Mary Flannery O'Connor (March 25, 1925 – August 3, 1964, born Savannah, Georgia, USA) is, in my opinion, one of the greatest short story writers of all time. I have read all of her short stories and posted on a few of them. O'Connor was a devout Catholic and she saw Wise Blood as an exploration of her faith. People such as Kenzaburo Oe treat her work almost as if they are holy texts. Wise Blood was her first of two novels.
I don't know quite or even close what to say about this book. I will start by saying I loved it. Almost every sentence is amazing. There are for sure deep themes about the meaning to believers of the death of Jesus, the nature of faith, and several other issues. The people in the novel are all what most people would call back woods unsophisticated barely literate hicks from the poorest part of American in 1952, the rural south. The literary term for the characters is "southern gothic grotesques". Terrible things befall them and they do terrible things in turn. I admit I was surprised that prostitutes (O'Connor calls them "whores") play a big part in the story. I am sure one could write a book on why. There are over 100 references to blood in the novel. Two of the characters are preachers, one of a bizarre Church of Christ without Jesus. There is no one near normal seeming and no one comes from or is part of a functional family. The novel also has unbelievably funny or just to weird for words scenes. Readers of Wise Blood will probably be jolted when the characters use the word "nigger" over and over.
In 1952 when this book was made into a movie it was considered shocking for the sexual themes. You can see how it was first marketed in the cover image at the top of this post. Now it is considered a canon status world class master work, I see it that way. John Houston made a movie based on it.
I will very shortly, I hope read her second and last novel, The Violent Bear it Away.