Sep 6, 2013

Review: The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate

The September Genreflecting post has been moved to Monday. It will resume its Friday position next week. Thank you!

The Prayer Box coverWhen Iola Anne Poole, an old-timer on Hatteras Island, passes away in her bed at ninety-one, the struggling young mother in her rental cottage, Tandi Jo Reese, finds herself charged with the task of cleaning out Iola's rambling Victorian house.

Running from a messy, dangerous past, Tandi never expects to find more than a temporary hiding place within Iola's walls, but everything changes with the discovery of eighty-one carefully decorated prayer boxes, one for each year, spanning from Iola's youth to her last days. 

Hidden in the boxes is the story of a lifetime, written on random bits of paper--the hopes and wishes, fears and thoughts of an unassuming but complex woman passing through the seasons of an extraordinary, unsung life filled with journeys of faith, observations on love, and one final lesson that could change everything for Tandi.

From Goodreads

Tandi Jo is about as lost as a person can be in life. A former professional horse jumper who grew dependent upon prescription drugs after a career-ending accident, she finds herself recovering from her addiction (and hiding from her soon-to-be-ex husband) with her two children on Hatteras Island. As the tenant in Iola Anne Poole's bungalow, she is the unlucky person to find Miss Poole after her passing. Tasked with cleaning out the house for the church that now owns the property, Tandi Jo finds herself enveloped in walking down Iola Anne's past via the letters to Father in dozens of prayer boxes.

While juggling hiding from her ex, trying to make a budding relationship grow, and wrangling a wild teenager & reserved pre-teen, Tandi Jo finds herself really connecting with Iola Anne in a way that never happened while the older woman was alive. Through the letters Tandi Jo is slowly crawling back to where she ought to be in her life & her children's lives.

This was an incredibly powerful book. Subtle, but tempered just so, The Prayer Box is an uplifting and unique book. The characters are quite memorable and the setting is impeccable. Being a Carolina girl, I'm not ashamed to say I'm a little biased, but the lifestyle of the Outer Banks gave this story a little something extra because of the situations that presented themselves through the book.

While I'm not usually a fan of inspirational/Christian fiction, this book is more affirmation-driven than necessarily religious. Tandi Jo undergoes a personal transformation while reading Iola Anne's letters to God, but the content of those letters isn't preachy. It's just a simple woman ruminating over situations and events in her life. It was fascinating watching the subtle changes in Tandi Jo as the story progressed.

Even more appealing to me though were the relationships. Raising children is difficult, but raising them alone when you've been mostly absent from their lives for the past few years is bound to cause some waves. Seeing how those interactions change over time & examining Tandi Jo's working relationship with the locals gives the story its meter and pacing.

This is a great crossover book because there are lessons to be learned for all age groups. I think there are so many different ways to see what transpires during this novel that everyone can take something away.

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