Get a free audiobook

A Prayer for Owen Meany

Written by: John Irving
Narrated by: Joe Barrett
Length: 27 hrs and 19 mins
5 out of 5 stars (32 ratings)

CDN$ 14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Publisher's Summary

Earphones Award Winner (AudioFile Magazine)

Of all of John Irving's books, this is the one that lends itself best to audio. In print, Owen Meany's dialogue is set in capital letters; for this production, Irving himself selected Joe Barrett to deliver Meany's difficult voice as intended.

In the summer of 1953, two 11-year-old boys – best friends – are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy's mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn't believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God's instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul ball is extraordinary and terrifying.

As an added bonus, when you purchase our Audible Modern Vanguard production of John Irvin's book, you'll also get an exclusive Jim Atlas interview that begins when the audiobook ends.

©1989 Garp Enterprises Ltd (P)2008 Audible, Inc.

What the critics say

"This moving book comes across like a concerto in this audio version, with a soloist—Owen's voice—rising from the background of an orchestral narration. This book, one of the finest of its time, gets the narration that it deserves." ( AudioFile)
“John Irving, who writes novels in the unglamorous but effective way Babe Ruth used to hit home runs, deserves a medal not only for writing this book but for the way he has written it. . . . A Prayer for Owen Meany is a rare creation in the somehow exhausted world of late twentieth-century fiction—it is an amazingly brave piece of work . . . so extraordinary, so original, and so enriching. . . . Readers will come to the end feeling sorry to leave [this] richly textured and carefully wrought world.” (Stephen King)
"Roomy, intelligent, exhilarating, and darkly comic...Dickensian in scope....Quite stunning and very ambitious." ( Los Angeles Times Book Review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    27
  • 4 Stars
    4
  • 3 Stars
    1
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Performance

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    27
  • 4 Stars
    4
  • 3 Stars
    1
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Story

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    27
  • 4 Stars
    3
  • 3 Stars
    2
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

repeat listen

I read this book and loved it. listening to it was again a treat. The narrator is super skilled and only heightens this pleasurable expierence. Im usually mighty critical but I just don't have the ability to be on this story. #Audible1

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Exceptional story

At first I thought there was too much detail and the story moved slowly. By the mid part of the book, I realized the author was skillfully weaving a tale together, one in which every stitch had a purpose. The last few chapters were fantastic. I enjoyed the narrator. For my first Audible book it may have been a bit too long but in the end, I have no regrets.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Simply amazing!

This story is full of life and very exciting! The voices of the characters were so carefully selected and it added to the story. Irving did a great job at ensuring the voices did not take away from story line or crowd it. It simply brought the characters to life. I could not stop listening and enjoyed it very much.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

incredible reading of a wonderful book

I loved listening to this story. the performance was hands down the best I've heard of any aidio book. the story is easy to follow even with long gaps between listening, but still gives lots to think about and deep meanings.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Incredible narration

I know a few people who have given up with this book as it can be a bit hard to get through, but Joe Barrett’s narration elevated this book (pun intended - if you’ve read it, you’ll get it!) to a whole other level. Loved it!

Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Barry
  • Petaluma, CA, United States
  • 2015-07-29

Painfully nostalgic

It's been about a quarter of a century since I read this the first time. I was amazed at how fast the beginning of the book moved. I remember the end of the book dragging on, but that's not true. Irving juggles time so that the actual book is always moving. It's the book's nominal timeline that drags. I am even more impressed the second time around with how Irving has constructed this book.

Normally, for me to enthusiastic about a novel, at least one of the characters has to undergo some kind of development. Despite having a slate of really interesting, well-defined characters, it is hard to say if any of them develop over the course of the book. The book is told by the narrator, John Wheelwright, as an extended reminiscence of the most important person in his life, Owen Meany. It is hard to say if Owen is ultimately a positive influence on John's life. I think that sort of murky mystery is part of my fascination. But frankly, I cared a lot more about what was going on with Owen than about the narrator. Sorry, John.

Somehow, I did not realize how much this book was about Vietnam the first time I read it. Not about the war per se, but about its effects on a generation of Americans. And from that perspective, I do care a great deal about what happens to John Wheelwright. It's just that Owen steals every scene that he's in.

For those of us who remember the era in which it is set, this is a dead-on evocation of what the America of those times felt like. I said painfully nostalgic in the heading, but that does the book a disservice. The fact is that Irving has layered together a great story that is at once timeless while being totally specific to a time and place. It doesn't get much better than that.

There is a bonus feature at the end: an interview with John Irving. This was an excellent addition with some key bits of insight and background information. Heartily recommended.

