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A Prayer for Owen Meany Mass Market Paperback – April 14, 1990


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Mass Market Paperback, April 14, 1990
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 619 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reissue edition (April 14, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345361792
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345361790
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,012 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #461,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Owen Meany is a dwarfish boy with a strange voice who accidentally kills his best friend's mom with a baseball and believes--accurately--that he is an instrument of God, to be redeemed by martyrdom. John Irving's novel, which inspired the 1998 Jim Carrey movie Simon Birch, is his most popular book in Britain, and perhaps the oddest Christian mystic novel since Flannery O'Connor's work. Irving fans will find much that is familiar: the New England prep-school-town setting, symbolic amputations of man and beast, the Garp-like unknown father of the narrator (Owen's orphaned best friend), the rough comedy. The scene of doltish the doltish headmaster driving a trashed VW down the school's marble staircase is a marvelous set piece. So are the Christmas pageants Owen stars in. But it's all, as Highlights magazine used to put it, "fun with a purpose." When Owen plays baby Jesus in the pageants, and glimpses a tombstone with his death date while enacting A Christmas Carol, the slapstick doesn't cancel the fact that he was born to be martyred. The book's countless subplots add up to a moral argument, specifically an indictment of American foreign policy--from Vietnam to the Contras.

The book's mystic religiosity is steeped in Robertson Davies's Deptford trilogy, and the fatal baseball relates to the fatefully misdirected snowball in the first Deptford novel, Fifth Business. Tiny, symbolic Owen echoes the hero of Irving's teacher Günter Grass's The Tin Drum--the two characters share the same initials. A rollicking entertainment, Owen Meany is also a meditation on literature, history, and God. --Tim Appelo

From Publishers Weekly

Although he is convincing in his appraisal of the tragedy of Vietnam and in his religious philosophizing, "Irving's storytelling skills have gone seriously astray in this contrived, preachy, tedious tale of the eponymous Owen Meany, a latter-day prophet and Christ-like figure who dies a martyr after having inspired true Christian belief in the narrator Johnny Wheelwright," warned PW . Author tour.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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More About the Author

John Irving published his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, in 1968. He has been nominated for a National Book Award three times-winning once, in 1980, for the novel The World According to Garp. He also received an O. Henry Award, in 1981, for the short story "Interior Space." In 1992, Mr. Irving was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2000, he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules-a film with seven Academy Award nominations. In 2001, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

For more information about the author, please visit www.john-irving.com

Customer Reviews

I just finished reading the book for the third time in ten years.
Amazon Customer
The characters are well drawn and as this quite long book progresses, the reader gets to know them very well.
BJR
It is one of those books that will make you laugh out loud and cry, too.
Charlotte Sterling

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

273 of 293 people found the following review helpful By shel99 on August 15, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"A Prayer for Owen Meany" is NOT your typical book. Of course, that could be said about any of John Irving's novels; his is one of the most unusual voices I've ever read. But this one is especially unique. Owen Meany is probably the most memorable character that I've ever come across in a book of any genre. A dwarf with a voice so striking and strange that his dialogue is WRITTEN IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, he also believes (rightly!) that he is an instrument of God. It is sometimes confusing to follow the jumps in time; the narrator, Owen's best friend Johnny Wheelwright, alternates the story of his growing up with Owen with anecdotes from his "present" life in the late 80's.
Predestination, faith, doubt, politics, love, hate, family, friendship...these are all themes that make appearances in this book. Furthermore, it is a page-turner that is impossible to put down, right from the start. I read the entire second half of the book in one marathon reading session, wasting an entire morning because I couldn't bear to stop, knowing that more revelations were in store. I've read some of Irving's other novels, and loved them all, but I think "A Prayer for Owen Meany" has been the best so far.
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112 of 120 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 23, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is undoubtedly the best book I have ever read. The plot is so complicated and intriguing that when you reach the end, and you finally see how John Irving ties together all of the intricate details, you are left dumbstruck. Despite the many carefully crafted foreshadowing clues, it's impossible to figure this one out until the end. If you've loved other books by Irving, you'll find the same quirky characters, rich symbolism, and literary craft.
Un..forget..able!
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184 of 206 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Wohler on May 20, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I started reading A Prayer for Owen Meany at the urging of a friend, part of our on-going reading program. She had just started the novel, and said it was funny and I would enjoy it. I never expected that it would move me so. John Irving has written a profound novel of faith, friendship, and fate.
It took me one or two sections to understand Irving's style. He likes to jump around a lot, and as the story is written as a memoir, that is certainly understandable. But Johnny Wheelwright (the narrative voice of the story) wants to tell us too much, too fast, and it doesn't all make sense at first. Only one thing is clear from the beginning: Owen Meany is destined to change Johnny's life.
Owen and Johnny are friends in New Hampshire in the 1950s. They have a unique bond which due in part to Owen's extraordinary presence. The dwarfed child has a strange voice that chills most people (including Johnny's grandmother), but he also has an adult-like wisdom and understanding. The bond between Owen and Johnny is sealed by a freak accident when Owen hits a baseball, killing Johnny's mother.
As they grow up, it becomes clear to Johnny that Owen thinks he is guided by God. The accident with Johnny's mother is just one incident that ultimately will lead Johnny to find his own faith.
There are moments of biting humor in the novel as well as moments of sadness. Although the majority of the story centers on Johnny's childhood, it continues through his high school and college years. As expected for the setting, Kennedy and the Vietnam War become important themes throughout the story.
There are also moments when Johnny -- writing the novel in 1987 -- steps out of character to tell the reader in a diary-like fashion about his life in the present as a teacher.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By jehanne on April 24, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Ten years ago, I read a "Prayer for Owen Meany" for the first time. Since then, I have re-read the book 20 maybe 30 times and, even now, it still manages to impress and move me. (Note: "Owen Meany" is the only book with a religious theme that does not disgust me. Agnostics and athiests need not fear this work; it is neither preachy nor possessing of a saccharine-sweet sentimentality.) Now, "Owen Meany" is indeed the kind of book that people seem to either love or hate. Very few show ambivelence towards this work. I believe, however, that most of those who dislike this book simply lack the patience necessary in order to fall in love with it.
Standard Complaints Made By Many: It's slow to start, has too much detail, not enough "action," blah blah blah. My response to skeptics is this: John Irving is a writer strongly influenced by Dickens and, as such, his storytelling has a leisurely, near-Victorian quality to it. His is old-fashioned writing but never BAD writing. The first chapter of "Owen Meany" consists mostly of historical details. This high level of detail sets up the events outlined in the remainder of the book and is absolutely essential to the storytelling. Having trouble getting through the first 75 pages? Hey, take your ritalin and remember that books require a committment on the part of the reader and are supposed to move at a different, slower pace than that of television or of the movies.
And speaking of movies, if you loved "Simon Birch," you will hate "Owen Meany." That nauseating film--that travesty of a movie--bears as much resemblance to the book as Demi Moore's "Scarlet Letter" does to Nathaniel Hawthorne's masterpiece.
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