A Prayer for Owen Meany

A Prayer for Owen Meany

eBook - 2012
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"A remarkable novel. . . . 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, Washington Post

A PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick

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.

In the summer of 1953, two eleven-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.

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

"Brilliantly cinematic . . . Irving shows considerable skill as scene after scene mounts to its moving climax." — ALFRED KAZIN, New York Times


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m
maiki69
Mar 12, 2021

Prayer, in practice, is to hope against hope. Merriam Webster defines it as: 1(a): an address (such as a petition) to God or a god in word or thought; (b): a set order of words used in praying; (c): an earnest request or wish. 2: the act or practice of praying to God or a god kneeling in prayer. 3: a religious service consisting chiefly of prayers — often used in plural. 4: something prayed for. 5: a slight chance.

As a child, I was constantly befriending the down-and-out kids. The ones, who through no fault of their own, were picked on for being different. Whether that was because of a speech impediment, or limp or some other physical or mental handicap, I couldn't resist hanging with them. The stranger they were physically, the better. My mother referred to these friends as my "strays," like they were some sort of street urchins who'd followed me home. To her credit though, she never once didn't welcome them with open arms. At her table, there was always room for strays.

Owen Meany, the protagonist of John Irving's international bestseller A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY, may be the strangest character to grace the pages of fiction. A stray in every sense of the word, Owen is strange physically, socially, audibly and even spiritually. Set in Gravesend, New Hampshire, Irving paints a portrait of New England small town life, lending broad strokes to social distinction. It's norms are suffocating. In Gravesend, it matters which church you belong to, which school you attend (this is a crucial tell-tell sign of economic status), where your money comes from - even how old it is - and how early your ancestors arrived on the shores of North America. It is not a place for stepping outside the norm, yet Owen Meany manages it often and brilliantly.

Narrated by Owen's best friend, his account of growing up with Owen Meany is shared with love and wonder. An unlikely hero, Owen's Christ-like love results in him rescuing his best friend time and time again. Whether it be from his unruly cousins, or the US Army, or a false narrative, Owen is there for him.

Physically, Owen Meany is small. At the age of eleven he's the size of a five-year old. He apparently is inflicted with an exotic form of dwarfism, with translucent pearl-like skin, ears that protrude like a certain STAR WARS character, and vocals with the effect of shouting through his nose. Treated like a pet by his peers, Owen's physique is so slight, a game is made in Sunday school of passing him overhead from one kid to the next. "PUT ME DOWN!" he would say in a strangled, emphatic falsetto. "CUT IT OUT! I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. PUT ME DOWN! YOU ASSHOLES!" Owen Meany makes a habit of speaking in ALL CAPS.

While it's a slippery slope to write a character whose most obvious attributes are physical abnormalities, Irving does it brilliantly. A lesser writer could easily come across as having a laugh at Owen Meany's expense. Rather, Irving uses his physical oddness to accentuate his strengths. Owen Meany isn't left at dwarfism. His character is imbued with traits deemed honorable in members of society, even one as socially discriminating as Gravesend. Irving doesn't do this to redeem the character of Owen Meany (he doesn't require it), but rather, to lift him up as the redeemer. The result is a character unlike any Irving's conjured before. Patriot, angel, spiritual adviser, little Owen Meany may be the biggest hero in modern American literature. With my penchant as a child for the odd, I believe Owen and I would have been best friends.

s
SAPL454
Sep 21, 2020

An ample title from a prestigious writer! Owen Meany deserves all the help he can get!

l
lindemuldercr
Sep 02, 2020

Modern Mrs Darcy

m
mikey69
Mar 16, 2020

Owen Meany is perhaps Irving's most comically genuine character to date. He's a slight fella, given none of the breaks life has to offer, and speaks only in CAPITAL LETTERS. He's also a patriot and stands closer to God than anybody you're likely to ever read about. Set in New England, Irving's at home sharing this story.

v
vkreads
Jun 17, 2019

This isbn 9780688077082 is paperback version; small print, many many pages. Hardcover format would be easier to read.

ArapahoeStaff26 Apr 26, 2019

I loved this book for its characters, plot, and hilarious scenes (which had me laughing out loud). The deeper themes of religious faith vs. doubt and free will vs. predestination were intriguing. Owen Meany's outrage at political deceit in the last half of the 20th century may ring true for citizens today.

m
maipenrai
Mar 22, 2019

In almost 70 years of reading one of the absolute best!!!!! Kristi & Abby Tabby

w
woodsbaker
Sep 16, 2018

This is THE great American novel. Funny, touching, and completely heart-breaking. I have purchased multiple copies of this book to give to many of my closest friends. It is the only one that I have done that.

