Quaint. That's the word that sticks in my mind as a descriptor for this book.
It's 1936 and the Great Depression has taken its toll. Eighty-six-year-old Hennie Comfort has lived in Middle Swan, Colorado- up in the high country of the snow-covered Rocky Mountains- since before it was Colorado. When she meets seventeen-year-old Nit Spindle, Hennie is drawn to the young grieving girl. Nit and her husband have come to this small mining town in search of work, but the loneliness and loss Nit feels are almost too much to bear. One day she notices and old sign that reads "Prayers for Sale" in front of Hennie's house and takes out her last nickel. Hennie doesn't actually take money for her prayers, never has, but she invites the skinny girl in anyway. The harsh conditions of life that each has endured help them to create an instant bond, and a friendship is born, one of which the deepest of hardships are shared and the darkest of secrets are confessed.
Prayers For Sale is a book in which nothing much goes on. But that does not mean it's boring. I was enchanted by this story of two women of such differing ages- one 17, one 86- becoming such fast friends. Hennie really took Nit under her wing, looked after her and her husband, and taught her about life up on the mountain. Through stories of her youth and her beginnings in the mining town of Middle Swan we see what shaped Hennie into the caring matriarch of the village and it is through these stories Hennie passes on her love of the colorful people who inhabit it.
Stories for Sale would probably have been a more accurate title for the book. The stories are what make this novel come to life, and Hennie has a boat load of them. She's always ready to sit a spell and tell them to the fascinated audience and she weaves them expertly through the fabric of their lives. We learn of a cross eyed prostitute at the hookhouse, con artists and leather bellies; war widows, left behind children and a gambler who rides his horse right up to the bar. All these stories are told in the regional dialect of Middle Swan which adds to the stories quaintness.
Reminiscing is the one of the best ways to pass on the history of a locale or it's people. I have learned many things about my family history from listening to my grandparents talk about the "good old days." Some things I have written down, some I have committed to memory and already passed down to my children. These stories are a treasure to me and the stories that Hennie passed to Nit will be a treasure she can one day pass on to her children to teach them about the rich history of where they grew up.
If you are looking for excitement on every page this book is not one you should pick up, but if you are looking for a rich story with many interesting characters this lovely novel will dig its way into your heart