Prayers for Sale

( 636 )

Overview

"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 first 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 an old sign that reads "Prayers for Sale" in front of Hennie's house and
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Overview

"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 first 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 an 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 in which the deepest of hardships are shared and the darkest of secrets are confessed." This novel tells the tale of a friendship between two women, one with surprising twists and turns, and one that is ultimately a revelation of the finest parts of the human spirit.
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Editorial Reviews

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On a cold, snowy evening, a young woman lingers in front of a house pondering a sign that reads, “Prayers for Sale.” Inside, an elderly widow, Hennie Comfort, watches and wonders before stepping outside to greet her reluctant visitor. So begins this engrossing tale of a wise older woman with a lifetime of stories to tell, and a 17-year-old with prayers that need answers. Set in 1930s Colorado, it’s a novel in which the drama, humor, and passions of one very full life are stitched, with love and understanding, into the fabric of another.

Eighty-six-year-old Hennie has lived in Middle Swan, a gold-mining town in the Rockies, since before Colorado was a state. Nit has recently arrived in town with her husband and her grief, reminding Hennie of her own youthful hopes and sorrows. Finding common ground in their Southern heritage and a love of quilting, an unlikely friendship blossoms as Hennie captivates Nit with vivid memories that reach back to the mid-1800s. “There’s something about stitching together,” Hennie confides, “that draws a woman out.”

As they sew, Hennie recounts her childhood in Tennessee and her tragic marriage to her sweetheart Billy, soon to be lost to the Civil War. She relives the death of their only child and her journey, by wagon train, across the country to start life anew with a man she’d never met. She recalls the unexpected blessing she discovered upon her arrival in Middle Swan and describes the lively cast of gamblers and moonshiners, quilters and “soiled doves” she has come to know. Summoning the feelings, dreams, and satisfactions of Hennie’s years of experience as a woman, mother, and wife, these stirring yarns serve as a healing balm for the lonely, anxious Nit -- and help her piece together a new beginning for her own family.

Just as Hennie’s tales weave a many-hued cloak of mountain wisdom for the benefit of her young friend, so Sandra Dallas creates for us -- through a deft blend of historical detail, authentic voices, quilting lore, and, last but not least, emotional truths -- a vibrant quilt of heartbreaking incident and heartwarming compassion.

About the Author
Prayers for Sale is Sandra Dallas’s eighth novel. Her debut, Buster’s Midnight Café, was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection; the Los Angeles Times Book Review called it “country music between covers.” Her subsequent works of fiction include The Persian Pickle Club, The Diary of Mattie Spenser, Alice’s Tulips, The Chili Queen, New Mercies, and Tallgrass. Mastering the period detail and ambiance of historical settings from the Civil War through World War II, Dallas has introduced readers of her bestselling books to an unforgettable series of women who know how to harvest friendship -- and happiness -- in the fields of hardship. Fellow novelist Jane Smiley has rightly called Dallas’s “a quintessential American voice.”

Born on a farm in Virginia, Dallas grew up immersed in history, thanks, she says, to her mother. “After we moved to Denver in 1945, Mom made sure we saw inside the seedy old Windsor Hotel on Larimer Street. So I suppose it’s not surprising that the past is more interesting to me than the present or the future.” A veteran journalist who spent many years as the Denver bureau chief for Business Week, Dallas employed her seasoned skills at researching to provide the historical background and create the authentic characters that give such substance to the world of Prayers for Sale.

Sandra Dallas currently lives with her husband in Denver. In addition to her novels, she has written numerous works of nonfiction, including The Quilt That Walked to Golden, an account of how mountain women, from the Overland Trail to contemporary Colorado, have recorded their lives in patchwork heirlooms.

