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Praying For Sheetrock

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  946 Ratings  ·  136 Reviews
Set in the Deep South of the 1970s, this superb book tells the true story of the political awakening of a tiny black community. Here the people of McIntosh Count, Georgia tell of their own experiences - stories that are outrageous, funny, eloquent and touching - in a historic struggle for civil equality.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 16th 1996 by Vintage (first published 1991)
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Beth
Apr 11, 2013 Beth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldnt-finish
The story is very interesting, a compelling story of corruption and race relations that should be told. But I can't help thinking that it would have been so much better in the hands of another writer. I just couldn't get past the writing style. There was too much (seemingly) irrelevant background information. I think the first 100 pages contained about 20 pages worth of interesting information. Had I realized that, I probably would have skipped entire chapters. It's also very repetitive in spots ...more
Anne Broyles
Aug 04, 2010 Anne Broyles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have no memory of who recommended this book, but I would never have happened to choose it off a library shelf. It looks old, and gives no clue of the quality of writing inside. Greene tells the story of a poor, coastal town in Georgia in the 1970's, where despite the Civil Rights movement, one white sheriff holds sway over black and white citizens alike. Greene's fine grasp of description and dialogue read like a novel much of the time as, with the help of young Georgia Legal Services lawyers, ...more
Billfrog
Apr 09, 2008 Billfrog rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My parents recommended this book to me, which usually means I'll like it in a tepid sort of way.

This didn't fall into that pattern.

This book is really good. Really something. I don't want to say important, because what do I know (besides that if I say it's important you'll say I'm pretentious). But it's impressively evocative, not just telling a story of a place I've never heard about, but painting a picture so clearly that I can taste the sounds. That's right, chilluns, I get synaesthesia fro
...more
Kelly
Apr 17, 2007 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is beautifully written and compelling. I definitely recommend it. My only problem is that Greene wasn't entirely forthcoming about her role in the events of the book--she was married to one of the lawyers. She completely wrote herself OUT Of the book. I think that revealing her own perspective might have given the book more depth. I loved this book, though. It complicates our textbook understandings of the Civil Rights movement and its consequences.
Graceann
Apr 28, 2009 Graceann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs
Shelves: georgia-history
Coastal Georgia is a frequent destination for me. Whenever I have to be away from it, I am planning the next time I'll be able to smell the marsh, feel the sand in my shoes and hear the musical voices of the residents. I have been to Darien many, many times, but my first visit was in 1994, long after the initial events in this book took place. Reading PRAYING FOR SHEETROCK was educational, to say the least. What Melissa Fay Greene does in her narrative is show you the different Dariens - the bla ...more
Maureen
Aug 06, 2008 Maureen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Most people think of the 1960s as being the era of the Civil Rights Movement, but in rural Georgia counties, it was the seventies before civil rights came into its own. I remember visiting a restaurant in Tatnall County in the early seventies where African-Americans were required to order their food to go at the back door. Around the same time that this book was written, the best shrimp restaurant in McIntosh county installed cast irons railings around its entrance to keep the sheriff from parki ...more
Wendy
Oct 14, 2007 Wendy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Melissa Faye Green builds masterful story structures -- even when the story is sprawling and almost impossible to corral. This book is so thoroughly reported and researched, I can’t discern the point in the story at which the author began to witness the events. Toward the end of the story, a few small details led me to believe that she had entered the story quite late, something I found astounding. Melissa Fay Greene, of course, ignores – couldn’t care less about – the conventions of creative no ...more
Katie
Okay, I started this and thought it was well-written. I know people who loved it. You know how sometimes there's an annoying noise that you don't hear until someone points it out, and then it drives you crazy. I don't want to ruin it for you, so stop reading this now if you'd like to read and enjoy it.

. . . .

