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House of Prayer No. 2: A Writer's Journey Home

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  806 Ratings  ·  175 Reviews
Crippled by deformed hips as a child, Mark Richard was told he would spend his adult life in a wheelchair. The son of an unpredictable, violent father and a mother who sought inner peace through scripture, Richard spent his bedridden childhood in the company of books. As a young man, he set out to experience as much of the world as possible before his hips failed him. He s ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 14th 2012 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2011)
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Feb 14, 2011 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
You decide to read this book because it was supposed to be good, the author grew up with a physical challenge and ostensibly talks about being a writer. You think you'll be able to relate to and enjoy the author's memoir.

But you discover upon the first page that the narrative is in the second person. The author refers to his parents as "the mother" and "the father." Perhaps this style is meant to draw you in and make you feel a part of the story, but it has the opposite effect. Sure, it's intri
Aug 21, 2016 Lynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a Southern Gothic memoir, and the first I enjoyed that was written in second person. It was odd at first, but eventually I accepted all the escapades as things I might have done when I was a wild young man. Not really, but I did stop noticing the POV and just lived the book.
Feb 05, 2011 Sooz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i am near giddy with anticipation. i was introduced to Mark Richard's novella Fish Boy twelve or so years ago and since then, i have read every story i could get my hands on. oh and what stories he writes. Fish Boy has a surreal feel about it, but most of his stories, like The Birds For Christmas and Gentlemen's Agreement, are deeply rooted in the reality of this life, yet he describes even the most ordinary experiences with a language that makes me swoon.

"It was a cheap gunshot noise t
Doubleday  Books
Jan 05, 2011 Doubleday Books rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I don't know about you, but a memoir about a writer whose early resume includes stints as a a disc jockey, fishing trawler deckhand, house painter, naval correspondent, aerial photographer, private investigator, foreign journalist, bartender and unsuccessful seminarian pretty much can't be bad. And this one is brilliant. It's sort of like a Southern "Running with Scissors," but it's so much more than that. Mark Richard overcame a seriously Southern Gothic upbringing and a crippling hip ailment t ...more
Dec 30, 2011 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
He was called a “special child”. In the South, this was a term used for mentally and physically challenged children. Born with bad hips and a slow demeanor, raised by an alcoholic, quick-tempered father, the boy’s chances in life looked mighty slim, destined to be another discarded outcast.
This astounding memoir follows this “special child”, growing up in rough-hewn Appalachia, subjected to torments from his peers, going through painful surgeries, to correct his deformed hips and finally landing
Jud Barry
Jun 15, 2015 Jud Barry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rating books: as I believe I've said somewhere, I don't like ratings because I'm not capable of a system. Books that I think are badly written I will rate low; books that I disagree with I will rate low; books that I enjoy I tend to rate mid-to-high, but never the highest, which is only reserved for the books that I think I will remember the best. But that rationale is exploded by the very worst books--the Ayn Rands and the Gone with the Winds--whose very badness carries them full circle into th ...more
Stacy Allen
May 22, 2013 Stacy Allen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The House of Prayer No.2 is a terrific memoir of the life of Mark Richards. The author, Mark Richards, presents a different perspective on his life through this interesting biography. As a young child with deformed hips, Richards is said to spend the rest of his adult life in a wheelchair, “With or without nails, your son will probably be in a wheelchair by the time he’s thirty anyways” [Richards 29]. With this sentence, Richards set out to accomplish as much as he could in the limited time he h ...more
Barb Terpstra
May 04, 2011 Barb Terpstra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very different writing style than what I'm used to, but I like it. I found out about this book from the Festival of Faith and Writing (Calvin College) Newsletter which recently came out. The author will be one of the speakers for the 2012 Conference. You can read the first chapter online at Amazon or B/N, which is how I decided to give the book a try. The book begins like this:

"Say you have a "Special Child", which in the South means one between Down's and dyslexic. Birth him with his father
Jul 14, 2011 Daven rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Why doesn't GoodReads have an "abandoned" option, instead of just "currently reading" or "read"? I very rarely give myself permission to abandon a book, but this one pushed me over the edge. Entirely written in second person ("you . . . do this, you do that"), you (yes, you) gradually feel exhausted, as if you're being constantly told what to do. Remarkably grating. Coupled with this rotten point-of-view choice, the author has apparently lived and experienced every unfathomable event one can fat ...more
Richard Gilbert
Oct 30, 2013 Richard Gilbert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating experiment in point of view: it opens with an overview in distancing third-person; then it becomes a story told in differently distancing second person. His childhood and child self are fascinating.

