“The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves: A Novel” by James Han Mattison— The Mystery of Life

Mattison, James Han. “The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves: A Novel”, Little A, 2017.

The Mystery of Life

Amos Lassen

Through first-person narratives, e-mails, gay chat-room exchanges, and other fragments “The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves” looks at the mystery of a life through the themes of despair and regret, humor and wonder, courage and connection.

A heartbroken and humiliated Ricky Graves was a heartbroken kid who had been humiliated one too many times and he took the life of a classmate and himself. Some five months after this his small New Hampshire community is still in shock and mourning. Ricky’s sister, Alyssa, comes home to confront her mother and deal with her guilt over the brother she left behind. Mark McVitry was the only survivor of the shooting that was sparked by his own cruelty and he is now tormented by visions of Ricky’s vengeful spirit. Ricky’s surrogate older brother, Corky Meeks, struggles with doubts about the young and fragile boy he tried to protect but who he may have doomed instead. Jeremy Little, Ricky’s long-distance Internet crush from San Francisco who never met him searches for atonement for not hearing his friend’s cries for help.

Shock and grief have given way to soul searching, as those who were closest to Ricky are forced “to confront their broken dreams, buried desires, and missed opportunities.” As they search for meaning and redemption, they find a common purpose of learning to trust their feelings and fight for real intimacy in a selfish and insincere world. We are taken into the relationships between mother and child, brother and sister, mentor and protégé, and bully and victim. Everyone is broken and painfully human. We have not yet had many novels that look at the real lives behind social media users and we quickly see the differences between what we show the world and how we see ourselves. We see the Internet as a transformative experience for rural youth. Each decision the characters of the book make goes through the web and back to them as consequences they could not expect. Ricky Graves, the character, shows us that social media has created a new place “for friendship and heartbreak, hope and torment.”

Here are the messy complications of technology in our lives and a story of finding forgiveness and a heartbreaking look at today’s current social moment. Six intertwining narratives take us into love, loss, and tragedy and remind us that sexual identity is a struggle for many who live in small-towns.

Here is the nature of adolescence, identity, and the complex politics of small town communities. As we start to read, we assume that this is the story of a bullied, conflicted kid who is so overwhelmed by his life that shoots others and then himself. Multiple narrators make us wonder how the story will ultimately come together and in fact, they do not. We are left with questions about multiple characters and how they connect and how their choices worked for them. We see something about modern technology and detachment from life and the many ways of coping with the results from the shooting.

We read about the dangers of social media as the plot slowly comes to light and even though everything revolves around a shooting, it is only briefly described as the psychological aspects of it are what impact us the most. Each chapter gives another layer to the story and many of the characters are not likable yet there is redemption.



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