Getting a vasectomy these days can be a responsible social gesture, but for Hank and Chuck back in 1950s Appalachia, it’s but a boozy night’s whim and all about hating to use rubbers, leaving them unprepared for how complicated their lives are about to get because nobody told them that they would have to keep using those slimy things until they’d experienced twenty ejaculations. With malleable resolve, they work through the embarrassment of producing semen samples, counting down their ejaculations, and actually talking about sex with their partners. They also bravely confront daunting obstacles of mean-spirited doctors and nurses, judgmental preachers, just plain nasty neighbors, a partner’s infidelity, and an inexplicable out-of-wedlock pregnancy—all while falling in love and without anybody getting shot. A comedic masterpiece according to almost all of the author’s relatives, pretty much except for that one aunt who’s had it in for him since he was a kid.
Two young men, one bi-racial and the other white, meet in an overnight lockup and begin their shared twenty-year downward spiral into alcoholism and homelessness. LeRoy and Harmon work together, drink together, brawl together, and 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 shifting, multiple points of view, a series of flashbacks, and LeRoy’s fantasies and adventure stories, we learn of the people and tragedies that shaped their lives and those whose lives unravel along with theirs at the seams of race, class, and religion, and where no one ever quite tells the truth.
“No Place to Pray is located at the creative nexus where Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, and Richard Pryor converge. Rarely do writers explore, much less depict with insight, irony, and comedy, the endless lower depths of American culture…” –Larry Bensky, Executive Producer, “Radio Proust;” and former contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times Book Review