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Prayers for Sale: A Novel (Reading Group Gold) Paperback – February 2, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her charming new novel, Dallas (The Persian Pickle Club; Tallgrass; etc.) offers up the unconventional friendship between Hennie Comfort, a natural storyteller entering the twilight of her life, and Nit Spindle, a naïve young newlywed, forged in the isolated mining town of Middle Swan, Colo., in 1936. When the two meet, Hennie recognizes her younger self in Nit, and she's immediately struck with a desire to nurture and guide Nit, who is lonely and adrift in her new hometown and her brand-new marriage. As Hennie regales Nit with stories and advice, the two become inseparable and pass several seasons huddled around their quilting with the other women of Middle Swan. Even though Hennie maintains an air of c'est la vie as she unravels her life story, Nit and the reader soon realize there are tragedies and secrets hidden behind Hennie's tranquil demeanor. This satisfying novel will immediately draw readers into Hennie and Nit's lives, and the unexpected twists will keep them hooked through to the bittersweet denouement. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The idea of selling prayers conjures images of pre-Reformation Catholicism or, at the very least, stops you in your tracks to think a bit. When Nit Spindle, a newcomer to Middle Swan, Colorado, spots Hennie Comfort’s sign, “Prayers for Sale,” she stops to buy a prayer and gains a friend. At 86, Hennie has a passel of stories to tell (one is how she got her name) and finds in Nit an eager listener and kindred spirit. In the telling of Hennie’s life—her two marriages, her brush with evil, her dead babies—and in the gradual elicitation of Nit’s lonely ponderings, the reader is treated to an oral history of a mountain town and the women who run it while the men are chasing their dreams of gold. Hennie considers passing along her stories and her knowledge of mountain life to Nit a fit pastime, in preparation for her departure from town. Like the lives narrated, this novel, by the author of Tallgrass (2007), runs the gamut of heartache, hardship, and happiness as Dallas skillfully weaves past into present and surprises everyone at the end. Fans of Lee Smith (Fair and Tender Ladies, 1988), Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees, 2002), and Kaye Gibbons (Charms for the Easy Life, 2003), will love this book. --Jen Baker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Reading Group Gold
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1 Reprint edition (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312385196
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312385194
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (283 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Prize-winning author Sandra Dallas was dubbed "a quintessential American voice" by Jane Smiley, in Vogue Magazine. Sandra's novels with their themes of loyalty, friendship, and human dignity have been translated into a dozen foreign languages and have been optioned for films.

A journalism graduate of the University of Denver, Sandra began her writing career as a reporter with Business Week. A staff member for twenty-five years (and the magazine's first female bureau chief,) she covered the Rocky Mountain region, writing about everything from penny-stock scandals to hard-rock mining, western energy development to contemporary polygamy. Many of her experiences have been incorporated into her novels.

While a reporter, she began writing the first of ten nonfiction books. They include Sacred Paint, which won the National Cowboy Hall of Fame Western Heritage Wrangler Award, and The Quilt That Walked to Golden, recipient of the Independent Publishers Assn. Benjamin Franklin Award.

Turning to fiction in 1990, Sandra has published nine novels, including Whiter Than Snow, and the New York Times best seller Prayers for Sale. Sandra is the recipient of the Women Writing the West Willa Award for New Mercies, and two-time winner of the Western Writers of America Spur Award, for The Chili Queen and Tallgrass. In addition, she was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award, the Mountain and Plains Booksellers Assn. Award, and a four-time finalist for the Women Writing the West Willa Award.

The mother of two daughters--Dana is an attorney in New Orleans and Povy is a photographer in Golden, Colorado--Sandra lives in Denver with her husband, Bob.

Customer Reviews

Well crafted story, wonderful characters.
Linda Pickler
The book captures the love for a difficult place to live and an enduring bond formed between two women with a wide difference in age.
Deborah Anderson
The story is paced well, very interesting, and comes to a good ending.
K. Davis

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

98 of 99 people found the following review helpful By Tamela Mccann TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Hennie Comfort knows she's getting old--she's 86--but she doesn't want to leave her mountain home of Middle Swan, Colorado, to go live with her daughter in Iowa. Still, there comes a time when Hennie figures she must face the facts and give in to her daughter's pleadings, so she sets the end of the year 1936 as the time when she'll begrudgingly move. But there's lots to be done in the months left, including befriending the new young neighbor, Nit Spindle, and working through some things Hennie's managed to set aside for many years. Thus kicks off Sandra Dallas's new novel, Prayers For Sale; sit back and let the story wash over you as the pages turn themselves.