What drove me crazy is that so many descriptions of the people seemed insulting or contemptuous. It felt like part of her humor was in making fun of the people whom she'd interviewed. If it
...more
Cindy
Aug 01, 2012 Cindy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is quite the endeavor. The book is very wordy and full of narrative building up the character and environment in which involved the 50's - early 80's in McIntosh County, Georgia. I only give it three stars because it was tough to page through. You are always wondering how it is going to end but only because you are wondering how the multiple stories are going to fall into place to influence the main character. It is a true historical presentation of this part of Georgia but reading it I som ...more
Jules
Apr 05, 2011 Jules rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
(2.5) I feel guilty giving only a 2 (2.5) to a really well-written book, by an author I think is amazingly talented. But I just didn't love Praying for Sheetrock. I didn't find the story especially compelling, or its subject, Thurnell, exceptional or even likable. As I was reading the account of Thurnell Alston, I kept wondering why Greene had chosen him as the subject of a book. Later I read that her husband worked as his attorney at one time and Greene herself worked at the Georgia Legal Servi ...more
Malcolm
This is a beautiful and elegant history from below, allowing the people of McIntosh County, Georgia, to tell their stories, to unravel the everyday life of the deep South's racial and class hierarchies, of injustice, inequality, poverty and loss - as well as the sheer richness of community, love and delight that accompanies those other dynamics we too often concentrate on. There is no sanitising here, but their are rich and rounded lives and characters revealed by Greene's abilities to let them ...more
Greg Miller
Apr 12, 2012 Greg Miller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Greg by: my sister-in-law
This nonfiction should serve as a primer on Southern racial politics. The account of how a rural, coastal section of Georgia existed through the civil rights upheaval of the 1960's is told in such an engaging way that draws you though a story that you might not have picked out on your own. The local situation was unique but the problems the story showcases can be applied throughout the South. Very logical development with ironic twists, it not only held my interest but showed me how interesting ...more
Peg
Feb 17, 2009 Peg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read Praying for Sheetrock shortly after my move to Georgia in the mid-1990's. For me, it was a potent reminder that I was no longer in Iowa-- and whatever I thought I might know about the politics of race in places like McIntosh County in the 1970's could fit on the head of a pin. Greene has a gift for writing nonfiction that places you in the center of a true story. I have read all of her books except for one--and I'm saving it to savor during spring break. Simply one of the best authors I'v ...more
Betsy
Aug 21, 2014 Betsy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a work of non-fiction, this book was an enjoyable read - it felt like a novel. The stories offered real insight into a world I won't ever know. The characters were well described. But having read other books like The Invention of Wings, I did not find this book to be the page-turner that kept me up at night. I recommend it. I'm glad I read it. But I don't need to put in on my own bookshelf.
Dede
Apr 06, 2008 Dede rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
A well-written true to story of southern Georgia and the beginning of the civil rights movement. A sad, but enlightening story of intertwined lives of people, who were just trying to survive and make the world a better place, but then got caught up in the very badness they were fighting.
Josh
Jul 07, 2015 Josh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting story that is true. I did not know so much about our little neighboring county on the coast.
Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~
This happened right around where I live today.
In fact, my boyfriend's family is related to the sheriff, mentioned in this story.
Very good book. I'm going to look into reading more from this author.
Julie
Oct 13, 2016 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It starts off really, really slow, but I'd still recommend.
Joseph Howard
The story was often times humorous (aalthough I don't think it was meant to be), sometimes good, but seldomly very good. This is yet another book intent on preying on "white guilt" and portraying Southern white males as weak, fearful, and scandelous during the late-1960s to mid-1970s. There were many instances of culture ignorance from the Georgia-born, but very liberal author. I'm sure that open interracial relationships between pretty blonde teenage white girls and afro'd teen black boys were ...more
David Ward
Praying For Sheetrock by Melissa Fay Greene (Da Capo Press 1991) (306.09758). This is a cool story about how an extremely rural coastal Georgia county named McIntosh finally became fully integrated in the 1970's. Author Melissa Faye Greene of NPR renown asserts that the Civil Rights Movement had completely bypassed Mcintosh County until one day in the 1970's when a black man challenged the system. It's a tale as complicated as justice. Here's an ironic piece of trivia: the book's title refers to ...more
Mumsy
May 10, 2015 Mumsy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
After reading "The Help" I was intrigued about race relations in the south in the 70's and being an architect I was drawn to the Sheetrock in the title but this book was a disaster. It flits around from various viewpoints and may have been a good New Yorker essay but it can't carry an entire book. Plus the real story- that white officials "gave" (fixed elections) token government positions to passive black citizens is far more interesting than the case that the author tries to make against a sin ...more
Judy Ball
Feb 19, 2014 Judy Ball rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a story of one little Georgia community's struggle for civil rights long after progress had begun in the rest of the Deep South. But it is also a portrait of that black community in terms of the struggles of many of its individual members simply to survive. These stories were not written by a disinterested journalistic bystander. Greene writes with a sensitivity at times rivalling poetry about subsistence, survival, and hopelessness under conditions of grueling, crushing poverty, an ...more
Adam
Jun 23, 2012 Adam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: southern
This is an important story about the fight for racial equality in a community far removed from the high-profile civil rights battlegrounds of Montgomery, Greensboro, Atlanta and Jackson. It's a complex and ongoing fight, and Greene is able to both show how much progress was made and how there is still far to go.

