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Praying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit Hardcover – April 5, 2011

122 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this memoir, Jordan (Saints in Limbo) recounts stories of a year in which, when both of her sons were deployed to war zones, she decided to pray for a complete stranger every day. The results were extraordinary, as time after time she was led to pray for the stranger who needed it most: a nurse whose husband just had surgery, a teenager with visible bruises on her neck and arms, a young soldier coming home to a newborn daughter. Jordan writes eloquently about her experiences and the lessons she learned, but ultimately the book grows repetitive; with no context or depth given to these strangers, their stories run together and lose their distinctiveness. Additionally, with little context given to Jordan's own life and activities, the book reads more like a diary than a cohesive narrative, and her habit of ending every chapter with neat, tidy conclusions and moralizing contributes to this choppy, disconnected effect. Regardless, the idea of praying for strangers is admirable, and a reader looking for inspiration may find hope and grace in this account of the blessings of a prayerful life. (Apr.)


..".gently beguiling...[a] very personal journey in self-discovery."
..". offers readers a wonderfully written, shimmering, accessible and wholly honest account of a journey into intercessory prayer. It is a journey that more of us might be encouraged to take because River Jordan has been willing to show us how."
-"Englewood Review of Books"
"I cannot tell you how much I loved this book. It made me aspire to be a better person. It made me be more aware of the strangers I encounter in my life and of how much a simple word of kindness can mean to someone. I cannot recommend this book enough - I will be buying copies to give to several of my friends."
-BermudaOnion's Weblog
..".an inspiring read that I hope will encourage people to step outside of their comfort zones and show a little out-of-the-ordinary kindness to strangers."
-The Parchment Girl
"Jordan has managed to write a beautiful book that I have been pushing at p

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Hardcover; 1St Edition edition (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425239640
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425239643
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (122 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #724,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

River Jordan began her writing career as a playwright where her original works were produced, including Mama Jewels: Tales from Mullet Creek, Soul, Rhythm and Blues, and Virga. Ms. Jordan's first novel, The Gin Girl (Livingston Press, 2003), has garnered such high praise as "This author writes with a hard bitten confidence comparable to Ernest Hemingway. And yet, in the Southern tradition of William Faulkner, she can knit together sentences that can take your breath." Kirkus Reviews described her second novel, The Messenger of Magnolia Street, as "a beautifully written atmospheric tale." It was applauded as "a tale of wonder" by Southern Living, who chose the novel as their Selects feature for March 2006, and described by other reviewers as " a riveting, magical mystery" and "a remarkable book." Her third novel, Saints In Limbo has been painted by some of the finest fiction voices of today as "a lyrical and relentlessly beautiful book," and "a wise, funny, joyful and deadly serious book, written with a poet's multilayered sense of metaphor and meter and a page-turning sense of urgency," and reported by Paste Magazine as "a southern gothic masterpiece."
Her fourth novel, The Miracle of Mercy Land, arrives on September 7, 2010. Her first non-fiction work, Praying for Strangers, An Adventure of the Human Spirit will be published by Penguin/Berkley April 5, 2011.
Ms. Jordan teaches and speaks around the country on "The Power of Story", and produces and hosts the radio show Clearstory Radio from Nashville. When not traveling the back roads of America, River lives with her husband and their Great Pyrenees lap dog in Nashville, Tennessee.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Joanna L. Mcneal on April 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In Praying for Strangers, River Jordan tells the tale of one year in her life -- perhaps the most difficult year of her life. In this year, both of her sons were deployed: one to Iraq, one to Afghanistan. It is mind-boggling to wrap one's head around how she managed to simply survive that year. The experience must have been an excruciating one, fraught with sleepless nights and mind-racing worries. In spite of this emotional turmoil -- or perhaps because of it -- Jordan managed to do a single thing during this year. She prayed for strangers.

It began as a New Year's resolution, promises made to self that Jordan admits she rarely keeps. But for some reason, in this particular year, with her sons in harm's way and out of her ability to protect them, Jordan managed to keep this resolution. She prayed for people she met at the supermarket. She prayed for people she met waiting in line to pay a bill. She prayed for construction workers she passed. And for the most part, not only did she pray for them, but she also told them about it.