For me, he did not fully lay the base for his religious conversion; I am slow that way, perhaps; spiritual omens do suffuse the narrative. Certainly the nature of the experience of his Call itself frustrated me. For one thing, second-person POV makes it hard to explain and reflect, thoug
Written in a choppy, detached style, reminiscent of recipes (or the teletype the author used at the radio station as a youth). Only this time, rather than directions on baking chocolate cake, I received an in depth tutorial on the myriad ways to be an asshole (I do not use this word lightly). I get the feeling, whether it was intentional or not, that this was the only way he could get through his history. Full of mental and physical pain, cheating, womanizing, lies, drugs, and drinking, it is a ...more
May 16, 2011 Niree rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stunning and beautifully written memoir. I've never actually read a whole book in the second person, and usually find it very dictatorial and thus a turn off, but Richard really makes it work. The 'you' puts the reader in his body, in his mind, following each action and subsequent thought just as Richard had. The landscape is rich and vast, the story one of ultimate success.
Feb 16, 2011 Kristen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cannot wait to read this. His story, "Her Favorite Story" from The Ice at the Bottom of the World is one of my top ten favorite short stories of all time, and the whole collection ranks up there among my story collection faves. Might even lift my self-imposed book-buying ban so I don't have to wait for my small-town library to acquire it.
Ragan Sutterfield
An incredible book on every level from the sentence to the grand narrative Richard finds himself in.
Mar 07, 2012 M rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A quick critique of House of Prayer No. 2: A Writer’s Journey Home, a touching memoir by Mark Richard:

It’s an easy read. The book is written in a fragmented and loose style, switching between a kind of second person narrative to third person describing “the boy." It’s written much like a conversation, of someone objectively describing a life that could potentially be your own. Only the meaningful and influential characters encountered in Richard’s’ life seem to deserve their names.

The story itse
“Say you have a ‘special child,’ which in the South means one between Downs and dyslexic. Birth him with his father away on army maneuvers along East Texas bayous. Give him his only visitor in the military hospital his father's father, a sometime railroad man, sometime hired gun for Huey Long with a Louisiana Special Police badge. Take the infant to Manhattan, Kansas in winter where the only visitor is a Chinese peeping tom, little yellow face in the windows during the cold nights. Further, frig ...more
Jan 09, 2012 Jan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The rave reviews that led me to Mark Richard’s House of Prayer No. 2: A Writer's Journey Home were right. I read this poetic, addictive memoir in a day, lost in the story of a “special child” who grows up to be a writer. As a boy in southern Virginia, Mark’s spinal disabilities meant spending months away from his family in Richmond’s Crippled Children’s Hospital (they really called it that!) encased in plaster. Neither the pain nor the difficulty walking ever left him, yet he never whines or wis ...more
Jodi Sh.
Apr 06, 2014 Jodi Sh. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Okay, I so did not see that coming.

I'm not sure how this wound up on my too-read list, whether I read a review someplace, or an article I was reading mentioned it. I'd never heard for Mark Richard before, but I love memoir, so I picked it up. At first I was put-off, it's written in 2nd person, You did this, you did that, and I thought, well, this is just the intro, but no. The entire book is written in 2nd person, and done so at the hands of someone who has a really strong command of his craft.

