The Atheist's Prayer by Amy R Biddle

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The Atheist's Prayer by Amy R Biddle

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sam Tyler
Reviewed by Sam Tyler
Summary: Over a year ago a group of cultists all committed suicide during an eclipse. In only seven days time another eclipse is coming. Will history repeat itself, or can the disjointed lives of the characters in 'The Atheist's Prayer' be fixed before it is too late?
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 234 Date: February 2014
Publisher: Perfect Edge
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781780995823

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I don’t shy away from a book with a little edge, in fact Chuck Palahniuk is one of my favourite authors and his books can be so sharp you can shave with them. On the surface The Atheist’s Prayer would seem to be courting controversy; why else have such a provocative title? But, is it really that shocking? Nope. This is a story about how people deal with the modern world and what happens when dangerous ideals infect a vulnerable group.

‘Prayer’ is not the easiest book to get into as it starts off by jumping between various characters and never lets up. There is a mother, her son, her lover, a stripper, a confused cultist and her daughter. All are given segments of the book, but none of them tell the story. Instead the narrative has to be gleaned by reading around what they are doing. Why live in a dirty house with a monkey? What has Hank got to do to rid himself of his new girlfriend and her pesky kid? All the stories are interlinked, but it can take a while for you to realise this.

There is a deft skill in subtle storytelling and Biddle has it. This is not a book about large explosions or massive emotional turmoil, but a series of small realisations by a group of fractured people. By the end of the story, every character has learned a little about themselves. The threads of the story all lead to a conclusion that is far more bombastic than the rest of the book. It sat a little uncomfortably with me, but does finally give the book some meaning.

I am not a subtle person in real life, so struggle with subtly in written form. Biddle has written a book about emotion and growth, how religion can inform us, but does not have to define us. That is all well and good, but usually I also like some strong narrative thread as well to keep me interested. This does eventually happen in ‘Prayer’, but only after the majority of the book is finished. You are almost asked to read the book as a puzzle, adding pieces as you go along; only able to recognise the whole once you are nearly finished. For some, this will be how books are meant to be written, but for me it was a little too loose in places.

The structure of the book may be ethereal, but it is not helped by too many characters. Like a soufflé it is undermined by a couple of unneeded ingredients. By bouncing from one character to another, you are given the story piecemeal, but the reader is left a little unsatisfied as you never get to really know anyone. With its relatively short length, ‘Prayer’ is more of a novella than a novel. With this in mind it feels like a beautiful short story, rather than a slightly disappointing full length novel. However, seeing as it is being released as full format, I have some misgivings.

If this book appeals then you might like to try Invisible Monsters Remix by Chuck Palahniuk or Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles

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