Hennie's a real character, and a mainstay of the town since she came out seventy years before to marry Jake Comfort, sight unseen. Hennie's lifelong passion has been quilting, and just as she stitches quilts throughout the book, her own story unravels for Nit as she shares it with the lonely young woman. Hennie's figured out quite a bit about people in her long life, but she's still got a few things left to tend to before she leaves her home, and the friendship she develops with the much younger woman is the basis for the flashbacks into Hennie's life. The bond created between the two women is strong; centered around children both have lost, they find they can share each other's burdens over a quilting frame. Hennie doesn't actually offer prayers for sale, however; her prayers are frequent and fervent and she intervenes when necessary.

This is such a delightful tale with such strong, well-written characters that I hated to see it end. I could easily picture Hennie's dry sense of humor and her good will in trying to bring Nit into the town's social circle.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Sherri Caldwell - The Rebel Housewife(tm) on August 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Comfort fiction, that's what I'd have to call it, so appropriate since the main character is named Hennie Comfort (formerly Ila Mae Stubbs Lloyd, but there's lots of name changing in this book!).

PRAYERS FOR SALE is not chick lit, romance, mystery (although there are a couple of foreshadowings and improbable surprises), definitely not action/adventure: Historical fiction, engaging and comforting, like homemade mac n' cheese or chicken pot pie. PRAYERS FOR SALE reminds me of a more adult version of Little House on the Prairie; although the story ends in 1936, during the Great Depression, it begins in 1864 and includes wagon trains, hardship, log cabins and subsistence living in a remote gold mining camp high in the mountains of Colorado.

Hennie Comfort is 86 years old and facing tough decisions about her life in Middle Swan, Colorado. Her adult daughter wants Hennie to come down off the mountain and live comfortably with her in Iowa. Mae wants to take care of her aging mother and to know that she is safe:

"Mae was right, Hennie admitted to herself. If she fell, the snow would cover her up, and nobody would know where she was until she melted out in the spring."

But Hennie has lived in Middle Swan for 70 years, since she came to the camp from White Pigeon, Tennessee, essentially a mail-order bride (heck of a blind date!) at the age of 16, after the loss of her young husband and baby daughter during the last days of the Civil War. (She married for love the first time at age 14 and was a widow and bereft young mother at 15.) Hennie doesn't want to leave her mountain life or her memories and stories.

A small sign on her fence, long-forgotten, brings 17-year-old Nit Spindle to Hennie's door: Prayers For Sale.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By PT Cruiser TOP 50 REVIEWER on April 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is one of those "comfortable books" a book that draws you in, encourages you to sit a spell and totally immerse yourself in the story. The characters in this small mountain town in Colorado, Hennie, Nit, Dick, Tom, Monalisa and others are introduced by Sandra Dallas in a way that makes you feel that you could live right next door. This little mining town is bitterly cold more than half the year, and the dredge mining has taken it's toll, but the characters are warm and complex.

The novel takes place in 1936 during the Depression and is in the folksy local language of that time. The way she writes makes you just want to snuggle in and become part of this town and era, learning about the characters and their secrets. Most of this is done through Hennie, age 86 and her stories that she tells to Nit, a 17 year old young wife who has recently moved to the town with her husband for a job. The area can be unforgiving with it's cold winters, constant noise of the dredges and it's tight knit community, but Hennie takes an instant liking to Nit and feels protective toward her.

I hated to see this book end. It was a different sort of book than those I usually read, but I will look for Sandra Dallas's other books after reading this one.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Angela Markwalter on March 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I find it amazing that a book written about the gritty hardships endured by those who chose to follow the gold can be so uplifting and witty. Sandra Dallas wrote about a bleak and depressing subject in such a way that the reader comes away better for the reading of it. We are talking about pain and loss such as we in this modern age very rarely (thankfully) experience. And her characters survive and keep going, in spite of their pain. The primary character, Hennie Comfort, may be 86; but, she is filled with more life than many of my contemporaries. Read this book. It is good for your soul.
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