Prayers for Sale

by Sandra Dallas
First sentence: “The old woman peered past the red geraniums in her deep front window at the figure lingering in the moon-white snow at the gate.”
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Content: There’s some harsh violence against women in the beginning, but other than that, it’s mostly just more mature themes. It’d be in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

This is one of those moments when I am grateful for my book group, because they introduce me to books I wouldn’t otherwise pick up. I had previously read Sandra Dallas and thought she was okay, but I wasn’t prepared for the storm of emotions that this one brought on.

It’s the early 1900s and Hennie Comfort is a long time resident of Upper Swan, a gold mining camp in the mountains of Colorado. She’s 86 and she’s loved her long life up in the mountains. So much so that she doesn’t want to go down and live with her daughter. She’s determined to get the most out of these last few months she has. And then she meets Nit. The wife of a new worker on the drudge boat, Nit is suffering from lots of things: being new, obviously, but also from the stillborn death of her first baby. Hennie reaches out to her as a mother-figure and a friend, and they form a bond. It’s through that bond that we learn about Hennie’s past (and a bit of Nit’s as well) and her life.

It’s a glorious novel, one that celebrates all aspects of women-hood. It made me long for a connection like Hennie and Nit had (they bonded over quilting; it also made me wish I was into that). Hennie’s stories were so rich, her life so full, and yet she probably didn’t feel that way in the midst of it all. I loved that it was straight-forward, that Hennie was open and loving and accepting, and yet wasn’t entirely perfect either. She had her struggles and her faults and her doubts. It gave me hope that maybe I can pull off a decent life in the end.

A full, rich work of historical fiction.

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