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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

"A Prayer Journal" by Flannery O'Connor. A Review

A Prayer JournalA Prayer Journal by Flannery O'Connor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm not sure how happy she would have been with this volume. I suspect she would have blustered and blushed scarlet. Nevertheless, this tiny little book is the publication of Flannery O'Connor's prayers while she was in graduate school at the University of Iowa from 1946 to 1947. In many ways it is a touching read to be perusing the musings of her soul as they spilled out on the page.

The first half of "A Prayer Journal" is introduced by W.A. Sessions, who visited and corresponded with O'Connor during those years. Then for the next several pages are the prayers of O'Connor, aesthetically cleaned up and mildly re-punctuated. The last half presents facsimiles of the original handwritten journal.

The prayers show the soul-wrestling of a young woman who believed, and prayed God to help her unbelief, "Dear God, I don't want to have invented my faith to satisfy my weakness. I don't want to have created God to my own image as they are fond of saying" (16). At times they contain a depth beyond her chronological years, "No one can be an atheist who does not know all things. Only God is an atheist. The devil is the greatest believer & he has his reasons" (25). And at other times they reveal how human and "normal" the young woman was, "My thoughts are so far away from God. He might as well not have made me...There is nothing left to say of me" (40).

In the end, "A Prayer Journal" will add some flesh and calico to a reader's conception of who Flannery O'Connor was. More often than not, you will likely find yourself adding your own "Amen" to her prayers. For example, while writing about heaven, she pleads "I don't want to fear to be out, I want to love to be in" (6). This is a worthwhile manuscript to pick up and read, especially for fellow O'Connor lovers.

You can purchase a copy here: "A Prayer Journal"

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