readers of this book will not soon forget the little guy in the title. Owen was exceedingly small, and had a high, almost cartoonish voice. But he also had a commanding presence. When he spoke, people listened. In large part, this was because he had a lot to say. He was opinionated, influential, and smart.

The narrator, John, was not as central to t
...more
Ashley
Jun 22, 2007 Ashley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: currentlyreading
a whole-hearted kind of irving novel. my irving kick started with the cider house rules and burned quickly through garp (good to start with the classics), a widow for one year (didn't like very much), hotel new hampshire, and then owen meany. irving has a kind of roundness and soulfulness on the one hand that really brings you into the characters. they have full and complex voices and sometimes nearly inscrutable relationships. hardly any other authors i can think of have such a light touch that ...more
Anne
Apr 04, 2007 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
I unfortunately picked up this book for the first time as I was leaving for a vacation at my friend's house... for her birthday and Christmas. And I couldn't put it down. I was an appalling house guest, and a worse celebrator. And I don't really regret it, because it marked a moment in time, a turning point for me. I've said this before. I've been sort of struggling with a very personal theory about what I love best in fiction. I think it has something to do with the fact that wonderful fiction ...more
Gary
Mar 17, 2014 Gary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
" 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."

That is the opening lines of the novel,and aptly describes what the book is about. This novel goes from there,and takes you on a wild ride of quirky characters,and circumstances that will make you laugh your ass off. This book
...more
Cathrine ☯
Jun 05, 2015 Cathrine ☯ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites

With over 200,000 reviews on this modern classic I'm thinking a rating should suffice but will add my thoughts. Growing up during the same time period in which it is set, much was personally relevant about the times recounted in these pages.

A bitter-sweet, brilliant, laugh out loud, tragic tale about an epic friendship, beginning in the 1950s and into the Vietnam War era. From my viewpoint too long-winded in sections, yet so worth the ride. It requires patience from the reader as we follow them
...more
Camie
Feb 21, 2016 Camie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
11 year old Owen Meany doesn't believe in mistakes, so when he hits the baseball which causes his best friend Johnny Wheelwright's mother's death , he begins to see himself as an " instrument of God." This coming of age tale of the two boys growing up in a small town in 1950's New Hampshire, is a worthy modern classic about friendship and faith. Owen (though beloved) is described as a small, strange boy with a croaky voice and when he glimpses the exact date and circumstance of his death while p ...more
Jeff
Aug 22, 2013 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book is about faith and its opposite, doubt. It’s about people who look for something outside themselves to give themselves faith, in a higher power, in others, in themselves.

Of the John Irving books I’ve read, it’s probably the most fully realized. At times, critics have called Irving’s writing Dickensian and for once that description holds water. The story and the thematic elements mesh well. The amount of quirkiness apparent in Irving’s earlier novels has been reduced. No matter what Vic
...more
Penny
Mar 29, 2008 Penny rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've been giving too many four star reviews lately, so thought I'd mix it up with a review of a book I have conflicted feelings about. Thus, two stars for Owen Meany. Which, by the way, is my favorite of the John Irving novels I've read. Not a fan.

I enjoyed many elements of Owen Meany as I read it. Liked the narrator's family (mother, grandmother, cousins) and the business with the stuffed armadillo. Liked his description of his school days, and thought that the section in which Owen transfixes
...more
helen the bookowl
Wow, this was such a weird reading experience! I knew from the beginning that this was going to be a great story, and I kind of devoured its 700 pages, but at the same time, I kept wondering why that was? This book deals with themes and a time period that I'm not very familiar with. Themes such as the Vietnam War, USA in the 1950s and 1960s and Catholicism. The time period was very vague to me, and I'm sure that an older reader would benefit more than me from reading this story.
Yet, I loved it!
...more
Emma
Jul 29, 2009 Emma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is quite possibly my favorite book of all time. I think that it is Irving at his best. There are events set out early on in the book that tie back in at the end beautifully. I finished this book on the bus from Mont st. Michelle and cried my eyes out. The characters were just believable enough and yet still stretched the bounds of what you would expect. I hope that someday I find a stuffed armadillo...
Nishat
If faith is what it takes to survive then religion is the necessary guide of mankind. And God is more than a choice.

Set in New Hampshire in the 50's & 60's, John Irving, one of the warmest American storyteller of our time crafts a memorable and epic tale of two friends dissecting the very nature of religion, the necessary conditions of faith and the hypocrisy of the chosen representatives of God in this world.

A Prayer For Owen Meany both rejoices and mourns for the highly political and war-
...more
Dem
Aug 09, 2013 Dem rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Prayer for Owen Meany was a novel that I had wanted to read for a very long time and was it worth the wait.....................?

For the first 150 pages I was totally engrossed in the story and the characters of John, Owen, John’s Mother Tabitha and Grandmother. But as the story progressed it became bogged down with an over abundance of details, facts and political and religious opinions and at times I found myself totally switching off and longing to get back to the story I started.

I really fe
...more
Skylar Burris
This is a well written book, with unique characters, and it was a "good read," but I don't think I can say I actually liked it. A Prayer for Owen Meany, despite the narrator's insistence that the Resurrection is the heart of Christianity, presents a joyless Christianity. Christ said, "I have come to give you life, and to give it more abundantly," yet no Christian in this story seems to have an "abundant" life.

