Ricky Graves is a young man coming to terms with his sexual orientation in a small New Hampshire town. He’s tormented by a jerk named Wesley, until Ricky kills him — and then himself. –NPR
In raw, poignant alternating first-person narratives, interspersed with e-mails, gay chat-room exchanges, and other fragments of a youth laid bare in the age of social media, The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves unravels the mystery of a life in all its glory: despair and regret, humor and wonder, courage and connection.
A heartbroken and humiliated Ricky Graves took the life of a classmate and himself. Five months later, the sleepy community is still in shock and mourning. Ricky’s sister, Alyssa, returns to confront her shattered, withdrawn mother and her guilt over the brother she left adrift. Mark McVitry, the lone survivor of the deadly outburst sparked by his own cruelty, is tormented by visions of Ricky’s vengeful spirit. Ricky’s surrogate older brother, Corky Meeks, grapples with doubts about the fragile boy he tried to protect but may have doomed instead. And Jeremy Little, who inadvertently became Ricky’s long-distance Internet crush despite never having met, seeks to atone for failing to hear his friend’s cries for help.
For those closest to the tormented killer, shock and grief have given way to soul searching, as they’re forced to confront their broken dreams, buried desires, and missed opportunities. And in their shared search for meaning and redemption, Ricky’s loved ones find a common purpose: learning to trust their feelings, fighting for real intimacy in a world grown selfish and insincere, and fearlessly embracing all that matters most…before it’s gone from their lives.
Praise for The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves
“Mattson fully inhabits the characters who come together to render Ricky’s last year of life, and he punches hard in every scene, evoking feelings of anger and regret that any teen should ever be bullied or ostracized because of his sexuality. He also manages to create a palpable aura of suspense, backtracking into the events that led to the shooting.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“A deeply moving debut.” —New York Post
“What Mattson does so adeptly here is let the narrative flow through the individual voices of both the people who were victimized by the shooter, and those closest to him…The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves is a first novel with a remarkably authentic look at some very contemporary issues.” —Lambda Literary
“Mattson expertly teases out the relationships between our real lives and our social media feeds, the faces we show to the world and the ones we must confront in the mirror. A moving debut about the intersections of rural queerness, the internet, and forgiveness.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Mattson’s first novel is an excellent, character-driven work of literary fiction that will continue to resonate with the reader long after the final page.” —Booklist
“And every decision the characters of the book make reverberate through the web and back to them as consequences they weren’t expecting. According to Ricky Graves, social media hasn’t reshaped our social worlds, but instead just created a new arena for friendship and heartbreak, hope and torment.” —Ploughshares
“In his beautiful debut novel…James Han Mattson explores the fallout from an act of violence that will seem all too familiar to American readers. Using multiple first-person narrators, Mattson deftly orbits the book’s central tragedy, allowing readers a broad view of the event that does much more than explore a killer’s motivations. —American Short Fiction
“Devastating and gripping. Top notch writing.” —Writer’s Bone
“In The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves, six intertwining narratives form a blistering tapestry of love, loss, and tragedy, reminding us that sexual identity remains a ferocious struggle for many small-town youths. In his remarkable debut, James Han Mattson both enthralls and horrifies, using the backdrop of a high school shooting to illustrate grief and longing in the age of digital communication.” —T. Geronimo Johnson, author of Welcome to Braggsville
“The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves is wrenching and hilarious, frightening and deeply propulsive. With keen insight and virtuosic prose, Mattson conjures a Greek chorus of voices to illuminate a thoroughly modern tragedy. An exhilarating debut.” —Jennifer duBois, author of Cartwheel
“James Han Mattson’s The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves is a deeply felt and deeply moving meditation on the way our more tender emotions—longing, empathy, compassion—have simultaneously changed and remained steady in a world ever more maddeningly mediated through technology. It is a gripping story about the inescapable dangers of love.” —Benjamin Hale, author of The Fat Artist and The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore
“The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves is comic and tragic storytelling that slowly, ingeniously reveals the nature of adolescence, identity, and the complex politics of small town communities. This artful narrative builds to poignant truths on the ways we love and hurt one another.” —Krys Lee, author of Drifting House and How I Became a North Korean
“The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves is an immensely wise and big hearted and fiercely smart novel—a heartbreaking autopsy of the current social moment. It’s a darkly funny, brilliantly constructed book about technology and violence and love and the loneliness that binds us all together. Put simply: James Han Mattson is a ridiculously talented writer. This is a great, great debut.”— Stuart Nadler, author of The Inseparables and Wise Men
“The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves is a compelling, suspenseful, expertly told narrative that manages to have sympathy for even the worst of its characters. It’s a brilliant performance. I couldn’t put it down.” –Ron Hansen, author of A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion and The Kid
“James Han Mattson’s enthralling debut deftly explores the messy complications of technology in modern life. Big-hearted and devastating, generous and probing, The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves is a compulsively readable tale of finding forgiveness in the midst of cruelty, of wresting love from the wreckage of violence.” —Matthew Griffin, author of Hide