Pray Hard

Pray Hard

4.8 5
by Pam Walker
     
 

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Since her father was killed doing missionary work, it seems as though Amelia and her mama have stopped living. But that all changes when an ex-convict named Brother Mustard Seed arrives stirring up trouble while unexpectedly opening their hearts to healing, believing, and each other. Told in a colorful Kentucky voice that is sassy, lyrical, and wise, Pray Hard is

Overview

Since her father was killed doing missionary work, it seems as though Amelia and her mama have stopped living. But that all changes when an ex-convict named Brother Mustard Seed arrives stirring up trouble while unexpectedly opening their hearts to healing, believing, and each other. Told in a colorful Kentucky voice that is sassy, lyrical, and wise, Pray Hard is exquisite storytelling from an exciting new writer.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A clumsy, vision-seeing, forever-sweeping ex-convict is the unlikely catalyst in Walker's affecting story of a daughter's emotional healing after the untimely death of her father in a plane accident. Amelia's father Jed kept the field behind his house, which served as the runway for his plane, neatly mowed and debris-free. Before going away on a trip, he would remind his daugther to "keep the runway clear," which Amelia understood meant more than just picking up downed twigs; it meant "taking care of things" until he returned. But now that Jed's never coming home, the runway is literally and metaphorically covered in weeds and trash. Amelia barely passed sixth grade, and she and her mother have both retreated into a world of silent sorrow. The sorrow lies particularly heavy on Amelia, as she beleives that she may have accidentally caused her father's death, a subject that so fills her with guilt and shame that she can neither talk about it nor heal. The arrival of Brother Mustard Seed, an annoying, bumbling, over-emotional yet well-meaning "sinner" who claims that he saw Jed in a vision, stirs up the family dynamic and allows Walker to explore the jumbled, quasi-mystical connections between belief and bravery, laughter and letting go. Brother Mustard Seed is an original creation, curious and contradictory, and like Amelia, readers should find him intially irritating though eventually almost endearing. Even if occasionally overburdened by its own symbolism, the book's twangy first person narrative keeps the reader engaged to the touching, tear-inducing end.

---Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2001

Walker, a first novelist, offers a multi-layered story told in the memorable Kentucky voice of 12-year-old Amelia Forrest. Amelia's father died more than a year ago in his small plane on a mission of mercy. Since then, nothing has been the same. Her grades and social life have tanked, her mother has gained 50 pounds, and the tiny airstrip behind their house is covered with weeds. But for Amelia, the worst is keeping the secret that she is responsible for her father's death. Then, one day, an old man wearing a cap that says "Pray Hard" appears on her doorstep. He's Brother Mustard Seed, a member of Mr. Forrest's prison fellowship, and he has come because he's seen a vision of Amelia's father. The novel's denouement falls slightly flat, but Walker juggles numerous plot elements with the skill of a more experienced writer, while effectively showcasing larger themes such as belief and death. A fine debut from a writer to watch.

