Monday, May 25, 2009

Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas

I don't recall where I read about Prayers for Sale (maybe Amazon recommendations?), but I was certainly intrigued by a story of the relationship between an old woman and a young wife in Depression-era Colorado tied together by a common love for quilting. I love the Rocky Mountains, like the example of Titus 2-type relationships, and have even made a couple of quilts, though I wouldn't say it's a passion or a therapy.

While this novel is not overtly Christian, there is a simple faith (certainly not any systematic theology here) that permeates the stories Hennie Comfort tells her young friend Nit, stories drawn from personal tragedies, joys - large and small, the love of family, and a love for the rugged mountains and the gold they contain. At the age of eighty-seven, Hennie is happy to share her stories and glad to be a friend to Nit, a newcomer to Middle Swan, Colorado. The unusual title of the novel comes from a sign posted on Hennie's fence, which is something of a joke that her late husband made for her at a time when the blessings in their lives were such that Hennie said she had prayers to spare.

Most of Hennie's stories are humble, homey, and humorous, but some indeed are heartbreaking. Interestingly, some of her life experiences mirror those of young Nit, and Hennie quickly realizes that she might be a part of the answer to the prayers Nit requested. Hennie teaches Nit where to find the best raspberries and how to adjust her cooking to the altitude of the Rockies. She introduces her to other quilters and the women of the town and, over the course of a year, helps her become a true mountain woman. At the same time, Hennie wrestles with her own difficulties: the dread of "going below" to live with her daughter, the limitations of growing old (which are rather slight, considering that she's eighty-seven!), and an unresolved bitterness from her past that must be forgiven.

I wouldn't say this is great literature. There are certainly other novels that are more descriptive, present history more fully, or have greater insights into human character and relationships. But Prayers for Sale is a sweet story, offering a positive perspective on life with all its trials and struggles and a good example of intergenerational friendship between two women.

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