From Our Booksellers
Sandra Dallas takes us back to a time when we knew and cared about the ones around us, and reminds us of what community really means. --Patricia Rogala, Birmingham, AL

A delightful story of an unlikely friendship between two women of very different generations. A perfect read for those who enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. --Margie Turkett, Annapolis, MD

Like her quilts, Hennie’s story is pieced together with the many and varied threads of her life story. And all of it is done with love! --Dorothy Newmark, Freehold, NJ

Hennie has sass. She can look at her life and be happy with the choices she has made, but at 86, she still has the desire to do more than quietly retire. --Sue Gerth, Cedar Rapids, IA

From Reviewers
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. --Publishers Weekly

Like the lives narrated, this novel, by the author of Tallgrass, runs the gamut of heartache, hardship, and happiness. --Booklist

Forgiveness and redemption are the themes of this gentle novel about hardscrabble lives. --Kirkus Reviews
From the Publisher
“Fans of Lee Smith, Sue Monk Kidd, and Kaye Gibbons will love this book.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Dallas is an amazing storyteller with a knack for historical fiction. Her writing is fresh and current even though she writes about the past. Her characters linger in the mind long after the story is finished.”—The Denver Post

Caroline Preston
Despite its flaws…Prayers for Sale is as bighearted as Hennie herself, who hands out stout winter coats to miners' wives, saying they're hand-me-downs when, in fact, they're brand-new, ordered in secret from the Sears catalogue.
—The Washington Post
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.
Kirkus Reviews
Dallas (Tallgrass, 2007, etc.) offers another of her signature western heartwarmers, complete with knitting circle, this time set in a Colorado gold-mining town. In 1936, Hennie Comfort, who has lived in Middle Swan for 70 years, befriends newcomer Nit Spindle, whose husband has just been hired on a local dredge boat (the work is brutal and dangerous). Octogenarian Hennie feels an immediate kinship with 17-year-old Nit. Both are from Southern border states, both married as teens and both lost a child-Nit is currently mourning the loss of her stillbirth daughter; Hennie's birth daughter drowned as a toddler. They both quilt and Hennie, a founding member of the Ten-Mile Quilters, invites Nit to join the circle. Since Hennie will be leaving Middle Swan soon to live with her adopted daughter in Iowa, she decides to pass on to Nit all of her stories about the various characters who have inhabited Middle Swan. The 1936 plot-the two women's evolving friendship, Nit's new pregnancy, Hennie's romance with an old friend, even her forgiveness of a man who did her wrong long ago-is not much more than a backdrop for the stories Hennie tells about the past. Hennie's own history comes in pieces: Orphaned and then cheated out of her inheritance as a young girl, she married her beloved Billy at 14. After Billy was forced to go off to fight for the Confederacy against his will, a local bully terrorized Hennie and inadvertently caused her baby's death. After the Civil War ended, leaving Hennie a widow, a newly married friend invited her to Colorado for a very long-distance blind date with the man who became Hennie's beloved if imperfect second husband, Jake. While traveling west, Hennie found an abandonedbaby she and Jake raised as their own daughter, Mae. Despite a few surprise coincidences, the book offers little suspense, yet readers will be glad Dallas's likable heroines get their happy endings. Forgiveness and redemption are the themes of this gentle novel about hardscrabble lives. Agent: Danielle Egan-Miller/Browne & Miller Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312385194
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 2/2/2010
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 239,161
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Sandra Dallas

Award-winning author Sandra Dallas was dubbed “a quintessential American voice” by Jane Smiley, in Vogue Magazine. She is the author of The Bride’s House, Whiter Than Snow, and Tallgrass, among others. Her novels have been translated into a dozen languages and optioned for films. She is the recipient of the Women Writing the West Willa Award and the two-time winner of the Western Writers of America Spur Award. For 25 years, Dallas worked as a reporter covering the Rocky Mountain region for Business Week, and started writing fiction in 1990. She lives with her husband in Denver, Colorado.

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Read an Excerpt

The stranger looked up, startled, a little frightened. She was a new-made woman, not much more than a girl, and Hennie had never seen her before. “Oh!” the stranger said, clasping and unclasping her bare hands, which despite the poor light, Hennie could see were red and chapped.

“I don’t mean to be nosy, but I was wondering how much?”

“How much for what?”

“A prayer.” The girl tightened the triangle of plaid wool scarf that covered her head before she thrust her hands into the pockets of her thin coat.

Hennie was confused for a moment, and then realizing what had confounded the girl, she laughed. “That sign’s been there so long, I forget about it.”

“It says, Prayers For Sale. I’m asking how much do you charge, and is it more if you’re in need than if you’re wanting just a little favor? Do sinners pay more than the righteous? And what if the Lord doesn’t answer? Do you get your money back?”
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Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion
1. The sign outside Hennie’s house says “Prayers for Sale,” yet she doesn’t sell prayers. Why does Hennie keep the sign?