ArapahoeJillK Sep 13, 2018

Authentic characters live in this richly textured story which begins in a small New Hampshire town in the 1960s. John Irving's use of ALL CAPS to symbolize Owen's unique voice is inspired.

m
made_up_name
Aug 08, 2018

This may be the best American novel ever written.

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Quotes

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m
maiki69
Mar 12, 2021

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. PUT ME DOWN! YOU ASSHOLES!"
-Owen Meany, A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY, by John Irving

m
mikey69
Mar 16, 2020

[Owen Meany's] a slight fella, given none of the breaks life has to offer, and speaks only in CAPITAL LETTERS.
http://www.penhead.org/

j
JuniperAvenue
Sep 21, 2013

"Faith takes practice," said Owen Meany.

j
JuniperAvenue
Sep 18, 2013

"...good friends are nothing to each other if they are not supportive."

d
DavidB
Jan 17, 2009

I could have told her that it was only our illusion that Owen Mean weighed 'nothing at all.' We were only children--we are only children-- I could have told her. What did we know about Owen? What did we truly know? We had the impression that everything was a game-- we thought we made everything up as we went along. When we were children,we had the impression that almost eveything was just for fun-- no harm intended, no damage done. When we held Owen Meany above our heads, when we passed him back and forth-- so effortlessly-- we believed that Owen weighed nothing at all. We did not realize that there were forces beyond our play. Now I know they were the forces that contributed to our illusion of Owen's weightlessness; they were the forces we didn't have faith to feel, they were the forces we failed to believe in-- and they were also the lifting up Owen Meany, taking him out of our hands. O God-- please give him back! I shall keep on asking You.

d
DavidB
Jan 17, 2009

By the time she came back, of course, we'd forgotten everything about whatever 'it' was-- because as soon as she left the room, we would fool around with a frenzy. Because being alone with our thoughts was no fun, we would pick up Owen Meany and pass him back and forth, overhead. We managed this while remaining seeted in our chairs- that was the challenge of the game. Someone-- I forgot who started it--would get up, seize Owen, sit back down with him, pass him to the next person, who would pass him on and so forth. The girls were included in this game; some of the girls were the most enthusiastic about it. Everyone could lift up Owen. We were very careful; we never dropped him. His shirt might become a litle rumpled. His necktie was so long, Owen tucked it in his trousers--or else it would have hung to his knees-- and his necktie often cam untucked; sometimes his change would fall out (in our faces). We always gave him his money back.

d
DavidB
Jan 17, 2009

In Sunday school, we developed a form of enterainment based on abusing Owen Meany, who was so small that not only did his feet not touch the floor when he sat in his chair-- his knees did not extend to the edge of his seat: therefore, his legs stuck out straight, like the legs of a doll. It was as if Owen Meany had been born without realistic joints

d
DavidB
Jan 12, 2009

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.

Summary

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m
maiki69
Mar 12, 2021

Owen Meany, the protagonist of John Irving's international bestseller A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY, is a strange cat. A stray in every sense of the word, Owen is strange physically, socially, audibly and even spiritually. Narrated by Owen's best friend, his account of growing up with Owen Meany is shared with love and wonder. Owen's Christ-like love results in him rescuing his best friend time and time again, be it from unruly cousins, the US Army, or a false narrative, Owen is there for him.

At the age of eleven, Owen is the size of a five-year old. Inflicted with an exotic form of dwarfism, he has translucent pearl-like skin, ears that protrude like an elf's, and vocals that tear words up like a cheese grater. While it's a slippery slope to endow a character with physical abnormalities, Irving does it brilliantly. He uses Owen's physical oddness to accentuate his strengths. And Irving doesn't abandon Owen Meany to dwarfism. He fleshes out Owen's character with traits deemed desirable by society, even one as socially stuck-up as the small New England town of Gravesend, New Hampshire, in which the story is set. Patriot, angel, spiritual adviser, with a little luck and prayer, little Owen Meany might exceed his own expectations.

m
mikey69
Mar 16, 2020

A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY (Ballantine Books, $6.99) is written with the natural grace few modern fiction writers are able to engineer. With Irving's guidance, the story unfolds, unimpeded by any expectation on the reader's part, because it takes only a few paragraphs to realize Owen Meany is unlike anybody the celebrated author has written before. The story is fresh, genuine, nonsensibly New England, classic Irving.

p
Pixieminion
Aug 01, 2016

This book is about Owen from the perspective of John, the narrator. They are best friends and the book takes us through their lives together. Early in the book, Owen hits the baseball that kills John's mother, whom they both love dearly. There is also the mystery of who John's father is as well as what will happen to Owen Meany (it becomes clear as you read that Owen has some kind of purpose). Overall, this book is more about faith (in the world, god, each other, etc.) than anything else. It will make you question the world around you as well as your place in it.

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p
Pixieminion
Aug 01, 2016

Pixieminion thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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