I noticed that all of the characters who are representatives of Christianity, even Owe
...more
Jacob
October 2011

The World According to Garp is one of my favorite books, and my favorite of John Irving's books as well. It was also my first Irving novel. I first read it in 2006, and it was nearly a year before I worked up the courage to read more of Irving's work. Garp was such a good novel, I was worried that anything else wouldn't measure up to it--or it would, and Garp would suddenly pale in comparison to something even better. I'm not sure which possibility scared me more.

It turned out to be
...more
Book Concierge
Audio narrated by Joe Barrett

Opening sentence: 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 a modern fable; a story of faith, moral courage, destiny and friendship. Covering the period from 1953 to the late 1980s, Irving uses the narrator – Johnny Wheelwright
...more
Jil
Nov 20, 2012 Jil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the faithful, the political, the tiny
Recommended to Jil by: Micah's mother
Much like Garcia Marquez's Vivir Para Contarlo, this book took FOREVER, and I sometimes felt embarrassed to have been carrying it around for weeks. I felt obligated to apologize to people: "I swear I'm a fast reader! I've just had a lot of work to do, and... this fucking thing is 550 pages!"

Somehow, though, it never felt that long. It never felt tedious, I mean; it felt long in the sense that it seemed I had known Owen and Johnny forever. It felt long in that the passage of time was steady and
...more
Saoirse Sterling
Read as part of the #InfiniteVariety2016 Reading Challenge based on the BBC's Big Read poll.

Usually I don't go for apologising for my opinions on books, but I feel I'll have to in regards to this book. It mostly concerns religion. I am not agnostic and I am not atheist. Atheism denotes that, whilst there is a god or gods to be believed in, I do not believed in him or them. This is not how I feel toward gods: there are no gods. I suppose, appropriately some of you may feel, you can call me "nothi
...more
Lisa Vegan
I zoomed through this, whenever I was willing to pick it up at all, because I just didn’t like it and didn’t want to have to spend too much time reading it.

I should like it. I have many friends who’ve given it 5 and 4 stars, much of it takes place in “my era” and I feel as though I should like Irving’s work, all of it.

But this is just too weird for me. And I really couldn’t stand all the content about religion and faith and the way it was addressed I found incredibly irritating. Very peculiar st
...more
Noce
Aug 31, 2011 Noce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Come un disegno di Escher


Avvertenze.

Prima di iniziare questo romanzo, siete pregati di munirvi del seguente Book-kit:

-Un vasto, quanto variegato campionario di espressioni facciali, da sfoggiare di pari passo con le molteplici emozioni di queste quasi 600 pagine. C'è di tutto, ma proprio tutto; dalla faccia angosciata a quella incredula, da quella divertita a quella intimamente commossa, da quella riflessiva a quella estasiata, e così via.

- Google o Wikipedia a portata di mano.
Il contesto politi
...more
Kirstie
Dec 27, 2007 Kirstie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who love literature
I have a secret to tell...I wasn't always a huge book reader. I grew up in a family of avid readers and it was always joked that my mom was born with a book in her hand. But, for me, when I was in high school, I chose to stick to shorter novels like Catcher in the Rye and The Bell Jar and anything over 500 pages seemed just way too daunting. I remember thinking that for a long time picking up A Prayer For Owen Meany, which is easily Irving's best in the four of his I've read (Hotel New Hampshire ...more
Carol
Dec 31, 2014 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Stars. Although somewhat tedious at times, definitely an amazing and unforgettable story. Owen, with his unusual voice and diminutive size is a gifted, emotional, and peculiar character with a commanding presence. Highly recommend for those with the time (600+ pages and a bit of patience)
aPriL does feral sometimes
Oh, for f*ck's sake - really?

Owen Meany's dialogue is printed in ALL CAPS all of the time...

Did any Christian reader truly miss that HUGE literary clue pointing to the custom of printing Jesus' dialogues in bright red in the New Testament portion of many of the Christian bible versions?

Vietnam was Buddhist, not Christian, by the way. Quite an ironic intersection of unthinking didactic beliefs on so many levels...

Whatever. What a bore this book is to read.

I thought after awhile the novel was ma
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls (Sparknotes Literature Guides)
  • Angle of Repose
  • The Lords of Discipline
  • The Brothers K
  • Straight Man
  • Alias Grace
  • Sophie's Choice
  • The Bonfire of the Vanities
  • Cold Comfort Farm
  • The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse
  • A Town Like Alice
  • Possession
  • Fifth Business
  • Oscar and Lucinda
  • Felicia's Journey
  • Skinny Legs and All
  • The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint
  • The Shipping News
3075
JOHN IRVING was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1942. His first novel, Setting Free the Bears, was published in 1968, when he was twenty-six. He competed as a wrestler for twenty years, and coached wrestling until he was forty-seven.
Mr. Irving has been nominated for a National Book Award three times—winning once, in 1980, for his novel The World According to Garp. He received an O. Henry Award
...more
More about John Irving...

Share This Book



“If you care about something you have to protect it – If you’re lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.” 1826 likes
“When someone you love dies, and you're not expecting it, you don't lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time—the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes—when there's a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she's gone, forever—there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.” 1782 likes
More quotes…