A Prayer for the Dying
"A new masterpiece of American literature." --Dennis Lehane, Entertainment Weekly
"A Prayer for the Dying reads like the amazing, unrelenting love child of Shirley Jackson and Cormac McCarthy. It's twisted proof that God will do worse to test a faithful man than the devil would ever do to punish a sinner." --Chuck Palah ...more
It is slightly after 12:30 a.m. But I am not sleeping. I have just completed A Prayer for the Dying by Stewart O'Nan. Rarely have I read a novel that I am compelled to review immediately upon completing it. But this is one.
Much has gone on in my personal life since a killer tornado passed through our town, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on April 27th. Shortly afterward, my mother developed a serious case of pneumonia. Although the pneumo ...more
Sure, plenty of people know about him, but nowhere near the number he deserves. He's an absolute beast of a novelist, one who exhibits total control of his craft. A gifted writer, master storyteller, and brilliant imagination all rolled into one; an author who has such an uncanny ability to get under your skin, that he can actually wear you with a book like 'A Pr ...more
The paperback cover carries a blurb: “A cross between Stephen Crane and Stephen King.” Maybe. It is a post-Civil War tale in that the protagonist is haunted by his memories of the war, memories that are revealed slowly, then differently. (It’s challenging to write about this one without revealing spoilers—and there’s no good reason to spoil a really good story). But I’ll come back to that quote.
It’s told in the second–person, a perspective that requires some accommodation. (Did you know you surv...more
“Jake” Hansen, a Union veteran of the United States Civil War, now serves as undertaker, constable and part-time preacher in Friendship, Wisconsin, “a dying old lead town.” The word “dying” takes on enormous significance in this small prairie outpost when a young homeless soldier is found facedown beside a campfire, dead without a scratch. A woman, ranting and frothing, is soon found lying in the stubble by the ro ...more
When things go bad, how do you know they don't go bad because of you and not just in spite of you (or your efforts)? And when things go bad, so bad that you aren't sure any more what goodness is or was, does that first question even matter? And if it doesn't matter, why make an effort?
If questions like these make you want to steer the kayak of yo ...more
Postbellum Friendship, Wisconsin - Jacob Hansen is the town's constable, undertaker and pastor as his town is threatened by two simultaneous dan ...more
Then a dip ...more
Set in a town called Friendship in Wisconsin, USA just after the Civil War, the principal protagonist, Jacob Hansen, was a former soldier who is now the town’s Sheriff (so he carries a gun and maintains peace and order), Undertaker (so he fixes the dead for burial and consoles the grieving) and Deacon (so he reads the Bible and delivers the sermons during worship days). He has a wife, Martha, and they have a baby daughter, Amelia, who is a delight to t ...more
Jacob Hansen has recently stepped out of the Civil War and into juggling several roles (that of preacher, sheriff and undertaker) in the small town of Friendship, Wisconsin. However, Friendship soon finds itself trapped in a Catch-22, where they should stay quarantined due to a diphtheria epidemic, yet should be fleeing from the great incoming fire. Jacob str ...more
I've seen a lot of reviews that address the second person narrative in this text. Apparently, some find it difficult to follow. However, I did not. In fact, I found it to be one of the strengths of O'Nan's writing. It is not truly second person - rather, first person perspective using second person pronouns. (Instead of "I", he uses "you")
I think this is particularly effective as ...more
It is brilliantly written, but it is dark. I suppose a story about a town that finds itself in the grip of an epidemic couldn’t be otherwise.
Stewart O’Nan wrote this story in second-person perspective. I can’t think of anything I’ve read in second-person POV, besides Choose Your Own Adventure when I was 12. (Of course, A Prayer for the Dying is not a corny kids’ adventure, and “you” are not meant to be the main character here.) I had thought this stylistic c ...more
I'm thinking about what else to say about why I liked this so much. It starts out slow and builds fast, lik ...more
Having now read it I understand what she means. Inside a blu ...more