2. Although they’re decades apart in age, 86-year-old Hennie and 17-year-old Nit become fast friends. What qualities do they have in common? What makes them compatible?

3. As Hennie begins her story for Nit, she says, “Back then, I wasn’t Hennie Comfort. In those days, I was called by the name of Ila Mae Stubbs.” What other transformations has Hennie made in the intervening years? What about her has stayed the same?

4. As in her previous novels, Sandra Dallas did extensive research on the dialects and period details of the era in which Prayers for Sale is set. Did the rich evocation of a gold-mining town and the quilting lore, for instance, contribute to your interest in Hennie and Nit’s relationship?

5. Hennie’s voice drives the novel, and is filled with phrases and expressions uncommon today. What does Dallas’s commitment to verbal authenticity add to her portrait of Hennie? What expressions did you find especially memorable?

6. Quilting plays a central role in fostering Nit and Hennie’s friendship. Towards the end of the book, Nit says, “Quilts are like lives. They’re made up of a lot of little pieces.” Do you think this is true? Does the structure of the book reflect this perspective?

7. Were you surprised by the book’s final scene? What would you have done, if you were in Hennie’s shoes? Would Hennie’s life have been different if she had done so earlier?

8. Have you read other novels by Sandra Dallas? Which characters do you recognize from her previous books?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 636 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(291)

4 Star

(186)

3 Star

(92)

2 Star

(38)

1 Star

(29)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 637 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 21, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    WONDERFUL XMAS GIFT!

    This Sandra Dallas novel encouraged me to buy another of her books. I love books that bring me a sense of peace, contentment and appreciation for my life as it it. At peace with appreciating what is and what is really important in life. Hennie, the main protagonist is a story teller in a mining town during the great depression. Quilting , seeming to be the center of activity between women of the day provides the time to become close in relationships and promotes enduring friendships. This is touching, heartwarming, cozy and real. I really enjoyed it.

    29 out of 30 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 23, 2009

    I loved this book.....

    I just finished reading this book and was so overcome by it..heartfelt of love, sweetness and surprise..I expected it to end different but was so pleased and to its ending..brought tears to my eyes and a good thump in my heart....this is a must read ...I will definitely be looking for more of her books...

    25 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 19, 2009

    A beautiful story about strong, western women!

    Sandra Dallas has a unique talent for writing griping and accurate historical western novels about strong, wise and courageous women. She is the Phillipa Gregory of western lit, educating us on western history even as she keeps us thoroughly engaged with her passionate story lines. Prayers For Sale is the story of Hennie Comfort, eighty-six, and Nit Spindle, seventeen. These women are united by the harsh conditions of life in Middle Swan, a mining town in Colorado. Though the winter weather is bad enough, it is the tearing emotional dramas that these two very different women will help each other through.
    I don't know any other author who can write so convincingly of strong, western women as Sandra Dallas can. She spares them no mercy, putting them through unimaginable hardships, but with their loyalty and friendships with each other they always survive in the end. I can't read a Sandra Dallas book (and Prayers For Sale is no exception) without feeling like I've made new lifelong friendships myself by the end. These are women to be admired, not pitied, and you might even find a few men to like mixed in! At the end of Prayers For Sale I was left feeling satisfied, a little more educated, and like anything can be endured or accomplished.

    15 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Must Read!

    Have you ever started a book and it had you from the first page? All the way to the end? This is a book like that! Dallas has done it again, embracing a time and place, and taking the reader deep into the lives of the most engaging characters. There have been precious few books like this in my life that have grabbed me so quickly and so well. And I have read a lot! Not only is the concept of the story well done, but it has the romance, the mystery, the sorrowfulness of life in the Great Depression. It will wrap around you like your grandmothers' homemade crazy quilt.

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2010

    This is a great story.

    This is the first book of Sandra Dallas I have read. My interest was grabbed from the first few pages and she kept my interest until the end. The characters were wonderful. The characters were easy to connect with and very human. I loved the story-telling throughout the book and how all the characters in the book were interwoven. This made the community of Middle Swan come alive and be believable. The female characters were warm, funny, vulnerable, compassionate, imperfect, strong and served as a great tribute to the women who lived, survived and thrived in decades past. This story also gives a great example of mentoring for women and how it can enhance the lives of the one being mentored, as well as, the one mentoring.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 27, 2009

    Exveptional book

    I was totally absorbed with this book. It spanned many years and I felt that I was there with them. The end was a little surprise. Normally, I see it coming, but not until almost when it happened. Very touching and meaningful book. Must read again.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A most delightful read!

