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Praying for Sheetrock: A Work of Nonfiction

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,199 ratings  ·  165 reviews
Finalist for the 1991 National Book Award and a New York Times Notable book, Praying for Sheetrock is the story of McIntosh County, a small, isolated, and lovely place on the flowery coast of Georgia--and a county where, in the 1970s, the white sheriff still wielded all the power, controlling everything and everybody. Somehow the sweeping changes of the civil rights ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published August 29th 2006 by Da Capo Press (first published 1991)
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 ·  1,199 ratings  ·  165 reviews

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Apr 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
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 ...more
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
Apr 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Aug 01, 2012 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Apr 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Oct 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Apr 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
(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 ...more
Feb 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
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 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 21, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Apr 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting story that is true. I did not know so much about our little neighboring county on the coast.
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.
Jay Dewey
Dec 13, 2018 rated it liked it
This book had been on my son's high school reading list in a course entitled Southern STudies. It presents a picture of racial conditions in post reconstructure up to the mid-seventies. The first part of the book is well done, though two individuals are introduced as representatives of each side, white and black, neither character becomes three dimensional until well into the middle of the story.
By the end of the story the black character is the sole center of the book and about whom the plot
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dylan Rice
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Greene's book is a masterpiece. For anyone who wants to obtain a less conventional understanding of not just the civil rights movement, but the culture and the history of the Deep South itself, Greene's book is the apogee of such literature. Her prose is raw and compelling; her research thorough and meaningful. I cannot recommend this book enough. I look forward to reading more of Greene's works.
Mar 09, 2018 rated it liked it
I appreciated this exploration of the social/racial/political dynamics of an isolated, rural county in Georgia in the 1970s. The time warp that allowed it to ignore the Civil Rights movement for a decade was surprising. The amount of corruption was not surprising, but it was discouraging. The courage of some of the black residents was commendable. The human frailty was disappointing, but it is reality.
A slow read, mostly because of the extraordinary detail of this story of a time and a man who fought for his people, yet even he was caught in the fight for power, something he had never had. It's an older book chronicling an even older time in Georgia, showing the fight against the 'good old boy' network, and a win of sorts. Sad to say that some things described have not changed. The fight against gerrymandering, for equal rights for all continues even now nearly 20 years into this century.
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the most beautifully written, disturbing and wonderful books that I have ever read. It is a view of the south coast, south of Savannah, that I have only imagined. When I purchased the book at the E. Shaver bookstore in Savannah, the clerk told me it is a definitive book on the history of the area. Powerful.
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A nonfiction that reads as easily and interesting as a fiction. The author writes extremely eloquently.

Civil rights did not enter McIntosh County Georgia until the 1970's when an uneducated but passionate black man wouldn't accept the status quo in a county ruled by a corrupt powerful white sheriff who went too far.

I absolutely loved this book!
Jane Comer
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great read of real people during the beginnings of the civil rights movement on the coast of Georgia. Unlikely individuals carried the torch of new rights for blacks. The characters were real people with weaknesses and strengths. The realities of integrating a small town required some outside push from young white lawyers, but strength and fortitude from three black men.
Eileen Winfrey
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-fun, grown-ups
A window into a time not nearly far enough in the past. Extreme poverty, “integration”, Georgia, 1970s. How could it end well? Not this side of heaven. Still, thoughtfully and sincerely written. If ever I think I’m hard done by, no.
Melba Bennett Murphy
This was a hit and a miss. In the beginning, the story had great potential but interest faltered in the telling of the civil rights accomplishments. Had I not lived in proximity to the area and plowed through it due to local interest, I doubt I would have finished this.
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This is an extraordinarily beautiful book--a meticulously researched and powerfully written account of the struggles for civil rights in 1970s Georgia. Greene portrays both the courage and failings of the central actors in this struggle. I was moved.
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
Just couldn't get in to it... tried, tried, tried. This is the second book that has won awards that I just can't. get. in. to.

Finally letting it go and moving on to something else that makes me want to turn the pages!
Joan Dwoskin
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Such an interesting history of politics and race in rural GA!
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500 Great Books B...: Praying for Sheetrock - Melissa Fay Greene 5 23 Nov 17, 2014 10:33PM  

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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 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