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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A heartbreaking masterpiece.
"What's your favourite..." can be such an irritating question, but for me, for books, there's an instant answer - 'A Prayer For Owen Meany.' I could tell you about angels and armadillos, armless Indians and the headless Mary Magdalene, the lethal baseball, what the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come saw and exactly how it connects with the corpse of a helicopter...
Published on 18 April 1999

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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Life Changing? Not for me.
Having greatly enjoyed `The World According to Garp' I was looking forward to `A Prayer for Owen Meany `which has the reputation of being Irving's best book. But I was sadly disappointed and remain somewhat baffled by the praise heaped on this novel - it is not dreadful, but not wonderful either.

I didn't warm to Owen, while at times intriguing I found him...
Published on 26 Sep 2008 by Lendrick


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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A heartbreaking masterpiece., 18 April 1999
By A Customer
"What's your favourite..." can be such an irritating question, but for me, for books, there's an instant answer - 'A Prayer For Owen Meany.' I could tell you about angels and armadillos, armless Indians and the headless Mary Magdalene, the lethal baseball, what the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come saw and exactly how it connects with the corpse of a helicopter pilot burned and blistered in Vietnam, and, of course, THE VOICE - and I'd still not manage to get you to the heart of this novel. And the heart is the key to it; like his beloved Dickens, Irving sets out to speak to your emotions, to make you laugh and - ultimately - bring you to tears. It is a masterpiece both of virtuoso plotting and of creating heartbreakingly involving characters. A friend of mine, after finishing the book, said 'For a few days I missed Owen Meany as if I'd known him.' If you do nothing else today, take a recommendation and read this book. Just think of it as my litle gift to you...
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weeping for Owen Meany, 15 May 2003
By 
N. Crump (Fuerteventura, Canarias) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I've just this minute finished Owen Meany and I my eyes are filled with tears. So much is already said about this book. I will simply say that I was impatient through the book, although I enjoyed it, because I didn't understand where it was going. I should have understood all the time that Owen was speaking to me, the reader, as much as to John in saying that "A LITTLE FAITH IS NEEDED".
I perservered (and really it wasn't such a difficult task) and at the end was the reward which was unbelieavbly moving. The most touching story I've ever read - just so emotionally and spiritually big, but accessible. Maybe that was the point. Don't let your impatience get the better of you, treasure every page like you would each moment of your growing child - because the end comes all too soon.
Reaching the conclusion is an epiphany in itself, but its a book full of revelations about humanity and God even to the hardened atheist, the most unsentimental or even the driven agnostic like me. It was a privledge.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful story of friendship and faith, 12 Feb 2010
By 
Benjamin (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Owen Meany, diminutive in height and weight and with a voice that almost defies description, other than he speaks in capital letters, has been he firmly believes placed on this earth for a purpose. His life long and best friend John Wheelwright tells Owen's story, which is inevitably as much John's the story too. It is also a story about faith.

Owen is a character and a half, despite his small size and fragile appearance, an appearance that makes most girls and women want to hug him and mother him, he has a commanding presence, he is not one to be ignored. Neither is he someone easily dissuaded from his chosen course, in fact if Owen has it in mind to do something, nothing will get in his way. Above all he believes his life has a purpose, and he means to fulfil that purpose. Throughout he has the unerring support of John, even though John might not understand all that is happening, or necessarily agree with his friend.

A Prayer for Owen Meany is a beautiful story very well told. It is carefully crafted, and in addition to the gradual unravelling of Owen's purpose, there are several other themes running throughout the story. It is in part this gradual revealing of matters that holds one's interest, often we will know a particular outcome of events very early in the story, but what lead up to or caused that outcome, we may not know for some time, in some cases not until the end. We won't realise either that some seemingly irrelevant actions will prove crucial to the outcome.

While that makes for a fascinating read, above all it is the Owen's character, and the unquestioning friendship between Owen and John that makes this a very special story. John narrates that account from the 1980s, and while updating us on what is happening in his life then he spends most time looking back to the 1950s and 60s when they grew up, and he frequently puts the action into context by reminding us of significant news events of the period with which many of us will be familiar. He does also speak his mind occasionally about the attitude of Americans and America's involvement in international affairs, and at times indulges his interest in literature. He also has something to say about religion and the nature of faith.

