The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow (Bright's Pond Series)

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow (Bright's Pond Series)

by Joyce Magnin


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781426701641
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication date: 12/27/2010
Series: Bright's Pond Series
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 848,824
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Joyce Magnin is the author of several books, including The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow, named one of the "Top 5 Best Christian Fiction Books of 2009" by Library Journal. Her short fiction pieces and articles have been published in such magazines as Relief Journal, Parents Express, Sunday Digest, and Highlights for Children. A member of the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Fellowship, Joyce is a frequent workshop leader at various writer’s conferences and women’s church groups. She has three children and one grandson, and is mom to a neurotic parakeet who lives with her in Havertown, Pennsylvania.

Read an Excerpt

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow

A Novel of Bright's Pond
By Joyce Magnin

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2009 The United Methodist Publishing House
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4267-0164-1

Chapter One

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. — Ruth Knickerbocker

If you get off the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the Jack Frost Ski Resort exit, turn left, and travel twenty-two and one quarter miles, you'll see a sign that reads: Bright's Pond, Home of the World's Largest Blueberry Pie.

While it is true that in 1961 Mabel Sewicky and the Society of Angelic Philanthropy, which did secret charitable acts, baked the biggest blueberry pie ever in Pennsylvania, most folks will tell you that the sign should read: Bright's Pond, Home of Agnes Sparrow.

October 12, 1965. That was the day my sister, Agnes Sparrow, made an incredible decision that changed history in our otherwise sleepy little mountain town and made her sign-worthy.

"I just can't do it anymore, Griselda. I just can't."

That's what Agnes said to me right before she flopped down on our red, velvet sofa. "It ain't worth it to go outside anymore. It's just too much trouble for you—" she took a deep breath and sighed it out "—and heartache for me."

Agnes's weight had tipped a half pound over six hundred, and she decided that getting around was too painful and too much of a town spectacle. After all, it generally took two strong men to help me get Agnes from our porch to my truck and then about fifteen minutes to get her as comfy as possible in the back with pillows and blankets. People often gathered to watch like the circus had come to town, including children who snickered and called her names like "pig" or "lard butt." Some taunted that if Agnes fell into the Grand Canyon she'd get stuck. It was devastating, although when I look back on it, I think the insults bothered me more than they did Agnes.

Her hips, which were wider than a refrigerator, spread out over the sofa leaving only enough room for Arthur, our marmalade cat, to snuggle next to her. "I think I'll stay right here inside for the remainder of the days God has set aside for me." She slumped back, closed her eyes, and then took a hard breath. It wiggled like Jell-O through her body. I held my breath for a second, afraid that Agnes's heart had given out since she looked so pale and sweaty.

But it didn't.

Agnes was always fat and always the subject of ridicule. But I never saw her get angry over it and I only saw her cry once—in church during Holy Communion.

She was fourteen. I was eleven. We always sat together, not because I wanted to sit with her, but because our father made us. He was usually somewhere else in the church fulfilling his elder's responsibilities while our mother helped in the nursery. She always volunteered for nursery duty. I think it was because my mother never really had a deep conviction about Jesus one way or the other. Sitting in the pews made her nervous and she hated the way Pastor Spahr would yell at us about our sins, which, if you asked me, my mother never committed and so she felt unduly criticized.

Getting saddled with "fat Agnes" every Sunday wasn't easy because it made me as much a target of ridicule as her. Ridicule by proximity. Agnes had to sit on a folding lawn chair in the aisle because she was too big to slip into the pew. And since she blocked the aisle we had to sit in the last row.

Our father served Communion, a duty he took much too seriously. The poor man looked like a walking cadaver in his dark suit, white shirt, and striped tie as he moved stiffly down the aisle passing the trays back and forth with the other serious men. But the look fit him, what with Daddy being the town's only funeral director and owner of the Sparrow Funeral Home where we lived.

On that day, the day Agnes cried, Daddy passed us the tray with his customary deadpan look. I took my piece of cracker and held it in my palm. Agnes took hers and we waited for the signal to eat, supposedly mulling over the joy of our salvation and our absolute unworthiness. Once the entire congregation, which wasn't large, had been served, Pastor Spahr took an unbroken cracker, held it out toward the congregation, and said, "Take. Eat, for this is my body broken for you." Then he snapped the cracker. I always winced at that part because it made me think about broken Jesus bones getting passed around on a silver platter.