30 of 30 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Tango
  • Texas
  • 2014-08-16

A Modern Classic

If I could choose one phrase to summarize this masterpiece, I couldn't do better than the title of Jan's review - "Not written - crafted...exquisitely" (nicely said, Jan!). Although APFOM has an interesting plot and a shattering ending, if you read this book just for the story, you will miss the best part; APFOM is truly a modern classic with some of the best and most engaging use of literary devices and provocative thought I've ever seen. To list a few:

1. Enveloping and evocative use of setting - both historical and geographic - to set the tone and pacing
2. Masterful use of the first person form. First person is challenging when you want to portray detail for many characters. A Prayer not only provides detail characterization for a great cast of eccentrics, its primary protagonist is not the POV character. In lesser hands, the reader would not be able to relate to Owen Meany with all his strangeness when portrayed only from the POV of his friend, John Wheelwright, but Irving not only slowly makes you understand Owen, but truly love him.
3. Foreshadowing, allusion, and symbolism so subtle and finely woven into the narrative that you will not realize until the ending that you have been told repeatedly what is going to happen and still the ending is gut-wrenching and shocking and inevitable.
4. Some of the most insightful commentary on religion and faith that I have ever read in fiction. The beautiful, tragic, and repulsive aspects of religion are all woven into this narrative with little jewels of wisdom scattered throughout. One of my favorite quotes, "My belief in God disturbs and unsettles me much more than not believing ever did. Unbelief seems vastly harder to me now than belief does, but belief poses so many unanswerable questions." In the end, A Prayer is a real tribute to active Faith.

I read the book many years ago when it was first published and I think it can be advantageous to see this book in print to understand how Irving wrote it (Owen's dialog is in all caps and Irving often throws a word said in Owen's voice into the middle of John's sentences) so you will appreciate the phenomenal narrative interpretation of the book by Joe Barrett - truly an outstanding performance of a challenging book. I have had a permanent place on my bookshelves for APFOM for years, but not re-read it just because the ending is hard. However, I couldn't resist the audiobook when it was on sale and now I realize I should have picked it up long ago because it is more than worth full price. If you have read the book, I strongly encourage you to listen to the audiobook - you will not be disappointed. And, Irving packs so much beautiful prose and food for thought in this book, it is one that really should be read or heard more than once.

63 of 66 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Alan
  • 2011-03-28

Outstanding

I listen to a lot of books while i drive my roadtrain in Western Australia, it keeps me going through the long nights. When I got this book I was a little concerned with its length and seemingly lack of interest in the plot etc.. Well all I can say is the narrator was fantastic and the story was great, quite often i wanted to sit in my truck after arriving at my destination after a 12 hour shift to listen to a bit more.

123 of 130 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Esther
  • Robina, Australia
  • 2011-05-29

The Best ever audio book

I have listened to many books in the past but this has to be the best in my estimation. John Irving is a genius and Joe Barrett reads this book to perfection. A totally mesmerising story that has weaved its magic into my soul; I will be thinking about these complex characters for years to come. I will be downloading more of this author and will look for other books by this reader. Thank you John Irving

68 of 72 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Annette
  • Bradenton, FL, United States
  • 2011-03-17

A Prayer for Owen Meany

I have always enjoyed John Irving's writing, but I haven't read anything by him in many years. This book did not disappoint.John Irving's has a wonderful skill of turning a phrase and makes the common ideas seem ridiculous and is always questioning convention. Brilliant! Joe Barrett's narration of this book is also brilliant. The range he uses to individualize each character enables the listener to "see" each character individually. I was a little skeptical to buy this book since I love John Irving and I didn't want the narration to "ruin" the story. I am enjoying this production tremendously and will encourage anyone to give it a listen.

42 of 45 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Katherine
  • 2012-06-29

A wonderful story

Excellent narration of a difficult subject - how to reproduce "The Voice" of Owen Meany - it could have been irritating but Joe Barrett has succeeded in making it believable.
John Irving has everything in this story - growing up, family life, tragedy, mystery, politics, religion, faith and humour.
I love this book.

30 of 34 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • MaDonna
  • Victoria, TX, United States
  • 2011-05-22

EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT!!

I really enjoyed this book, keeps reader interested and waiting for the next part. Highly recommend!

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Patti
  • Chittenango, NY, United States
  • 2013-06-14

Very Intriguing

I did not connect John Irving to Cider House Rules at first. But after listening for awhile, the same delightful humor style came rushing back and I was thrilled. How Irving unravels this story, interweaving current with past is tricky and clever. And just as in Cider House Rules, he plays out a rather political theme ever so carefully that you do not even realize it is happening.

The narration is also rather clever. At first it was annoying when "the voice" was used even for one-word illustrations. But it truly added to the story. I began to anticipate it.

There is a wonderful interview with John Irving at the end. That was great, getting some insight on his writing style.

There were so many fascinating twists and turns to the story. It also brought back some wonderful (I see I am using "wonderful" a lot but truly that is how I feel) memories of my own childhood. It all made me wonder why I have not read more of John Irving. I plan to do just that!!

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • John S
  • MA
  • 2014-01-10

Favorite book of all time.

John Irving is not for everyone, and if you have not listened to one of books choose this one. If not this one, then Cider House Rules. I have over 500 books in my Audible library and this by far is my favorite. John Irving books are by no means" thrillers", but the characters he creates are memorable, especially Owen Meany. Sad, funny, poignant this book should be on everyone's list of great American fiction. Told during the turbulent 60s the book is set in a small town in NH and follows the life of the main character (narrator) and Owen Meany, who is deformed in body but not in spirit . The ending will bring tears to your eyes:


And they were also lifting up Owen Meany, taking him out of our hands. O God -- please give him back! I shall keep asking You."

36 of 43 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Marlène
  • Suisse
  • 2011-03-24

I love the atmosphere and the clever reflections

When the helplessness of certain characters, the weirdness of Owen, the sad death of a young woman become qualities on which this intricate and incredibly clever story is based, you can only raise your hat. The suspense with which you wait for the end may well keep you up - like me - for hours...

25 of 30 people found this review helpful