---Booklist, March 1, 2001

When Amelia Forrest was 11 years old, her crop duster/missionary father died in an airplane accident. Now, a year later, the girl has determined that she and her mama need to find a way to put their lives back together. She's set on a summer of improvement for both of them and has sent her mother off to the beauty parlor while she reads the encyclopedia to improve her grades. Amelia's well-laid plans are interrupted when a strange man comes to the door claiming he's been sent to them by her father, who has appeared to him in a vision. Amelia takes an instant dislike to ex-convict Brother Mustard Seed, whom Jed Forrest had helped rehabilitate, but her mother seems reluctant to let him go. As the summer wears on, the man becomes the catalyst that allows Amelia and her mama to regain a sense of purpose in life and, more importantly, to regain their faith. Set against the background of a rural Southern community, this novel explores the issues of adolescent guilt (Amelia is convinced that she is responsible for her father's death) and the inertia that often overwhelms families in tough situations. Walker's quirky characters are imbued with the spiritual resolve they need to overcome their sorrow and to get on with life. Amelia does not forget her rather, but learns to remember and celebrate their relationship in a new and healthy way.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Recalling works by both Han Nolan and Martha Moore, this studiously quirky first novel looks at a small-town Kentucky girl whose contact with an offbeat stranger helps her come to terms with the death of her father, killed the previous summer while piloting a small plane. While her mother is out getting "beautified" at the Clicking Clippers salon, 12-year-old Amelia Forrest opens the door to a born-again ex-convict improbably named Brother Mustard Seed. It turns out that Brother Mustard Seed had met Amelia's father who, as a Baptist missionary, had visited him in prison and showed him the way to the Lord. Now Brother Mustard Seed claims to have had a vision of Amelia's father, telling him to go to Amelia and her mother: "They need your help." Amelia, who narrates, is highly cynical, but her mother decides to "exercise [her] right to be open minded." Meanwhile, Amelia harbors secret feelings of guilt (closing chapters reveal that Amelia is sure that the popper toy she had planted behind his seat had popped out mid-flight and distracted him, causing him to crash). Coincidences mount and Amelia reconsiders her assumptions. She learns to live with questions: being brave, she concludes, means that "sometimes you had to do something without knowing the full reason for doing it." While Walker firmly resolves one of Amelia's quandaries by having her find the toy in question, she leaves the visions and the coincidences open-ended. For all the mannered cast and plot, the conclusion is highly satisfying and accomplished in its deference to readers' imaginations. Ages 10-14. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Amelia Forrest is twelve years old and lives with her mother. Her father died in a plane crash, which she feels was her fault. Every day brings a memory of her dad and how guilty she feels causing his death. Brother Mustard Seed appears at their door wearing a cap with Pray Hard on the bill. He is a newly religious ex-convict that her father befriended at the local prison. He had a vision to visit his friend and when he finds out he had died, he decides to stay and help Mrs. Forrest and Amelia. Amelia does not trust Brother Mustard Seed and continues to find ways to discourage him from staying with them, but to no avail. Amelia's dad had been a trickster and before he left on his last flight, he gave her a jumping frog and "scared" her as a joke. In order to get back at him she had put the frog in his plane and that is why she feels responsible for the crash. As Amelia is looking for Brother Mustard Seed's lost cap under the porch she finds the jumping frog and realizes she didn't cause her father's plane to crash. 2001, Scholastic Press, $15.95. Ages 10 to 12. Reviewer: Karen Werner
VOYA
"When I was eleven years old, my daddy was killed in a plane crash. I was pretty sure I had been the cause of it, but I hadn't told anybody." Thus begins Amelia Forrest's story. Amelia has carried her guilty secret for the past year. Her life changes again when ex-convict Brother Mustard Seed shows up one morning wearing her father's old "Pray Hard" hat and telling Amelia that her father appeared to him in a vision. Amelia also is unprepared for the response of her mother, who seems to accept Brother Mustard Seed's story and invites him to stay. Over the next few weeks, Amelia rebels against his presence, yet his unquestioning belief and his eccentric personality begin to wear down the walls she has built. When Brother Mustard Seed buys some broken concrete lawn ornaments in response to a second vision, his action triggers events that prove to Amelia that she did not cause her father's death and allow her to begin to heal. This touching story is well written and avoids many of the clichés usually found in fiction dealing with faith. Supernatural events are portrayed subtly, and readers are left to draw their own conclusions about whether or not a deity was involved. Walker's homespun style fits her quirky, appealing characters. It is too bad that the cover is not more appealing because this gem of a book deserves a wide audience. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2001, Scholastic, 172p, $15.95. Ages 12 to 14. Reviewer: Libby Bergstrom SOURCE: VOYA, August 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 3)