I swallowed and glanced at Agnes. She was crying as she chewed the cracker—her fat, round face with the tiny mouth chewing and chewing while tears streamed down her heavy, pink cheeks, her eyes squinted shut as though she was trying to swallow a Ping-Pong ball. Even while the elders served the juice, she couldn't swallow the cracker for the tears. It was such an overwhelmingly sad sight that I couldn't finish the ritual myself and left my tiny cup of purple juice, full, on the pew. I ran out of the church and crouched behind a large boulder at the edge of the parking lot, jammed my finger down my throat and threw up the cracker I had just swallowed. I swore to Jesus right then and there that I would never let him or anyone hurt my sister again.

Which is probably why I took the whole Agnes Sparrow sign issue to heart. I knew if the town went through with their plan it would bring nothing but embarrassment to Agnes. I imagined multitudes pulling off the turnpike aimed for Jack Frost and winding up in Bright's Pond looking for her. They'd surely think it was her tremendous girth that made her a tourist attraction.

But it wasn't. It was the miracles.

At least that's what folks called them. All manner of amazements happened when Agnes took to her bed and started praying. It made everyone think Agnes had somehow opened a pipeline to heaven and because of that she deserved a sign— a sign that would only give people the wrong idea.

You see, when my sister prayed, things happened; but Agnes never counted any answer to prayer, yes or no, a miracle. "I just do what I do," she said, "and then it's up to the Almighty's discretion."

The so-called Bright's Pond miracles included three healings—an ulcer and two incidents of cancer—four incidents of lost objects being located miles from where they should have been, an occurrence of glass shattering, and one exorcism, although no one called it that because no one really believed Jack Cooper was possessed—simply crazy. Agnes prayed and he stopped running around town all naked and chasing dogs. Pastor Spahr hired him the next day as the church janitor. He did a good job keeping the church clean, except every once in a while someone reported seeing him howling at the moon. When questioned about it, Pastor Spahr said, "Yeah, but the toilets are clean."

Pastor Rankin Spahr was a solid preacher man. Strong, firm. He never wavered from his beliefs no matter how rotten he made you feel. He retired on August 1, 1968, at the ripe old age of eighty-eight and young Milton Speedwell took his place.

Milton and his wife, Darcy, were fresh from the big city, if you can call Scranton a big city. I suppose he was all of twenty-nine when he came to us. Darcy was a mite younger. She claimed to be twenty-five but if you saw her back then, you'd agree she was barely eighteen.

Milton eventually became enamored with Agnes just like the rest of the town and often sent people to her for prayer and counsel.

But it wasn't until 1972 when Studebaker Kowalski, the recipient of miracle number two—the cancer healing—that Agnes's notoriety took front seat to practically everything in town. Studebaker had a petition drawn up, citing all the miracles along with a dozen or more miscellaneous wonders that had occurred throughout the years.

"Heck, the Vatican only requires three miracles to make a saint," he said. "Agnes did seven. Count 'em, seven."

Just about everyone in town—except Agnes, Milton Speedwell, a cranky old curmudgeon named Eugene Shrapnel, and me—added their signatures to the petition making it the most-signed document ever in Bright's Pond. Studebaker planned to present it to Boris Lender, First Selectman, at the January town meeting.

Town meetings started at around 7:15 once Dot Handy arrived with her steno pad. She took the minutes in shorthand, typed them up at home on her IBM Selectric, punched three holes in the sheet of paper, and secured it in a large blue binder that she kept under lock and key like she was safekeeping the secret formula for Pepsi Cola.

That evening I settled Agnes in for the night and made sure she had her TV remote, prayer book, and pens. You see, Agnes began writing down all of the town's requests when it became so overwhelming she started mixing up the prayers.

"It's all become prayer stew," she said. "I can't keep nothing straight. I was praying for Stella Hughes's gallbladder when all the time it was Nate Kincaid's gallbladder I should have asked a favor for."

