Two pervasive themes drive author Ludmila Ritz’s memoir, A SINGLE DESPERATE PRAYER: her love for her mother and her love for her sister. She recalls her childhood in Ukraine, poor and streetwise, with her love and sacrifices for them weaving through her daily life and personal challenges. Ritz writes with great compassion for her mother, when she could have been bitter and angry with her for allowing Ritz to grow up as she did. She writes with great affection for her sister, when she could have been resentful of her. The reader comes to care about both as much as they care about Ritz herself.
Ritz recounts how she learned about faith and her experience of it, something many readers will be able to relate to. Once faith and miracles find a place in her heart, her life transforms, and of the many lessons she learns, this one will be the most consequential. A SINGLE DESPERATE PRAYER is ultimately an uplifting memoir of one person’s journey to faith and how love guided her to it.
Ritz’s writing is plain and straightforward—not high art, but instead displaying the art of good storytelling. Her voice is a child’s voice, with all the candor and clarity that entails. The mood is visceral, and profanity is sprinkled here and there—not surprising, since much of her memoir recounts the difficulty of surviving on the margins of society for the first dozen years of her life. After reading about Ritz’s roller coaster of a life, when we finally find out what her prayer is near the end of the book, one hopes it comes true.
Readers are told the answer to the prayer by story’s end. However, Ritz leaves another major question unanswered, a question that in part defines the story. One consequence of reading a gripping memoir is caring about what happens to the author after the story has ended, but we have no closure here. The absence of an epilogue in A SINGLE DESPERATE PRAYER is the book’s single flaw, leaving the reader hanging. Perhaps Ritz will consider writing another memoir with the answer.
Although we don’t find out immediately what memoir author Ludmila Ritz’s single desperate prayer is—one of the defining moments of her young life—her gutsy, sensitive writing builds our curiosity until we get there.
~Susan Scheck for IndieReader