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-When Amelia Forrest was 11 years old, her crop duster/missionary father died in an airplane accident. Now, a year later, the girl has determined that she and her mama need to find a way to put their lives back together. She's set on a summer of improvement for both of them and has sent her mother off to the beauty parlor while she reads the encyclopedia to improve her grades. Amelia's well-laid plans are interrupted when a strange man comes to the door claiming he's been sent to them by her father, who has appeared to him in a vision. Amelia takes an instant dislike to ex-convict Brother Mustard Seed, whom Jed Forrest had helped rehabilitate, but her mother seems reluctant to let him go. As the summer wears on, the man becomes the catalyst that allows Amelia and her mama to regain a sense of purpose in life and, more importantly, to regain their faith. Set against the background of a rural Southern community, this novel explores the issues of adolescent guilt (Amelia is convinced that she is responsible for her father's death) and the inertia that often overwhelms families in tough situations. Walker's quirky characters are imbued with the spiritual resolve they need to overcome their sorrow and to get on with life. Amelia does not forget her father, but learns to remember and celebrate their relationship in a new and healthy way.-Sharon Grover, Arlington County Department of Libraries, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A clumsy, vision-seeing, forever-weeping ex-convict is the unlikely catalyst in Walker's affecting story of a daughter's emotional healing after the untimely death of her father in a plane accident. Amelia's father Jed kept the field behind his house, which served as the runway for his plane, neatly mowed and debris-free. Before going away on a trip, he would remind his daughter to "keep the runway clear," which Amelia understood meant more than just picking up downed twigs; it meant "taking care of things" until he returned. But now that Jed's never coming home, the runway is literally and metaphorically covered in weeds and trash. Amelia barely passed sixth grade, and she and her mother have both retreated into a world of silent sorrow. The sorrow lies particularly heavy on Amelia, as she believes that she may have accidentally caused her father's death, a subject that so fills her with guilt and shame that she can neither talk about it nor heal. The arrival of Brother Mustard Seed, an annoying, bumbling, over-emotional yet well-meaning "sinner" who claims that he saw Jed in a vision, stirs up the family dynamic and allows Walker to explore the jumbled, quasi-mystical connections between belief and bravery, laughter and letting go. Brother Mustard Seed is an original creation, curious and contradictory, and like Amelia, readers should find him initially irritating though eventually almost endearing. Even if occasionally overburdened by its own symbolism, the book's twangy first person narrative keeps the reader engaged to the touching, tear-inducing end. (Fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780439215862
Publisher:
Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
04/01/1901
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.68(d)
Lexile:
790L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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Pray Hard 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
br00kes1 More than 1 year ago
I'm in the 6th grade now, but last year i read this book and since then i could not think of the name! But today i went to my library and finally found it! i was soooooo happy! :D so i googled it so i could buy it and pretty much the only reason i got this account is so i could tell all of u that it is the most amazing book ever! If i could rank it on a scale to one to onehundred it would be a solid one million bajillion! I would say this is a great book for kids everywhere who have lost someone in their life but for me i didnt lose anyone it just makes me feel so good inside i love love love it!!!!!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
i have only gotten to the middle of the book but so far it is probably the best book that i have ever read!!! i love this book because it is very sad and i like those kind of books it just makes that this book makes me realise that life could be worse!and to not take advantage of anything even if you get the chance losing your dad makes the whole book even better i recomened this book to any people who like sad,tradjic, and yet wierd books. KIDS YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK ITS DA BOMB!!!HOLLA AT YOUR HOMEDOGS YO!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book has suprizes everywhere its all about one thing it menchines in the begining that you forget about than it brings it all back for a great ending (it makes you cry in some parts and has lots of filling too)
Guest More than 1 year ago
My daughter checked this book out at the library and after reading it told me that it was one of her favorite books. She told me I should read it, too, which I did. I have to agree--this author dealt with this difficult subject matter in an honest, sensitive, and truly helpful way. I look forward to more of her books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most honest, funny, and thoughtful novels I have read in a long time. And your kids will like it, too.