Synopses & Reviews
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year
Set in Friendship, Wisconsin, just after the Civil War, A Prayer for the Dying tells of a horrible epidemic that is suddenly and gruesomely killing the town's residents and setting off a terrifying paranoia. Jacob Hansen, Friendship's sheriff, undertaker, and pastor, is soon overwhelmed by the fear and anguish around him, and his sanity begins to fray. Dark, poetic, and chilling, A Prayer for the Dying examines the effect of madness and violence on the morality of a once-decent man.
"O'Nan again proves himself a writer of dazzling virtuosity and imagination....[An] eloquent horror tale/philosophical fable....Outside of a few red-herring details, the narrative moves with surefooted technique into the realm of sinister gothic mystery. Profoundly unsettling, it requires a leap of faith from the reader that may, like Jacob's faith, fail at times, but it is a mesmerizing story and a brilliant tour de force." Publishers Weekly
"It's an amazing novel, at once highly realistic yet at the same time poetically metaphoric. O'Nan's readership grows with each book, and his fans will find this one his best to date." Brad Hooper, Booklist
"Stewart O'Nan has produced a fine, terse novel about the circumstantial nature of evil and the terrible fragility of man." Patrick McGrath, The New York Times Book Review
"Stephen King-esque literary horror...a campfire story with moral depth." The Wall Street Journal
"This is a sad and chilling novel. It will make no readers happy. It will make them shudder and think and marvel at a writer's creation of an alien world that seems so real." Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today
"[A] brilliant exploration of evil and solipsism. A small, gruesome literary gem." Entertainment Weekly
"Mr. O'Nan...is a master of voices and the place they resonate from....With a shivery economy of means and a dreadful lavishness of effect, Mr. O'Nan advances the...growth of the epidemic and the disintegration of Jacob....His madness is not all of him; there is a bleak awareness...and this is what makes A Prayer more than a brilliant exercise of darkness." Richard Eder, The New York Times
"[D]ark, edgy, muscular....This slender novel is as toned as a pro offensive lineman, and far more supple. And does it horrify? I found it more disturbing than anything else I've read this year....Ignore it at your peril." Edward Bryant, Locus
Set in Friendship, Wisconsin, just after the Civil War, A Prayer for the Dying
tells of a horrible epidemic that has gripped the town in a vice of fear and Death. Jacob Hansen, Friendship's sheriff, undertaker, and pastor, is soon overwhelmed, though he continues to do what he can. Dark, poetic, and chilling,A Prayer for the Dying
makes us consider if it's possible to be a good man in atime of madness.
About the Author
Stewart O'Nan's first collection of stories, In the Walled City, won the Drue Heinz Literary Prize. He is the author of four previous novels, Snow Angels, The Names of the Dead, The Speed Queen, and A World Away. He lives in Connecticut.