A Handbook of American Prayer
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A Handbook of American Prayer

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  128 ratings  ·  26 reviews
A man walks into a bar. A dispute ensues, and the bartender kills him. He's sentenced to ten years for manslaughter. In prison, the convict, Wardlin Stuart, writes prayers addressed to no god in particular. Inexplicably, his prayers — whether it's a request for a girlfriend or a special favor for a fellow inmate — are answered, be it in days or weeks. When his collection o...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published October 4th 2004 by Thunder's Mouth Press
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Wardlin is a cynical bartender with no great love for people when he's receives a 10 year prison sentence for manslaughter. In prison, following a fight with a fellow prisonmate in which he comes off faring poorly, he develops something he calls prayerstyle. He writes poetic prayers to no discernable god and when his prayers produces the girlfriend he asked for, other prisonmates start asking him to compose prayerstyles for them too, with mostly positive results. Out on parole, his life takes tu...more
Jack Haringa
I'm hesitant to try to write any kind of review of this novel for fear of running out of superlatives. I also run the risk of sounding like a sycophant. I like nearly everything Lucius Shepard writes, but to me he has always excelled at the novella first, the short story second, and the novel a significantly lagging third. A Handbook of American Prayer, however, forces me to re-evaluate my assessment.

This is a book of extraordinary relevance and resonance, beautifully rendered in the sort of eff...more
This book opened a vein of American culture I haven't really seen explored a lot: the nature of "spiritualism". Perhaps I'm not reading the right things, but I feel like I've never seen this issue so honestly addressed. It's fiction, it's got a little magical realism, but it for the most part it could be a very plausible satire of American spirituality.

This book plays out that particular American spiritualism that so many people I know flirt with, but that tends to exists as a negative to organ...more
This book is a really interesting meditation on the state of America today, with our yearning for meaning and our dueling tendencies of blind faith and crippling doubt. The main character, Wardlin Stuart, works out a philosophy he calls prayerstyle while in prison. His prayers seem to work, not because of any higher power, but because of the supplicant's will. Yet when a higher power seems to intervene, Wardlin can not trust that there is such a thing as divinity or that he himself has any sort...more
Nicholas Kaufmann
What an amazing, astonishing novel! So subtle, so beautifully written, every word choice the perfect one. Some of the references feel dated, it's true -- Larry King is no longer on the air; Sharon Stone is no longer prevalent in the public eye -- but these details nonetheless help ground the story with just the right amount of realism for the sly, understated metaphysical aspects to have that much greater power. The plot meanders a bit in the first half, which I suppose is what happens when the...more
Nancy Brady
What can you say about a book that is given totally free with the caveat to help out a person or charitable institution with a donation? This is one of these books given away free by Concord Free Press. I don't remember what my donation was when I received it, I only recall that I made a donation to something (American Diabetes Association, maybe?).

Well, I finally read it, and found it to a darkly humorous book about religion in America, sort of. Wardlin Stuart kills a man (or be killed) and is...more
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Not sure about this one. The premise was of interest and there were sections that I certainly enjoyed, but there were other parts I merely "got through" and I was left unconvinced by the end - perhaps because I generally love magic realism and my sketchy background research on the author suggested that he often incorporates MR threads.Though, to be fair, he seems to be billed primarily as SF/F writer - and this is an area I often struggle with...I'm trying to rectify the latter "failing" as I re...more
Given the title of this book, the story starts at an unlikely point, with the narrator, Wardlin Stuart, lashing out in anger and killing a man. That’s the first chapter. Stuart then describes his time in prison, serving his sentence for manslaughter. While he’s there, he stumbles upon something that will change his life beyond all recognition. His discovery, that he can compose poetic prayers that seem to be answered, saves his life in prison. After being paroled, he publishes a collection of th...more
This book was in the science fiction section of the library, which testifies to the current sad state of affairs, as it is a book about religion, not fantasy. There is no evidence of anything paranormal; the narrator himself is constantly full of doubt. I find it sad that a novel about doubt and faith is labeled "science fiction" if it is not about Jesus.

The narrator in the book is sent to jail for manslaughter, and while in jail comes up with a new way to pray. Complications ensue. Something I...more
This is the first book I've read by Lucius Shepard, and I'm on the fence about whether or not to read more of his output.