    Prayers for Sale is a touching story in which you could almost picture yourself living back 70 yrs. The story brought smiles & sometimes outloud chuckles. The characters were put together so well that I couldn't stop reading! In todays world, where there is much hate and voilence, this was a book with no cursing & was a most pleasure to read. Keep track of the characters, for there is a twist at the end!

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    prayers for sale

    i thought hennie was a wonderful character. the way dallas described her. i could picture her sitting in her rocking chair inside the cabin. i also liked the way she named her characters to. like the young girls name was Nit it fit her she was a tiny woman. Also i normally dont like stories told within the present story. but i loved when hennie told her stories to the young woman. when one ended i couldnt wait for the next. dallas has told a very interesting story about a colorado mining town in the 1930s. it is one good book.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 7, 2009

    Spectacular!!!

    This is my first Sue Dallas book but will NOT be my last -- couldn't put it down -- it flowed so well and was just totally a great read -- would recommend to anyone that wanted something to hold their attention to the last page!!! Its a book where you can't wait to see how it ends BUT you don't want it to end!!

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2009

    Amazing

    Based on the title you'd be hard pressed to really know what the book is about. It's an amazing story, I read the entire book in a day. Granted I was camping and the rest of the crew was lazy and slept all day, so I had the time. This is one book that I will share and tell others about.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Nice writing style

    I enjoyed Sandra Dallas, "Prayers for Sale," for more than one reason. She's a very descriptive author; I felt as though I was experiencing the story as I was reading it. Yet, her story wasn't overly descriptive as some I've read & had to skip through pages of boring descriptions. I like her writing style.
    I love to hear stories of how life was in the past. Hennie is a fine storyteller & takes, Nit, a young wife, under her wings. The two become close friends as Hennie tries to teach Nit how to live as a 'mountain woman' in the harsh environment & living conditions in the gold mining town, Middle Swan, Colorado.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Prayers for Sale A "nice" book!

    Loved this book....It creeps up on you. I found myself being taken in by the characters a bit more with every page. No shoot 'em up, foul language, or explicit sex scenes. A nice book!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2010

    A very sweet book

    This book was a very easy read and the story line was over all heart felt. It was fairly easy to visualize the character but the best decriptions were of the landscape. This book could inspire a visit to the high mountains deep in the winter season just to feel the thin chilling air. The main characters are generous in spirit and evoke a genuine kindness towards human kind despite their personal sufferings. Although it was not entirely what I had expected I am happy that I had the chance to read this book. I will absolutely pass this on to a friend.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 30, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Historical

    This is a great book! The quilts and storytelling are all woven into American History. This should be the next required reading for high school students. A must read!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 16, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Very enjoyable

    Read this while recuperating from ankle surgery. It was just what the dr.ordered! Easy to follow with a comforting and interesting story. I too, like historical fiction. This book is one you can recommend to anyone, nothing offensive or controversial, just a good novel.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 5, 2010

    Prayers for Sale

    Prayers for Sale was an outstanding story of an old mountain woman giving of herself to others all of her life. The story how women grow close to one another through their friendship and past time of quilting, and how we need to look deep in our heart to find what is really important to our life. I highly recommend this book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2010

    Great Book

    I really enjoyed reading this book. Couldn't put it down after I started. The storytelling was amazing and very enjoyable. I highly recommend it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Amazing

    Once I picked this book up and read a few pages, I almost put it down. The writing style was a little simple for my taste, but once I kept reading, I realized that the writing style was meant to compliment the content. This is a wonderful, touching story about two amazing women. It's not the type of novel I would usually read, but I'm glad I did. I highly recommend it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 18, 2009

    Prayers for Sale

    Easily one of the best books I have read in a long time! The writing style fits the time period of the book - you can almost see the characters and the surroundings. It's so nice to have a book that is clean - no foul language, no descriptive sex, little violence - what a pleasure!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 19, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Check it out!

    This author is a wonderful storyteller! She kept me enthralled as she flipped between past and present in a small Colorado mining town. The story spans from the Civil War to late 1930's depression era. Hennie is a sweet character and her frienship with young Nit is the foundation of the story. I hope all her other books are just as good.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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