In this otherworldly memoir of extraordinary power, Mark Richard, an award-winning author, tells his story of growing up in the American South with a heady Gothic mix of racial tension and religious fervor.
Called a “special child,” Southern social code for mentally — and physically — challenged children, Richard was crippled by deformed hips and was told he would spend his adult life in a wheelchair. During his early years in charity hospitals, Richard observed the drama of other broken boys’ lives, children from impoverished Appalachia, tobacco country lowlands, and Richmond’s poorest neighborhoods. The son of a solitary alcoholic father whose hair-trigger temper terrorized his family, and of a mother who sought inner peace through fasting, prayer, and scripture, Richard spent his bedridden childhood withdrawn into the company of books.
As a young man, Richard, defying both his doctors and parents, set out to experience as much of the world as he could — as a disc jockey, fishing trawler deckhand, house painter, naval correspondent, aerial photographer, private investigator, foreign journalist, bartender and unsuccessful seminarian — before his hips failed him. While digging irrigation ditches in east Texas, he discovered that a teacher had sent a story of his to the Atlantic, where it was named a winner in the magazine’s national fiction contest launching a career much in the mold of Jack London and Mark Twain.
A superbly written and irresistible blend of history, travelogue, and personal reflection, House of Prayer No. 2 is a remarkable portrait of a writer’s struggle with his faith, the evolution of his art, and of recognizing one’s singularity in the face of painful disability. Written with humor and a poetic force, this memoir is destined to become a modern classic.
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