Flannery O'Connor's Why Do the Heathen Rage?

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at a Work in Progress

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"Wilson does a great service in resurrecting one of O'Connor's lesser-known works."--Publishers Weekly

When celebrated American novelist and short story writer Flannery O'Connor died at the age of thirty-nine in 1964, she left behind an unfinished third novel titled Why Do the Heathen Rage? Scholarly experts uncovered and studied the material, deeming it unpublishable. It stayed that way for more than fifty years.

Until now.

For the past ten-plus years, award-winning author Jessica Hooten Wilson has explored the 378 pages of typed and handwritten material of the novel--transcribing pages, organizing them into scenes, and compiling everything to provide a glimpse into what O'Connor might have planned to publish.

This book is the result of Hooten Wilson's work. In it, she introduces O'Connor's novel to the public for the first time and imagines themes and directions O'Connor's work might have taken. Including illustrations and an afterword from noted artist Steve Prince (One Fish Studio), the book unveils scenes that are both funny and thought-provoking, ultimately revealing that we have much to learn from what O'Connor left behind.


Why Do the Heathen Rage? The Porch Scene
Sequel to "The Enduring Chill"
Why Do the Heathen Rage? Walter's Last Will and Testament
Why Do the Heathen Rage? Baptism
Why Do the Heathen Rage? Walter/Asbury's Childhood
Why Do the Heathen Rage? Walter Recites the Ten Commandments
Epistolary Blackface
Why Do the Heathen Rage? The Black Double
Maryat Lee and Oona Gibbs
Documenting "Real" Life
Why Do the Heathen Rage? Photo Journal
The Revolting Conversion
Why Do the Heathen Rage? Do Not Come, Oona Gibbs!
Introducing the Girl
Why Do the Heathen Rage? The Girl
Who Is Oona Gibbs? Mother, Daughter, Aunt, Cousin, or Lover
Why Do the Heathen Rage? Walter's Aunt
Burning Crosses
The Violent Bear It Away: The Burnt Cross
The Other Half of the Story
Afterword by Steve Prince


"What a delight that there's a new Flannery O'Connor manuscript in the world, courtesy of Jessica Hooten Wilson, who has performed a true labor of love here, for which the literary world will be wildly grateful."

George Saunders, New York Times bestselling author of Man Booker Prize winner Lincoln in the Bardo

"This book is part detective story, part examination of O'Connor in the context of a changing America (especially racially), and part exploration of one of America's great writers in the process of creation. It was quite a fascinating read, and fans of O'Connor or anyone who treasures a story told well will definitely enjoy it."

Esau McCaulley, associate professor of New Testament, Wheaton College; author of How Far to the Promised Land: One Black Family's Story of Hope and Survival in the American South

"Flannery O'Connor's Why Do the Heathen Rage? is an important read for followers of this influential writer who died at age thirty-nine. Rather than complete O'Connor's unfinished novel, Why Do the Heathen Rage?, Hooten Wilson pairs passages from the book with insightful commentary about O'Connor the person and the artist. One of America's best-known Catholic writers, O'Connor has long been an inspiration to Christian writer Hooten Wilson, but the book doesn't gloss over the late author's anti-Black racism. For fans interested in a complex portrait of O'Connor and the novel she never completed, this work is required reading."

Nadra Nittle, author of bell hooks' Spiritual Vision and Toni Morrison's Spiritual Vision

"Hooten Wilson has achieved a miracle with Flannery O'Connor's unfinished novel, Why Do the Heathen Rage?, resurrecting the fragmented bones of this freakish Lazarus text and making it walk about on the page to the amazement of the literary world. Why has nobody attempted this before? I suppose because nobody's been brave enough until now. Hooten Wilson is not afraid. In that way, she's much like O'Connor herself, a Southern writer with as much heart as brain. I stand in awe. Heathens all over will be raging to read this resurrected gift of a book. Maybe some Christians will too. Miracles do happen."

Harrison Scott Key, author of How to Stay Married and The World's Largest Man

"In encountering Flannery O'Connor's words, I felt as if I were being transported in time before my birth while understanding clearly that the conditions that bore O'Connor, and her writing, offer an even clearer picture of who we were, who we are, who we are becoming, and dare I say, who we are constructed or imagined to be."

Steve Prince (from the afterword)

The Author

  1. Jessica Hooten Wilson
    Andrea Barnett

    Jessica Hooten Wilson

    Jessica Hooten Wilson (PhD, Baylor University) is the Fletcher Jones Chair of Great Books at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. She previously taught at the University of Dallas. She is the author or editor of eight books, including Reading for...

    Continue reading about Jessica Hooten Wilson


"Wilson does a great service in resurrecting one of O'Connor's lesser-known works. Religious fans of the Southern literary giant will be especially fascinated."

Publishers Weekly

"Deft and important. . . . Hooten Wilson's decision to feature the scenes from the novel interspersed with her own bracketed reflections and insights conveys a lovely sense of reading the primary text alongside her, sharing in the archival process of slowly turning pages between different kinds of work and mulling over the connections. Adding to that sense of turning pages and joining an ongoing conversation between thinkers and artists are the linoleum cuts by Steve Prince, created for this book, that offer a striking visual contrapuntal throughout, often paired with specific scenes in the novel. . . . With this close and careful excavation, Hooten Wilson teaches us how to read O'Connor, and how to let O'Connor read us. She shows us both O'Connor's sacramental vision and where it ultimately--and painfully--falls short. This way of reading invites us to see where we are falling short, where our own vision fails us: where we make the mistake of seeing symbols, instead of sacraments."

Sophia Stid,


"For devoted fans of Flannery O'Connor who have lamented her early death and her slim corpus of work--exciting news!  A new encounter with those stunning sentences and eccentric sharp-tongued characters is suddenly possible. . . . [Hooten Wilson] has created a four-strand braid with excerpts from O'Connor's unfinished novel intertwined with relevant biographical, historical information, and insightful reflection. . . . Navigating the painful challenges of racism in fiction and providing the story of an incomplete manuscript are ambitious tasks.  My guess is Flannery O'Connor would have written Hooten Wilson a fantastic letter of thanks."

Julie Lane-Gay,

Englewood Review of Books