Now, if you stop to think about this, it seems an impossible task. How many people would appreciate a stranger accosting them in a parking lot, telling them she would be praying for them? In that scenario, my first thought would probably be to back away slowly and then high-tail it out of there. The people who Jordan met each day did exactly the opposite. They spilled their guts; they got teary-eyed; they hugged her. Some even prayed for Jordan.

Praying for Strangers was less about prayer, in the end, and more about human kindness. The act of a stranger telling you they will be praying for you turns your day around, no matter the prayer.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Brenda McClain on May 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a necessary book. If I had the option to italicize "necessary," I would have. I say this because few books have ever touched me the way River Jordan's "Praying for Strangers" has. I've always believed in the kaleidoscope we all live in and move in. River's book underscores this by offering her gift of each day being open to the one stranger in her midst who is laid upon her heart to pray for, be mindful of. It's given me a glimpse of how I could behave on my very best day if I were that open to the world around me. This book feels as if it's part River's life work. It's that heartfelt. That divine. I highly recommend it.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Eric Wilson on April 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
On the surface, the concept is simple. Keep your eyes and ears open, follow that inner voice, and pray for a stranger each day. Oh, but when told through the voice of a marvelous writer, it is so much more.

River Jordan--yes, that's her real name--was facing a tough New Year's Eve in 2009. Her grown sons were heading off to war, in the service of the United States, and she had no motivation to come up with a New Year's resolution. In the soil of her doubts and fears, a startling idea took root: What if she turned her thoughts outward? What if she helped carry the burdens of others through prayer? A noble thought, yes, but River tells of her journey in that honest style that has endeared her to friends and fans of her fiction. As her year-long resolution played out, she faced strangers who intimidated her, moved her, taunted, and clung to her. In her own words: "Instead of discovering how much the world needs me, I've discovered that I was the one who needed the world."

River Jordan has penned a number of novels that combine the best of contemporary literary fiction with Southern gothic nuances. Her book, "The Messenger of Magnolia Street" read like a mix of Harper Lee and Dean Koontz. How could I not call myself a fan? Here, though, in her first non-fiction book, she applies her wise, warm, and open-hearted approach to real-life situations. It is inspiring stuff, potentially life-changing even. The book not only entertains, it draws out laughter, tears, and a bubbling, infectious belief that we too can pray for strangers and be changed ourselves in the process.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Denise Hildreth Jones on May 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I've loved River Jordan's novels for years. As a master storyteller on both the written page and in real life River has a way of capturing the divine in her writing. But with her new non-fiction offering she has brought something divine to where we live. Not encased in a novel but on our street, in our grocery store, in a restaurant or at a auto repair shop that sees about three live autos a year. She has challenged us as readers to stop the perpetual movement of body, heart and mind and to pause long enough to wonder, could it be that someone we encounter might need a prayer we have to pray, a word we have to speak, a hug we have to share.
Good storytellers can teach you something. Extraordinary storytellers can make you actually want to do what you've been taught. River Jordan is that kind of storyteller. A rare find nowadays. A book you don't want to miss. A journey you definitely want to take. A stranger you just might want to pray for. Because one day the stranger in need of the prayer might be you or me...
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By ajsteele on May 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
What a great experience it was to read this book. I'm not a big book reader but as of late I've started to read a little more. Like praying, it's a mystery how things work. The book fell into my hands like so many things do when your heart is right and you don't force an issue. Think about the word "ponder." If you read this book with an open mind, that is something you will do for awhile. You start to think, can I do what the author did? Pray for a stranger everyday for a year? What a beautiful concept and what an interesting woman this River Jordan is.
What I found even more pleasing is that the book did not contain some new age nonsense or an abhorent reconstruction of my Christian faith. The book easily does not get caught up in religiosity. It can be read by all faiths and should not damage anyones core beliefs on prayer. You really get a feel for the people she encounters and their reactions. A few times I felt the storyline drifted into some uninteresting areas but it was not enough to hold back the power of the book. Nothing is perfect. Ms. Jordan did one heck of a job with this book and deserves whatever accolades are bestowed upon her. Watching the video of her above (after reading the book) gave me a self satisfying feeling. I saw someone real, and thats not common in our current society. It's a book you'll miss after finishing it. I look foward to giving it to someone else. Peace.
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