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A Prayer for Owen Meany Paperback – May 1 1990

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan (May 1 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552993697
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552993692
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 399 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (925 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #406,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

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 --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 21 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have read many, many books, and I have never found one that I like better than Owen Meany. I have read it over and over, and I still end with the same question in mind: Did Irving know the ending when he started the book? The most minor things in the story make the ending happen when they all come together. When you first read it, how could you know that the pracice of that basketball shot could mean so much? I am sorry to hear that Irving is going to re-write his current book. I can hardly wait for every one he writes, but Owen is a the top of the list.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S Page on June 20 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The worn-out narrator lets the tempo down compared with the brilliant third-person narration of, e.g., "The Cider House Rules", but the trade-off is the emotional intensity goes up. Irving is great and this is one of his best.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Laraine on May 1 2015
Format: Hardcover
A friend recommended this book to me and lent me her copy. The friend is a fellow book worm and we share so many favourite books and authors and I thought I would likely love it too. I found it a very long read, a good read in a lot of ways but it felt to me as I was reading it that I was back in high school and doing my required reading. The story revolves around two young boys, the narrator John and Owen Meany, a very diminutive boy with an unusual voice. Owen is smarter than everyone else, even the teachers in the school he goes to and believes that he is touched by God, which as the book progresses, appears to be the case indeed. Owen accidentally kills John's beloved Mother with a baseball during a little league game, and after that, the boys are bound together by the shared tragedy. As a member of the Baby Boomer generation, I felt quite comfortable to the social references and political situations that wove throughout this book. I read the book, enjoyed the book, but I can't say I love the book or it's one of my favourite books of all time...I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone else to read, and quite frankly, felt very glad when I turned the last page. Irving writes long and literate books, but I have to admit, like his "Cider House Rules", although I enjoyed the read, I am not a huge fan of him as an author. But I get why so many others think he is wonderful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Darlene TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 12 2012
Format: MP3 CD
A Prayer for Owen Meany is told in the first-person by Johnny Wheelwright, the illegitimate son of Tabitha Wheelwright who comes from a well-to-do family in Gravesend, New Hampshire. The timeline alternates from the present-day where Johnny is in his mid-40s to his childhood. He attributes his belief in God to his childhood friend, Owen Meany.

I think we all knew an "Owen Meany" in school: The boy who was smaller than average and who everyone picked on. The children weren't actually cruel to Owen, but they took pleasure in passing Owen over their heads from hand to hand because he was so light. Even though Johnny participated in this type of behaviour, he did consider Owen to be his best friend. Although he is diminutive in size, Owen has a big personality and is very forthright in expressing his feelings.

As Johnny and Owen grow up together, we see that Owen is steadfast in his belief that everything in his life happens for a reason. During the play of A Christmas Carol, Owen - who is portraying the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come - has a revelation. When he points out the headstone to the man playing Scrooge, Owen sees his own name on the headstone along with his dates of birth and death. While he does share that he sees his own name on the gravestone, he does not reveal to anyone the date of his death.

Owen lives his life with the knowledge of when and how he is going to die, as evidenced (in his mind) by the prophecy of both of his vision and his recurring dream about his death. He does not divulge all the details to anyone, not even Johnny. He truly believes that God's plan for him is to die a hero, and he accepts this destiny.

I do not want to say too much because I do not want to spoil the story for anyone who has not read it yet.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ellen Shay on Dec 19 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Friends at work raved about this book. Having read other books by John Irving (Hotel New Hampshire, World According to Garp) and enjoying other books these friends had recommended, I thought it might be interesting. Irving's style wasn't exactly what I normally read, but the books of his I'd read so far certainly had interesting stories.
Unfortunately, A Prayer for Owen Meany struck me as repetitive. The same plot points were repeated several times. There were a few sections that were interesting and/or funny. I kept reading, hoping that the story would pick up, or, at least, stop repeating, but it never happened. I kept going, based on the recommendations. After reading about half of the book, I just had to stop. I decided I'd rather spend what little time I have to read recreationally reading a more interesting book.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY is a fascinating book, but it won't be for everyone. Irving has indeed created an odd couple of characters: Owen Meany, the dwarfish youth with high-pitched voice of stunning self-importance that wavers between arrogance one moment and self-sacrificial lamb of God the next, and his sidekick Johnny Wheelwright, illegitimate child of a striking, freespirited woman soon killed off by a baseball Owen accidentally slams across the baseball field during a Little League game to hit its killing blow against her temple. Not that this would destroy the odd friendship of these two. Indeed, it bonds them for life.

As for Owen, he doesn't believe in accidents, especially not this one. What transpires through the remainder of the story, tracing the lives of these two from children into adulthood, is a complex weave of seeming circumstance into eventual climactic conclusion that rather neatly ties many loose threads together into a tight knot. Owen has foreseen his own death by a visionary dream, and he never doubts, at least not until the final days of his life, that this dream is the beacon guiding him home (home being, for Owen, heaven for those who would enter through the gates of martyrdom).

In the process of these two strange lives, topics of destiny and fate, religion, American politics and foreign policy, various rites of passage from childhood into adulthood, and other miscellaneous lighter and deeper issues are undertaken. These, too, all come together into the neat knot at the book's end. The only other novel that came together this way for me (and everyone else) was THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD with its equally strange characters and situations.

Irving is a quality writer.
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