A Prayer for Orion: A Son's Addiction and a Mother's Love, By Katherine James
A Prayer for Orion
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.5 in
  • Published: January 28, 2020
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 4577
  • ISBN: 9780830845774

*affiliate partner

  • 2020 ECPA Top Shelf Book Cover Award

It's always somebody else's kid—until it's yours.

When Katherine James and her husband found out their son was using heroin, their responses ran the gamut: disbelief, anger, helplessness, guilt. As they struggled to come to grips with their son's addiction and decide how best to help him, their home became a refuge for an unlikely assortment of their son's friends, each with their own story, drawn by the simple love and acceptance they found there—"the Lost Boys," James calls them.

In this sensitive, vulnerable memoir, award-winning novelist James turns her lush prose to a new purpose: to tell her family's story through the twists and turns of her son's addiction, overdose, and slow recovery. The result is not just a look at the phenomenon of drug abuse in suburban America, but also a meditation on the particular anguish of loving a wayward child and clinging to a desperate trust in God's providence through it all.

"A Prayer for Orion is one of the most important books of our time. With heartbreaking honesty and wide-eyed clarity, James offers us an intimate view of the opioid crisis. Her vulnerability, compassion, and sagacious insight confront our tendency to judge or distance ourselves from addicts—and instead invite us to lean in and love."

Dorothy Littell Greco, writer and author of Making Marriage Beautiful

"Addiction. Most of us don't know what we don't know. Katherine lets us learn with her on a journey of drugs and overdose with Sweetboy. A story filled with joy, fear, pain, deception, despair, hope, hope dashed, and hope restored. So many tears. And a God who comforts and sustains, who seems to disappear, then reappear. I wept, I held my breath, I turned the page—how can a mother endure? If you love a druggie or know someone who does, you will want to read this book."

Judy Douglass, director, Cru women's resources, author of When You Love a Prodigal

"With absolutely piercing prose, Katherine James shows us not only how to write but she also gently, vulnerably shows us how to pray, to trust, and to love even when walking through pain and suffering. I ate it up in two days! A Prayer for Orion is about more than a son's addiction or a mother's love—it is about the relentless love of God, who is present right through whatever we imagine as the very worst. Read it, let it move around your heart and propel you to love your people, your place, and your own Lost Boys."

Ashley Hales, author of Finding Holy in the Suburbs and host of the Finding Holy podcast

"Kate James has done something most unusual. In her riveting memoir about her son's life-and-death battle with heroin, she captivates your heart and educates you at the same time. Every chapter left me eager for more. Spiritual, yet far from preachy, James created a powerful combination of raw authenticity with hope-filled truth. A Prayer for Orion promises to enlighten the reader while giving hope to weary parents who are walking a similar path."

Dena Yohe, author of You Are Not Alone and cofounder of Hope for Hurting Parents

"Baldly, bravely, beautifully told, A Prayer for Orion invites readers to see faith in its lived-in condition, how it can traffic in confusion as much as confidence. As Kate James understands from her son's story of addiction, to know God is not to be spared the grief of this broken world. It is, however, to watch hope—as small and inconspicuous as Elijah's cloud—grow heavier with rain. Inviting us to surrender every what if? for the settled peace of even if, this book is for everyone struggling to love someone well."

Jen Pollock Michel, author of Surprised by Paradox

"A Prayer for Orion is a memoir of sobering truth. James's incisive prose unflinchingly cuts to the core and reveals an incandescent, searing, heartbreaking-yet-tender story that will touch lives, especially those impacted by addiction. This book tells the truth, and in doing so it allows others to both hope and heal."

Alia Joy, author of Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack

"A Prayer for Orion is more than the story of Sweetboy's battle with heroin addiction. Katherine James gives us a rare and raw glimpse of the way addiction traumatizes, distorts reality, and decimates individuals, families, and communities. There is a common phase in twelve-step groups: 'All addictions are cunning, baffling, powerful, and insidious.' Yet Katherine exquisitely and vulnerably shares how there is One who is wiser, more powerful, and persevering. Whether explicitly stated or not, we see how Jesus loves, cares for, and walks with Sweetboy, his friends, and Katherine's family even as they journey through the valley of the shadow of death. A Prayer for Orion is a must-read for those of us who are addicts or know one. It will remind us that we are deeply loved, we are not alone, and in Christ there always hope."

Sheila Wise Rowe, author of Healing Racial Trauma: The Road to Resilience, counselor and founder of The Rehoboth House

"I'd read the phone book if Katherine James wrote it. Thankfully, she chooses better topics, or do they choose her? Either way, A Prayer for Orion is one of the best books I've read in a long, long time. It reminded me of those familiar words by Frederick Buechner: 'Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid.' Artists like James help us fight the fear. They shape terrible things so that we can see their beauty, and they pare beauty back to an almost terrifying intensity. Having read this book, I accept that the world is more frightening even than I suspected. But having read this book, I am more certain there is a light that darkness cannot overcome. A Prayer for Orion tells a terrifying tale, but tells it with such precision, elegance, and honesty, that it left me hopeful and unafraid."

Christie Purifoy, author of Roots and Sky and Placemaker

"Katherine James walks you into the intense reality of living with, caring for, and loving a person struggling with addiction and thankfully only flirting with death. An intimate look at what one should never have to go through as a parent. A poetic and cool narrative; a true perspective of a true experience."

Alexander Beh, author and filmmaker

"Katherine James's story in A Prayer for Orion: A Son's Addiction and a Mother's Love reveals the universal cry in the hearts of countless mothers of addicts all around the world. This book will reignite the fight in you to stay in the war for your loved one's freedom! Katherine's message is crystal clear: Never. Give. Up."

Brian "Head" Welch, cofounder of the Grammy Award–winning band Korn, author of With My Eyes Wide Open

"In painful, haunting vignettes, James interweaves her life with his [her son's life], telling their story from the anguished, solitary helplessness of self-doubt—and then, ultimately, the resplendent relief of joy. The numbers regarding heroin abuse are staggering. They transcend all demographics—race, gender, economic status. James transforms the senseless horror of the statistic into a single soul, the son she calls 'Sweetboy.'"

Anne Kennedy, Christianity Today 01/06/2020 CT Five Star Review

Read an Excerpt



Part One
There Once Was a Mother
War Drug
The Salvation of Menstrual Cramps
Apple Pie
Glass Half Empty
Settling In
The Lost Boys
Skin Heads

Part Two
Guns and Arrows
Without Ceasing
Pee Test
The Ruin of Tapestries and Couches
Next of Kin
Septic Shock
Elevators All the Way Down
Ten to Thirty Percent
Glory's in the Front Yard
The Things They Carry
The Joy Comes In
Ways to Save a Kid
Golden Boy
The Revelations of Doors
Kayaking the Dark River
Walking It Back


You May Also Like

Katherine James

Katherine James received the Felipe P. De Alba Fellowship from Columbia University, where she also taught undergraduate fiction. Her debut novel, Can You See Anything Now?, won Christianity Today's 2018 Fiction Book award and was a semifinalist for the Doris Bakwin Award. She lives in Westchester, Pennslyvania, with her husband, Rick.

Judy Douglass says "I wept, I held my breath, I turned the page."
Brian Welch says "This book will reginite the fight in you to stay in the war for your loved one's freedom."
Every 18 minutes someone is experiencing an overdose.
Alia Joy says "This book tells the truth, and in doing so it allows others to both hope and heal."
Vulnerable memoir, award-winning novelist James tells her family's story through her son's addiction, overdose, and slow recover.