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A Prayer for Owen Meany

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4.23  ·  Rating details ·  272,927 ratings  ·  12,901 reviews
Eleven-year-old Owen Meany, playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire, hits a foul ball and kills his best friend's mother. Owen doesn't believe in accidents; he believes he is God's instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul is both extraordinary and terrifying. At moments a comic, self-deluded victim, but in the end the principal, tr ...more
Paperback, 637 pages
Published 1990 by Black Swan (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)
Tricia I listened to the audio cd version of this book, as I was driving back from Oregon to Wisconsin a week ago. I am so glad that I chose this book, this…moreI listened to the audio cd version of this book, as I was driving back from Oregon to Wisconsin a week ago. I am so glad that I chose this book, this format, and this timing! This is a book that deserves time and attention to the details, and the audio version helped me to do that. It is subtle, thoughtful, and carefully constructed. In order to fully appreciate it, it needs to be consumed with time and care. (less)
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4.23  · 
Rating details
 ·  272,927 ratings  ·  12,901 reviews


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Nick G
Oct 07, 2009 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
Mar 17, 2016 rated it liked it
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 15, 2007 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
Lisa
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Being in a melancholy mood, I was trying to think of a book that made me laugh tears. And the first one that came to mind was Owen Meany. I couldn't stop laughing, except for when I cried buckets.

Rarely do I read books that shake my emotional equilibrium in the same entertaining way. Owen Meany in all his absurdities will stay with me forever, just like the other characters, which I learned to love despite (or because of) their highly constructed lives, all serving the "big purpose" in the end.
...more
Jason
Aug 10, 2007 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
Diane
Aug 14, 2007 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
Edward Lorn
Aug 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Solid four stars. This is book seven in my John Irving Challenge. Let it be known that I'm an idiot. Irving's books shouldn't be read this close together. He takes upwards of four years to write these fucking things, and reading them back-to-back only highlights the little repetitive details that an author will forget about in four-plus years. I do not suggest being an idiot like me. Take your time with this author's back catalog. I'd say, they would be best read a year apart from each other. No ...more
Tom
Dec 31, 2007 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
Feb 22, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Andrew Smith
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s a while since I finished this book – I felt I just needed a little time to gather my thoughts on it; there’s a lot to take in. For those who have yet to experience this amazing book I’ll quickly summarise the set-up. The two main characters are Johnny Wheelwright (through whose voice the tale is told) and his best friend Owen Meany. Owen is small in stature (possible less than five feet tall, fully grown) but big in character. His voice – we’ll come back to that – dominates the novel. Set i ...more
Brian
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“…belief poses so many unanswerable questions!”

I first read “A Prayer for Owen Meany” about 20 years ago, and loved it. Having just reread it at age 40, I liked it.
The others in my book club who read it in their younger days and were returning to it had the same feelings, so I’m not the odd man out.
The reasons I like this text are numerous.
First off, John Irving writes the hypocrisy and contradictions of human nature very well, and in a manner that does not judge, just acknowledges. Our narrat
...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jun 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Maxwell
Aug 22, 2015 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
Cheri
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
I'm so glad they released 'A Prayer for Owen Meany: A Novel' for Kindle. I would have read it eventually otherwise, but I read this in the midst of multiple flights almost back to back. There were minor things that kept me from giving this five stars, but they are typical of John Irving's writing style.All in all, I loved this book.
Raeleen Lemay
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, adult-fiction
*3.75/5*

WHAT A JOURNEY THAT WAS. I may write a longer review later, but basically this book was amazing, a bit too much focus on religion for me personally, but overall I really enjoyed it. This book has a lot of the same elements that The Goldfinch has, so I recommend giving this a try if you enjoyed that book, but some things just didn't 100% click for me. This is one of those books I feel like everybody should read though, because Owen Meany is an entirely unique character, and one that every
...more
Steve
Aug 08, 2012 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
Choko
Oct 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
*** 5 ***

A buddy read with the most beloved Judy!!! Owen Meany was a gift!!!
Samantha
I can honestly say that this is one of the worst novels I've ever read. John Irving's writing was terrible and his rambling, seemingly unedited style was the death of A Prayer for Owen Meany. The novel is about two boys growing up as best friends in New Hampshire in the '50s and '60s. One boy is John, the narrator, who is telling the story looking back from the 1980s. The other boy is Owen Meany, whose small size, high-pitched voice, and uncanny religious fervor make him an outsider. Owen, as Jo ...more
J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, fiction
This was back when John Irving was at the top of his game! OWEN MEANY is in my top 20 novels of all time.
Anne
Apr 04, 2007 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
John
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A long book which I didn’t want to end. I’m not alone in wanting the star of the show back.

He (OM that is) and John Wheelwright are best friends who grow up together in New Hampshire. Their lives are intertwined. They love each other in an almost biblical sense. The Bible and religion will figure quite prominently here, but don’t let that put you off.

These boys are born in 1942, (the same year as John Irving) so we follow them through interesting times in the US of A – the cold war, Cuba, Kenned
...more
Ashley
Jun 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Johann (jobis89)
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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."

Eleven-year-old Owen Meany, playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire, hits a foul ball and kills his best friend’s mother. Owen doesn’t believe in accidents; he believes he is God’s instrument.

If you had told me, “Johann... you’re going to read this book that focuses on topics like the Vietnam War, American/Canadian pol
...more
Jeff
Oct 09, 2012 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
Cathrine ☯️
Mar 25, 2015 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
Gary
May 02, 2009 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
Penny
Mar 29, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Dem
Aug 09, 2013 rated it liked it
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
AudioBookLover
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book. The reader did a really great job. At first, the narrator's voice for Owen was annoying, but it was supposed to be that way. I got used to it after awhile.
Book *****
Audiobook *****
Helene Jeppesen
Nov 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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11,214 followers
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
“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.” 2185 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.” 1913 likes
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