Feb 17, 2011 Courtney rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Courtney by: Elizabeth
Shelves: memoir, gift, own
House of Prayer No. 2 follows the early life and development of Mark Richard, a Southern writer who, at times, seems to possess an almost compulsive desire to expose himself to new experiences. Although the sheer number and variety of Richard's adventures can make one's head spin, the overall effect of this account is complex and resonant. Richard's descriptions of his time spent in children's hospitals are especially harrowing and unique. Such traumatic experiences could easily produce self-obs ...more
Stephanie Pounds
Dec 02, 2014 Stephanie Pounds rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: your, library
I received House of Prayer as an Early Reviewer book. I signed up for it originally because the tag line is 'A Writer's Journey Home,' and I always like to read writers writing about writing. House of Prayer, No 2, is indeed a memoir written by Hollywood screenwriter, Mark Richard, about his childhood and early adult years in the deep South. His childhood is colored by his problems with his hips, which cause him to go through awful treatments as doctors try to fix his bones. Lying in body casts, ...more
Feb 10, 2011 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am happy to have won a free copy of this memoir from Goodreads First Reads and to have read it.
This man can write! I was in awe the entire book over his ability to perfectly sum up in a sentence or two experiences that would take other writers pages to do justice. What is so beautiful about his writing is that the actual words that he uses are only half of the story that is evoked to the reader; what is left unsaid is just as powerful. This man has had more note-worthy experiences in his life
Black Elephants
I'd heard wonderful things about this memoir from several people, and I really looked forward to reading it. It's the story of the author from childhood to present. It talks about how he grew up in the South, dealt with hip surgery and all the complications it entailed, how he had a wild life, how he got involved in writing and how the spirit came upon him.

I felt like I read this book in chunks. I found the beginning 70 pages or so to be very interesting. Then the second POV, which the book is
Aug 05, 2012 Annita rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Odd writing style is maintained throughout. I would like to meet the writer in person to check out his speaking style! The story is about a young boy born with some hip problems and a really mischievous personality taking advantage of all those around him who do not know that he could read and write at age three and he is simply rejecting the normal course of school and family because he can. Strong religious traditions and a desire to figure out why the world works in the ridiculous way it does ...more
This book is a difficult one for me to assign a rating to. This story is the life story of Mark Richards, the author of the book. He was born with deformed hips which required many surgeries. His family was highly dysfunctional.. his father an alcoholic and his mother a religious fanatic who spent all of her waking hours praying for people whose names she wrote on index cards.His life was full of challenges which probably would have made many people give up in despair.. he did not. Unfortunatel ...more
Nancy Kennedy
I wish I could give this book five stars, for the simple reason that it ends with the author being "slain in the spirit." You're not going to read that in a book very often -- and even less often from an author who has actually longed for that to happen.

But this book about Mark Richard's life growing up in the South labeled a "special" child and suffering from a debilitating physical condition was just too remote for me to become involved in. I think it's the tense the author chose to write in,
Megan Lehar
Apr 12, 2013 Megan Lehar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a memoir in the second person! Remember it next time you're sitting around with your book club trying to come up with second person narratives.

Although I really enjoyed the book, I don't think I care for the man it describes. He's an alcoholic drifter who makes friends easily, but doesn't seem at ease in his own skin. His childhood is fascinating, and a little heartbreaking. But he starts drinking and becomes a petty criminal at a young age. Despite this, and his desire to destroy every

Clearly, Mark Richard has a gift for writing. The end of this book made it all worth while for me, but my mind wandered a bit along the way. Perhaps I'm getting too old or shallow.

I found it awkward that the book starts out in third person and then goes into second person, making the narrator appear if he's observing his disaster of a life from afar, absolving himself of any responsibility. As a child, he's labeled as "special" because of his
Jan 24, 2016 Bonnie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Author, Mark Richard, was labeled a "special" child- Southern speak for between Down's and dyslexic. His infirmity: deformed hips. Much of his childhood was spent in the Children's Crippled Hospital encased in full body casts- after being dropped off at the door by his alcoholic father. Once brought back home, Mark spent his time - fully cast- in his bedroom. Neither environment gave him exposure to children or to normal childhood. Doctors predicted - and announced to him - at a very early age t ...more
Apr 23, 2011 Rheanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting read if only for the stories Mark Richard tells of his childhood and rebellious adventures. Most of the book is in second person point of view, which is the main reason I grabbed it. However, I'm not entirely convinced that second person point of view works in longer stories. It did not really pull me in as I thought it would. By the end, it seemed more like a technique to distance the story from himself, Richard, rather than include the reader in it. Of course, that may h ...more
Feb 06, 2012 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! This is an incredible memoir, which seem to be a dime a dozen these days. I must confess that I struggled through the first third of this book, but then I really got into it. I think this was for a couple of reasons. First, Richard writes of his life using the second person ("you") which makes the book very different in a challenging way, but ultimately a very good way (I think). Secondly, the book starts in childhood and the writing feels disjointed and schizophrenic. As the memoir shifts ...more
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