No Place to Pray


Two young men, one bi-racial and the other white, meet in an overnight lockup, thus beginning a shared twenty-year downward spiral into alcoholism and homelessness. LeRoy and Harmon work together, drink together, and brawl together. As Harmon suffers from his final illness, they both bed Edna, a wealthy widow who — out of pity, curiosity, and loneliness — takes them into her vacation home by the river.

Through episodes rendered from multiple shifting points of view, a series of flashbacks, and LeRoy’s adventure stories—this intelligent but uneducated man’s attempts at fantasy writing—the stories of these people and the tragedies that shaped their lives unfold. Their lives steadily unravel at the seams of race, class, and religion, where no one ever quite tells the truth.

A Southern Gothic steeped in traditional language and with emphasis on destitute, drunken characters, dark plot turns, and magical realism, No Place to Pray experiments with a new form of lyrical language that touches upon the author’s experience as a published poet. This is not the only aspect of the book that draws from Carpenter’s own varied life experiences.

“The book is obliquely autobiographical,” Carpenter reveals. “Fictionally, I am LeRoy James. He represents the binaries in my own life, where I have never quite resolved living in two worlds, my blue collar, hardscrabble origins, and eventually teaching in the Ivy League and all the disconnects intrinsic to that socialdistance.”




This book very much reminds me of the literary stories I grew up with. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird and William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily came immediately to mind as I read the opening scene. The imagery is rich and many layers. The main characters LeRoy and Hammon are deeply flawed. This seems to come partly from their upbringing and mostly from their alcoholism. The alcoholism in this book is not at all glamorized. Scenes of drunken misbehavior and it resultant calamity is scattered throughout the pages. The story twists and turns between time periods and people much like sitting at a family dinner with far away relatives who reluctantly fill in the details of family gossip. This is not a pop novel. Not by any measure but it is a novel worth reading. You will feel like you know the characters and their secrets as they have revealed themselves to you in the course of the book.


About the Author

Born and raised in rural Mercer County, PA, James Carpenter made his way through college working various eclectic jobs and, after graduating, taught middle and high school English. He then retrained as a technologist, eventually developing the Erica T. Carter software system that composed the poetry anthologized in the Issue 1 dustup. Erica’s poetry has been published in several dozen literary journals and he’s presented Erica at international conferences, including at the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, and the e-poetry 2007 conference in Paris.


Carpenter spent fourteen years as a member of the affiliated faculty of The Wharton School, where he lectured in computer programming, system design, and entrepreneurship before retiring to write fiction. Since then, his writing has appeared in numerouspublications including The Chicago Tribune, Fiction International, Fifth Wednesday Journal, North Dakota Quarterly, and Ambit. His novel, No Place to Pray, is forthcoming from Twisted Road Publications in September.



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About The Author

My kids are finally all in High School. One is driving. I am FREE! I want to discover all there is to do and be now that the vomit diapers and carpool are over. Let the ADVENTURE begin!

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