This is also at times a very funny story, in fact it contains some of the funniest passages I have read anywhere. The description the the children's pageant is a prime example, it is a perfectly straight and very detailed account of events, it makes no effort to be funny, yet it is hilarious. But above all this is a very touching and moving story, heartbreaking at times; towards to end I frequently had to have a break in order to cope and prepare myself for what was coming next. This is one book that will be with me for a long time to come
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A work of absolute genius, 21 Mar 2004
There is so much to say about this book - more than I could fit into a dozen reviews, so I'll just make a few points. Firstly, it is not just a 'book' with a bog- standard'plot' and all the usual bits and pieces ; it is an entire world elegantly fitted between two covers. I cannot articulate the sheer genius of Irving's ability to adress detail without being tedious - you must experience it for yourself. It is almost frightening how you become immersed in this world - in fact, after a while, it seems like the memories and experiences of the protagonists become your own, and you begin to think of the other characters in the novel as people you have actually met and known.
Secondly - it is consistently brilliant. Every page is fantastic and appears to have been planned for months in advance. The profoundity, the humour and the attention grabbing detail remains unwavering right through until the end.
Thirdly, it is very intelligent - both in the extensive variety of themes it explores, and in the sheer 'cunningness' of how, in the end, everything fits together beautifully. When I was reading this book, and sadly nearing the end, I did not believe that it could get any better. How wrong I was. The final 90 or so pages were just amazing; a few brilliant twists, and then the entire book just came together. The revelations and conclusions in this later section of the book will stun you in their cleverness. It seems that every word on every page has been carefully selected to fit with this ending.
But as I say, these reasons are but few in comparison to the praise I could lavish on " A Prayer For Owen Meany"; it really is something extra ordinary that you must experience for yourself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quirky and extraordinarily moving, 4 Aug 2009
By 
Jeremy Walton (Sidmouth, UK) - See all my reviews
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I bought this book for my wife after she'd listened to a radio adaption of the story; she gave it to me to read after she'd finished it. The first sentence introduces the title character as the smallest person that the narrator ever knew, having a "wrecked voice", who was the instrument of his mother's death, and is the reason for the narrator's belief in God. This is intriguing stuff, but I was conscious of the remaining 636 pages, uneasily wondering what sort of a tale could be told about such a peculiar character as Owen. By the time I reached the last of those pages, I was sorry to see the end of him.

This is a book about faith, fate, heroism and love, all made manifest in Owen Meany's life story. Along the way, there are many memorable episodes: the accident that kills the narrator's mother, a hilarious Nativity play and a trial of strength with an overbearing headmaster. There's also a picture of the narrator's later life, which is obsessed with the deceptions and perfidy of the US government during its foreign wars (starting with Vietnam, continuing to Nicaragua, and - by implication - to the present day).

A series of clues and themes which foreshadow the culmination of the story are scattered through the book, and it's not until those final pages are reached that all falls into place with a resonance that rings in your head long after you've put this remarkable novel down for the final time.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite book, 8 Sep 2006
5 stars doesn't really do this justice. John Irving transcends perfection with 'A Prayer For Owen Meany'. This book is probably the most moving piece of literature I've ever read. That's not because it's particularly sad. It's more down to the love felt by the narrator towards Owen, and Owen's immense faith.

There's not much more that can be said without ruining the intricate plot. Owen Meany is a magical character and I would recommend this book above any other.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I've ever read (still), 15 Feb 2002
By A Customer
I first read this book 10 years ago and, at the time, I thought it was the best book I'd ever read. So, I thought I'd read it again to see if I still feel the same - and I do. I don't expect John Irving to ever write a book as good as this again (he's only human after all) but I'm going to read everything he writes in the future just in case.
The death of Johnny's Wheelwright's mother was the single most poignant fictional death I've ever come across - it left me feeling quite chilled. The way in which Irving gradually brings the two best friends back together was absolutely brilliant - I could genuinely feel the awkwardness and trepidation that both boys must have been experiencing in their steps towards ensuring that they remained best friends.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugely recommended to everyone, 2 Mar 2000
By A Customer
I reread this book roughly once a year, and bore people to tears recommending it. But it deserves it. Irving's characters touch the heart (and occasionally break it) like few others. He writes about extraordinary events and makes them seem not just normal but inevitable. And all in a tone and a style that flows so smoothly. From the very first line - 'I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice...' - there's a power and a passion to the writing that never lets you go.
Despite the fact that religion is a major theme, from the very first paragraph, this is in no way a religious book. In fact, what remains with you long after you finish it is not the spirituality but the sheer humanity of it. Irving, you can't help feeling, is a man who cares deeply for his fellow human beings.
Don't be put off by the length. There's not a wasted word. Read this now, and join the rest of us converts, boring all our friends until they read it.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant, funny and thoughtful......, 10 Oct 2009
By 
Wynne Kelly "Kellydoll" (Coventry, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This is a wonderful book in every way - poignant, funny and thoughtful. Johnny Wheelwright recounts the story of his friendship with Owen - a boy of very small stature (dwarfism is never mentioned) who is highly intelligent and socially manipulative. But as well as being clever Owen is convinced he has been chosen by God for a special purpose. He also claims to know the date of his death - a fact that Johnny treats with great scepticism. There is much sadness in the book - Owen seems to come from such an unloving family, Johnny would love to know who his real father is, people die unexpectedly and tragically. But the friendship and love of Johnny and Owen overcomes all this as they move through childhood to adulthood.

The narrative is brilliantly constructed and everything in the story is relevant. Irving explores ideas on organised religion and spiritually and although the story is set in small town New Hampshire the wider political scene is referred to as John links his narrative with facts about the Vietnam War and the Iran-Contra affair.

I chose to read this book as it so often appears on those lists of "most favourite books". I left in on my book shelf for over a year - initially put off by the 640 pages. But now I realise it was a wonderful treat just waiting for me! Owen Meany must be one of the best literary creations of all times.....
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking, 10 Dec 2009
Owen Meaney is simply one of those books that everyone should read. Defining the term `modern classic', it has one of the true great characters of literary fiction. The titular character, Owen Meaney, is so vividly drawn his voice remained with me after finishing the book. I notice some reviewers have said they thought the book was too long and dragged (it could have been another 1000 pages and I would have longed for more). I can only think they just don't get Irving - Irving's strength is in his ability to create characters of depth and subtlety. Nothing much by way of `action' needs to happen if a book is well crafted: you are reading it for the art of character writing, and Irving is an undeniable master of that craft. But even by Irving's standards Owen Meaney is stunning.
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