We instantly bonded over talk of YA paranormal fiction and the question of God in Philip Pullman’s books. I told him in order for the bond to continue, he had to watch the new Battlestar Galactica and love it. Done and done! One of the best things about Aaron is how he always does what he’s told.
We exchanged novels and I hoped he could actually write. (You never know at writers’ conferences.) He gave me The Never Prayer, and I sank into Lena’s dark, vivid world and didn’t much come up for air until the end. Thank the gods and the Powers That Be and his dear and fluffy Lord. I wouldn’t have to break Aaron’s tender, passionate heart.
We agreed to query our respective books, 50 query letters and then we’d reassess. Aaron immediately set out to do his whereas I fiddle-faddled. 60 query letters later and he got a book offer. His obedience once again landed him in clover. And now The Never Prayer is a book and it’s in his hot little hands and he’s doing a book launch. Say amen, somebody!
I’m grateful for the part I’ve played, whatever that’s been. Because anyone who’s met Aaron knows he’s driven, passionate, committed, obsessed, devoted. To finding what is divine and sacred in the mundane stories of everyday wretches like him. To preaching the gospel of Ritcheyanity. He’s the mad monk of storytelling. He would have arrived here without me.
But I’m glad I was along for the ride. It’s been a helluva heavenly ride.
The Never Prayer begins:
(the red purse)
“I’m not going to do it again,” Lena Marquez whispered to the red purse across the hall from her nestle of blankets. “Never again.”
All of her other purses, scarves, and belts were just shadows hanging from hooks on both sides of the bathroom door, but in the glow of the cracked Thomas the Train nightlight, the red purse glittered. Each sequin like a teardrop of blood.
Lena is a young woman with too much on her shoulders; raising her little brother after the death of their parents, trying to keep her depressed aunt going to pay the bills. Walking the knife’s edge between hope and despair, survival and doom. She loses faith and helps her boyfriend sell drugs, hoping to keep her family together.
Into the breach come two boys; dark, angry Chael who chastises Lena for her desperate choices and sunny, smooth Johnny Beels who tells her what she wants to hear. As she eludes the police, reassures her brother and dodges the slings and arrows of high school life, she finds it increasingly difficult to tell the difference between good and evil, heaven and hell.
Will she be able to work it out in time to prevent disaster? And at what cost?
Aaron writes in an intensely poetic yet stripped down and stark style. He vividly evokes the desperation of a dying town; the hopelessness, the cold, the barren landscape.
Avalon was crammed into a jagged valley, surrounded by the Mosquito Range mountains too steep and wild to ski. Mount Calibum and Ablach Peak rose like craggy hands up to the dark lavender sky, the sparse snow like vanishing white veins in gray skin.
His characters ring true and bring you with them into their hardscrabble lives. Lena’s brother Jozey, a perfect rendition of a little boy who’s lost his parents but not his love. The aunt, bearing Lena’s blame and her own burdens with a quiet resignation, perfectly drawn. Lena’s high school friends, whether popular or scorned, are sympathetically portrayed, real down to their pimples.
The love triangle is fully realized but it doesn’t dominate Lena’s story. The spiritual and theological aspects are there, they’re present, but there’s no preaching or pontificating. If you’re a fan of Supernatural, the Castiel Years, Chael and Johnny Beels’ struggle over souls might be just your thing. Like with any good story, the ending is both inevitable and shocking. Leaves you thinking, and feeling, for a long time afterward.
One thing’s for sure. We’ll have more great writing from Aaron Michael Ritchey, because all the women in his life told him so.
I, for one, will be a reader for life.
5 Out of 5 Angel Feathers
Aaron’s author site on Amazon, where you can buy the book!
His Crescent Moon Press page