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A Prayer for Owen Meany

A Prayer for Owen Meany

Paperback

By (author) John Irving

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  • Publisher: Black Swan
  • Format: Paperback | 720 pages
  • Dimensions: 127mm x 198mm x 37mm | 527g
  • Publication date: 1 May 1990
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0552993697
  • ISBN 13: 9780552993692
  • Sales rank: 21,956

Product description

'If you care about something you have to protect it. If you're lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it'. Eleven-year-old Owen Meany, playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire, hits a foul ball and kills his best friend's mother. Owen doesn't believe in accidents; he believes he is God's instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul ball is both extraordinary and terrifying.

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Author information

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, he 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. His most recent novel is Last Night in Twisted River.

Review quote

"I believe it to be a work of genius... because of its absolutely irrepressible flow of invention and suggestion, expressed in some of the most fascinating prose written in fiction today. Originality has distinguished all Mr Irving's books, but in A Prayer For Owen Meany it achieves a new pitch and a new profundity" Independent "Marvellously funny... What better entertainment is there than a serious book which makes you laugh?" Spectator "So extraordinary, so original, and so enriching" The Washington Post "May justly join the classic American list" Observer "A heartbreaking masterpiece of a novel... tremendously ambitious and fiendishly clever" -- Dominic Holland Sunday Express

Editorial reviews

Irving's novels, which often begin in autobiographical commonplace, get transformed along the way: sometimes into fairy tale (The Hotel New Hampshire), sometimes into modern-day ironic fable (The World According to Garp). This one - set in New Hampshire in the 50's and 60's - is a little of both, but not enough of either: its tone is finally too self-righteous to be fully convincing as fiction. In 1953, Owen Meany - a physically tiny man with a big voice who believes he's God's instrument - kills his best friend's mother with a foul ball. His best friend, Johnny Wheelwright, is the book's narrator: from Toronto, where he has lived for some 20 odd years, he tells the story of Owen Meany, who has a voice that "comes from God," of his own "Father Hunt" - Wheelwright is the product of his mother's "little fling" - and of growing up in the Sixties, when some people believed in destiny, others in coincidence. Sweetly moralistic, Wheelwright, who became "a Christian because of Owen Meany," sometimes launches into tirades about Reagan and the Iran/contra fiasco, but mostly he tells Owen's story: Meany, who always writes and speaks in the uppercase, is the real mouthpiece here, though Wheelwright is his Nick Carraway. Meany, after hitting "that fated baseball," no longer believes in accidents: his parents, in the granite business, convince him that he's the product of a virgin birth (we learn late in the book). His sense of destiny serves him well: not only does he play the Christ child in a Christmas pageant and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, but his pontificating "Voice" becomes a great power at the prep school he attends with Johnny (there are some marvelous sendups of prep school), and he "sees" the circumstances and the date of his own death. After much inventive detail (as well as much slapstick and whimsy dealing with Meany's tiny size and strange voice) and the working-out of a three-way relationship involving Meany, Johnny, and his cousin Hester, Meany saws off Johnny's finger in order to keep him out of Vietnam, dies as he foresaw, and reveals to Johnny from beyond the grave that the local Congregationalist minister is his real father. Vintage Irving - though here Dickensian coincidence, an Irving staple, becomes the subject of the book rather than a technique. The result is a novel that seems sincere but turns too bombastic and insistent in its opinions about literature, religion, and politics. (Kirkus Reviews)