His story here, about a man who happens on a practical method of prayer that actually alters things in small ways...and the consequences to that when he goes publicly evangelistic about it via the media...is interesting, odd and at times surreal.

Lucius also delves rather deeply into the uncertain psyche of his main man; his character is always trying to figure out what is rea...more
Although I love a good anti-hero, the protagonist here did not appeal, at all. A sociopath who never lives in the moment but rather observes himself once or twice removed at all times, Wardlin Stuart was deeply unpleasant to "inhabit" for the duration of this book. No there there, if you will. The racism was bearable near the beginning because I assumed a separation between the protag's views and the author's, but as the story dragged on, the references to "border meat" and the "darkening" of th...more
Went to a bookstore and there was a whole shelf of these being given away for free (http://www.concordfreepress.com/on-ha...). Figured it was worth a try.

Well, I finished it. It was decent. The narrative was pretty good, had some interesting ideas, and there were even some exciting moments. But there was something about it...I had this irresistible urge to read it as if I were reading something from a grad school writing workshop. And because of that, I had a hard time ignoring my disbelief of a...more
This started out slow but turned out to be well written and a unique story. The press that published it--Concord Free Press--is even more unique. From the back of the book:

THIS NOVEL IS FREE. By taking a copy, you agree to give away money to a local charity, someone who needs it, or a stranger on the street. Where the money goes and how much you give--that's your call. When you're done, pass this novel on to someone else (for free, of course), so they can give. It adds up.

Anyone want my copy?
I got this book free from Concord Press, but I really don't know what to make of it. It seemed very post-modern, existential, or something like that, but I don't feel post-modern enough to enjoy those types of books. Some of the themes about religion and spirituality were interesting, but overshadowed by my confusion about the plot. I just skimmed the last 50-100 pages to find out what happened at the end . . .
Imprisoned for manslaughter, Wardlin Stuart has lots of time of his hands. He ponders the meaning and purpose of prayer and tries composing his own prayers, to no deity in particular. When many of his prayers, for himself and fellow inmates, seem to be answered he becomes a publising and media sensation. An interesting riff on self-help books and mega-churches. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
This book feels like something Bill Hicks would write, with its veiny back-America -- the malls, the ex-cons, the rusted automobile wrecks, and the television showing a world that tells you that your world isn't real. And then, a prayer that isn't a prayer results in a man showing up who is either a deluded fan, or something outside of reality.

This book haunted me for weeks afterwards.
there was something about this book that kept me at bay.

it may be the pile of more interesting books on my TBR list.

i just couldn't find interest in the plot or the characters.

and half way in, page 147, not much was really happening.

it was time to move on.
Jim Sanderson
Hands down one of the best written books I've ever read; Shepard's prose is exemplary. Thought provoking, wise, wry, reserved... it's such a shame we won't be seeing any more work from him. This is a great book - you deserve to read it...
Emily (Heinlen) Davis
This book was not at all what I expected. I did not expect this book to be written by a murderer. It was a really weird book. I'm not sure I liked it. Also, the book had several grammatical errors in it.
Anne S
Well written! Take some time and see for yourself
Innovative plot, very entertaining.
A story of a man who alternates infuriatingly quickly between fancying himself a God and pious humbleness. Chock full of run-on sentences and author recognized bad poetry, bad analogies, and confusing diction, this story was nothing short of irritating to read. In reflection, the story lacked noticeable flow or recognizable development. At the end, I felt I had read the same chapter twenty or so times, with a brief fifteen pages or so being the only deflection from that routine.

1. When p...more
Elizabeth Karr
gary pollack
Very well-rounded
Allison Henle
Allison Henle marked it as to-read
Jul 20, 2014
Karen Heuler
Karen Heuler marked it as to-read
Jul 09, 2014
Sherry Schwabacher
Sherry Schwabacher marked it as to-read
Jul 08, 2014
Jack marked it as to-read
Jul 01, 2014
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Brief biographies are, like history texts, too organized to be other than orderly misrepresentations of the truth. So when it's written that Lucius Shepard was born in August of 1947 to Lucy and William Shepard in Lynchburg, Virginia, and raised thereafter in Daytona Beach, Florida, it provides a statistical hit and gives you nothing of the difficult childhood from which he frequently attempted to...more
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