Synopses & Reviews
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and of a mother who sought inner peace through fasting, prayer, and scripture, Richard spent his bedridden childhood withdrawn into the company of books.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.
"In this fascinating memoir, novelist Richard (Fishboy) details a life that led him from a lurid South to the gray streets of New York City. Born with deformities that left him nearly crippled, Richard suffered medical procedures that would have done a medieval torturer proud. Richard's status as a 'special child' (it was also believed he was mentally handicapped) meant that he was further marginalized. As an outsider, Richard meets bizarre characters and finds himself in increasingly bizarre situations. As he dives into a world of crime and bad behavior, Richard hones his talent as a writer, with increasing success. Richard's flattened narrative tone suits the extreme nature of his material. He successfully weaves into his memoir recurring characters like his father, who slowly come into focus. As Richard gets older, however, characters and events blur in a mess of love affairs and crimes, shipwrecks and drug deals, and celebrities. Throughout, there's a grace to even his darkest tales. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
A memoir of extraordinary power by an award-winning author. Mark Richard tells the story of his American South, with its heady Gothic mix of racial tension and religious fervor—and of how writing helped him find his way in the world.
The only son of Cajun parents, Mark Richard grew up in Southampton County, Virginia. His father gave up a career at NASA to become a solitary forester, whose flashes of wit were matched only by his hair-trigger temper. Mark’s mother was often preoccupied with moody searches for spiritual enlightenment. Their son was born with hip defects and diagnosed as retarded. Richard was called a “special child” and he spent years in charity hospitals populated by children from the poorest neighborhoods.
After several surgeries, Mark became the youngest radio disc jockey in America, and later worked as a deckhand on ocean-going trawlers, an aerial photographer, private investigator, a bartender, and a country ham wholesaler, to name just a few. 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. The prize launched a career, which allowed him to explore Europe and, much to the reader’s amusement, continue his adventures on someone else’s dime.
Finally Richard visits his hometown, where his mother is the only white congregant in a black Pentecostal church, the House of Prayer No. 2. A superbly written and irresistible blend of history, travelogue, and personal reflection, House of Prayer No. 2 is a singular and revealing portrayal of a writer’s evolution.
About the Author
MARK RICHARD is the author of two award-winning short story collections, The Ice at the Bottom of the World and Charity, and the novel Fishboy. His short stories and journalism have appeared in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Harper’s, Esquire, Vogue, and GQ. He is the recipient of the PEN/Hemingway Award, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a Whiting Foundation Writer’s Award. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and their three sons.