When I was contacted by Anna Jarzub from Authors on the Web about a book tour for Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas (320 pgs, St. Martin Press, 2009), I was a tad hesitant. I consider myself a very eclectic reader and I try not to pigeonhole myself. But this book is a bit away from the norm for me. But Anna and Wiley Saichek have always been very good to me, and haven't steered me wrong before. So I agreed to the tour. And I'm glad I did!!!
The old woman peered past the red geraniums in her deep front window at the figure lingering in the moonwhite snow at the gate. In the gloom of the late winter afternoon, Hennie Comfort did not recognize the woman, who stood like a curious bird, her head cocked to one side as she looked at the fence, then the front door, and back to the fence again.
The year is 1936, and eighty-six-year-old Hennie Comfort has lived in Middle Swan, Colorado for almost seventy years. Middle Swan is a small mining town in the mountains, and has seen it's share of hard times. One day, Hennie notices a woman standing at her fence. A stranger. And in a place like Middle Swan, that is very unusual.
The young woman at the fence is Nit Spindle, a new bride who has come to live in Middle Swan because her husband has taken a job at the gold dredge company. She stopped because of a sign on the fence that said, "Prayers for Sale". The young woman doesn't know anyone in town and is extremely lonely. And she is grieving over the the loss of a child. Hennie tells her that prayers are never for sale, but if she needs one, it will be given freely. And so starts a wonderful friendship between the two women.
The book alternates between the present time and the past, as told in stories by Hennie. In her long lifetime, Hennie has seen her share of hardships. Life in a mining camp is tough for everyone, but especially the women. Because the life is new to Nit, Hennie relates stories from her past to help Nit acclimate herself to Middle Swan. This is a wonderful passage from the book:
There was another reason that she was glad the girl had attended the burying, Hennie decided after giving it some thought. A mining camp is a harsh place, and Hennie had never been ignorant of such things. The girl should know that death was the cost of tearing gold out of it's resting place at bedrock. The earth took it's retribution. Hennie wouldn't be around for a lot longer to explain such things to the girl, and Nit would have to learn them on her own. Pray God, nothing ever happened to Nit's husband, but the girl ought to be prepared a bit, just in case. There was no circumventing providence in mining town.
At once depressing and uplifting, Prayers for Sale is wonderful book. Dallas has written a remarkable character in Hennie Comfort. She is sweet, kind, sympathetic and amazingly resilient. Her life is filled with heart-ache and grief. The tragedies she has faced have been enormous, and yet she still goes out of her way to help others. This book shows the strength and determination of women and how they can rely on one another. It's simply written and will tear at your heart-strings. The harsh realities of this hard life are brought to the forefront, and you can see how tough a person has to be to survive this life.
The is a wonderful read for any one, but most especially for women. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I came to not only empathize with the characters, but to admire them. Many thanks to Anna and Wiley for passing this book in my direction!! 4/5