Monday, June 08, 2009
Forgotten Books, Special Edition: A PRAYER FOR THE DYING
Originally published in 1999, Picador Books is using Stewart O'Nan's book, A PRAYER FOR THE DYING's 10th anniversary to release a paperback edition as the summer 2009 selection for "The Best Book You Never Read." I am always pushing O'Nan and my bookgroup will be discussing it tomorrow night.
If you only read one book by Stewart O'Nan, make it this one.
A few years after the Civil War, a soldier returns and takes up duties as both constable and undertaker in a small town that is soon beset by disease. The writing is so lovely and the anguish so real you won't be able to forget it. It's the kind of book, you will soon pick up at used book sales to pass on to a friend.
Don't let the unusual second person voice put you off. You will quickly get used to it and see it as a strength by the end. We all share in the narrator's horror. The "you" is entirely correct in this tale. Here's a brief interview with O'Nan at the time of its first publication.
It became very clear to me after reading this book after ten years that it had a significant impact on a story I wrote last year for Spinetingler where a mother wrestles with a dying baby while her husband is gone in the 1800s. Have you ever read a piece and discovered you probably inadvertently used themes or ideas?