Review

I Say a Little Prayer

by E. Lynn Harris



E. Lynn Harris's latest novel focuses on Chauncey Greer, the owner
of Cute Boy Card Company, a successful greeting card business
centered in Atlanta. Chauncey has done well for himself, despite a
big career setback years ago involving Reunion, a musical group to
which he belonged. His past is told in flashbacks, mostly about the
story of his first love "D" (Damien), a boy who taught the young
Chauncey that love between two men could be beautiful. However, D
was also Chauncey's first heartbreak, a betrayal that was so cruel
that Chauncey still questions whether D ever truly loved him.

Now that Chauncey is a successful businessman, D is part of his
past --- or so he thinks. Chauncey's church, Abundant Joy, is about
to sponsor a huge Christian gathering called "Day of Absence," and
one of the ministers who will participate is the now-famous Bishop
Upchurch, who happens to be a man from Chauncey's past. Upchurch
has a huge ministry and is teaching his flock that homosexuality is
a sin. Chauncey is angry to hear that this "friend," who himself is
gay, is preaching about hate and discrimination, and he wants
nothing to do with the Bishop. Word spreads fast among the Black
Gay community to boycott this event, but will it be enough to
prevent hate from coming to Abundant Joy?

I SAY A LITTLE PRAYER is a short but intense novel by the author
who is famous for his gay-centered African American literature. E.
Lynn Harris does not hold back, and his characters and books
portray what it is like to be gay and black. Those who are
uncomfortable with sex scenes involving the same gender may feel
uneasy reading certain portions of the book. But with an open mind,
the strong personalities who fill this novel may intrigue the
reader to follow through to the end. While the sex scenes were a
bit too explicit for my taste, I enjoyed Chauncey's story and his
conflict with being homeosexual and Christian. His best friend
Skylar was a hoot, a flamboyant African American gay man whose own
story about his first love ended on a sad note, though he never
lets things like that keep him down. Other colorful characters are
Ms. Gladys, who works as Chauncey's secretary at his card company,
and Celia, his assistant who is having her own man problems.
Meanwhile, Griffin, who Chauncey met in the beginning of the story,
is not who he says he is --- this was a surprise that I did not see
coming.

While I felt that the story overall was a bit disjointed at first,
I began to see the first half as a collection of memories, with the
reader being pulled back into the present through the card company
and Chauncey's participation in his church. Once the character of
Bishop Upchurch comes into play, the novel begins to come together
and it all makes sense.

Having read Harris's A LOVE OF MY OWN a few years ago and enjoying
it, I couldn't help but compare it to his current novel. I didn't
enjoy the latter as much as I did the former, but both books have
great characters who feel real and interesting enough that I would
want to get to know them better. Harris has a habit of bringing
back his older characters, and this book is no exception. The major
notable cameo here is Basil, who had a prominent role in A LOVE OF
MY OWN.

I'm definitely reading more by E. Lynn Harris, who has his own
unique voice in the world of African American fiction.

Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton (Ratmammy@lofton.org) on January 22, 2011

I Say a Little Prayer
by E. Lynn Harris

  • Publication Date: August 21, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN-10: 1400077281
  • ISBN-13: 9781400077281