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A Prayer for Owen Meany

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  242,838 Ratings  ·  11,011 Reviews
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 Mr. Irving's most heartbreaking character.

"Roomy, intelligent, exhilarating and darkly comic...Dickensian in scope...Quite stunning, and very ambitious."--Los Angeles Times Book Review

"A lavish meditation on predes
Mass Market Paperback, First Mass Market Edition, 617 pages
Published May 1990 by Ballantine Books (first published March 28th 1989)
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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)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Nick G
Oct 07, 2009 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.


I think I fell in love with book as I read one specific sen
Emily May
Mar 17, 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
Jul 15, 2007 Marty rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 10, 2007 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.

Aug 14, 2007 Diane rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 31, 2007 Tom rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 22, 2007 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
Aug 22, 2015 Maxwell rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own-it, 2017
I might need to come back and write a longer review after I've thought about this book for a while because there is definitely a lot to ponder. It's a 600+ page book that I never fully loved, but I never wanted to stop reading it. Objectively, I think this book is really smart and thoughtful and 'good' (whatever that means). But my heart was never fully in it. This review is not going to make a lot of sense because I don't think I've made sense of my feelings towards this one yet. Anyway, it mad ...more
Jun 26, 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
Nishat rated it it was amazing
Jan 09, 2016
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
Oct 25, 2016 Choko rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
*** 5 ***

A buddy read with the most beloved Judy!!! Owen Meany was a gift!!!
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
Cathrine ☯️
Mar 25, 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
Apr 04, 2007 Anne rated it it was amazing
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
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
May 02, 2009 Gary rated it it was amazing
" 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
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!
Feb 12, 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
Oct 09, 2012 Jeff rated it really liked it
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
Jan 09, 2008 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...
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
Aug 08, 2012 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)
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
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
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
Theresa Leone Davidson
John Irving's writing has always been for me a mixture of wonderful and unbearably sad; fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint, this one is no different. I love the characters, especially Owen, and the story is great. My only complaint is that this is a very long novel, one for which fifty to a hundred pages could have been cut out with the story being essentially the same. Nevertheless, I really liked it and would definitely recommend, though the novel is not as good as my fa ...more
Jun 30, 2011 Noce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Come un disegno di Escher


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
Oct 18, 2008 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
Jo Woolfardis
Read as part of The Infinite Variety Reading Challenge, based on the BBC's Big Read Poll of 2003.

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 "
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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 about John Irving...

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“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.” 1910 likes
“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.” 1862 likes
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