The book does have some flaws. One of the chief players, Sheriff Poppell, is really revealed only tangentially; the true nature of his character and actions is left somewhat to interpret
...more
Beth Withers
Sep 30, 2012 Beth Withers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Greene tells the true story of a corrupt sheriff and an awakening African American community in McIntosh County, Georgia. What is so surprising is that the incidents occurred not in the 50s or during the traditional civil rights era but later, from the mid- to late-seventies and well into the eighties. The sheriff had such a hold on the community that the blacks who lived there, a majority of the population, accepted things as they were until one man stood up to it. The story is complicated and ...more
Claire Rodriguez
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dale
Sep 17, 2011 Dale rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kathy Keim
Recommended to Dale by: Sallie Morgan
Shelves: social-history
This was not a fast-paced book. It was actually very slow but I kept at it because I lived near this town in 1975-76 and I had heard from locals NEVER to go into McIntosh County unless you had to and, if you did, to mind the traffic laws. Now, all these years later, I find out that was not a tale! The book was slow, but it was informative. I learned more about the the civil rights movement and how some parts of our country simply ignored the movement until the federal government had to get invol ...more
Barbara
Feb 10, 2009 Barbara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. I think I will add this to my list of books I think everyone should read. The events in the book would be easier to reconcile if they'd happened in the 40's and 50's - but to know that the prejudice and abuse of power occured in the 70's makes it difficult. I'd like every colleague who has complained about reverse discrimination to read this book and understand that a slight tipping of the scales cannot possibly compare to the levels of discrimination experienced by blacks and women.

M. Gree
...more
Peter
Dec 19, 2013 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A remarkable book, this is. The true story of a poor rural coastal Georgia county in the 1970s and 80s. Very different from its neighboring southern counties and states in that close to 100% of eligible black voters were in fact registered to vote. And yet, of course, so similar in terms of racism.
It's a real page-turner, in spite of it being non-fiction. Maybe because it IS non-fiction. The title refers to a woman who was freezing to death and literally prayed for sheetrock to make her house w
...more
Molly
Oct 13, 2013 Molly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author has truly remarkable gift of observation and description. Her writing verges on poetry. It's a great story - deeply moving, the writing takes you right into the hearts and motivations of the characters - to provide a deeply humane portrait of poverty and racial division in the South. The (true) story takes place in the 1970s but over-arching themes are still relevant.

At some point I got a little impatient, wanting a little less description and more action, but that's highly subjectiv
...more
Aldafan
Jun 10, 2010 Aldafan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Melissa Greene has been a contributor to NPR, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, LIFE, Good Housekeeping, Newsweek, The Atlantic, Readers Digest, Ms., The Wilson Quarterly, Redbook, and Salon.com. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Don Samuel, a criminal defense attorney. They have been married for 28 years and are the parents of nine children: Molly, Seth, Lee, Lily, Jesse (adopted ...more
More about Melissa Fay Greene...

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