Nate ended up with Stella's prize-winning pumpkin and had to have his gallbladder removed anyway. Stella had apparently entered the same contest as Nate and asked Agnes for God's blessing on her pumpkin. Stella forgave Agnes for the oversight, and Nate agreed to share the blue ribbon with her. But, as Agnes said, God blessed her blunder because Nate and Stella got married six months later. They've been raising prize-winning pumpkins ever since.

After the pumpkin debacle, Agnes wrote down all the requests in spiral notebooks. She color-coded the names and petitions, reserving black ink for the most severe cases, red for less dire but still serious needs (marriage troubles and minor illnesses like warts and bunions) and blue ink for the folks with smaller troubles like broken fuel pumps and ornery kids—that sort of thing.

"I got to get going now, Agnes," I told her a few minutes before seven. "The meeting's about to start and I don't want to be late."

"Could you fetch me a drink of juice and maybe a couple tuna sandwiches before you go? And how about a couple of those cherry Danishes left over from last Sunday?"

"I'll be late, Agnes, and you already had your dinner."

"It won't take but a minute, Griselda, please."

I spread tuna salad onto white bread and poured a glass of golden apple juice into a tall tumbler with strawberry vines. I was standing at the kitchen sink rinsing my fingers when I heard rain start—hesitant at first. It was the kind of rain that started with large, heavy drops and only a hint of ice in them but would soon turn to all snow. Most of the time foul weather meant a smaller crowd for town meetings, but with the Agnes Sparrow sign debate on the agenda I doubted the weather could keep folks away.

"I better go," I said. "I want a seat in front on account of the sign situation."

"Phooey," Agnes said. "I told you I don't want a sign with my name on it. I don't want the glory."

"I know." I took a deep breath and blew it out. "I told you I'd take care of it."

Agnes took another bite of her sandwich and turned on the TV while I buttoned my coat and slipped into yellow galoshes. I was just about to step outside when Agnes spoke up. Her high voice made her sound like a little girl.

"The Lord just gave me an idea," she said, swallowing. "Tell that town council of ours that the sign should read, Bright's Pond. Soli Deo Gloria. That's Latin. It means—"

"I know what it means. I'll be back as soon as I can."

That was when all the trouble started. And I don't just mean over the silly sign. I thought the town's enthusiasm to advertise Agnes's prayers got something loosed in the heavens and trouble came to Bright's Pond after that—trouble no one could have ever imagined.


Excerpted from The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow by Joyce Magnin Copyright © 2009 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Prayers of Agnes Sparrow 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 69 reviews.
TarHeelGirl00 More than 1 year ago
"The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow" is one of those books that is just downright fun to read! It's a comedy and a tear-jerker all wrapped up into one. The eccentric characters are portrayed so vividly that you feel like you are right there in Bright's Pond with them! This book has a wonderful lesson in faith without being preachy. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys to laugh, cry and be surprised. I look forward to continuing with the Bright's Pond series.
Phoebe-W More than 1 year ago
The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow by Joyce Magnin is a novel about a six hundred pound woman named Agnes. That right there got my attention. There's quirky characters, plot twists, and great writing. I've never been into Christian fiction, but Agnes doesn't fit the stereotype. It made me laugh out loud and feel for the characters. I loved this book and will be rereading it many times over.
JulesWrite527 More than 1 year ago
The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow is one of the most unique books I have read in a very long time. It's the story of sisters Griselda and Agnes Sparrow. Older sister Agnes weighs 700 pounds and is the miracle worker of the town of Bright's Pond, whose every prayer for the town's residents is answered. Griselda is Agnes's caregiver. Their unique relationship and the zany residents of this small town in the Pennsylvania mountains make for a read that is humorous as well as touching. The writing was sprinkled with just the right amount of details -- not so much as to be overwhelming but enough to make me feel as though I had been to this town and I had met these wonderfully, zany characters over a piece of Full Moon pie at the Full Moon Cafe. The book does fall into the Christian fiction category, and while there is an obvious message in the story it is not at all "preachy. I would recommend this book to anyone who lives or has lived the small town life and wants to read a story about a town probably not much different from their own. A wonderful read and I look forward to reading the rest of the Bright's Pond series.
bookstore_lady More than 1 year ago
Typical town with all its problems - didn't want to put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very good read with characters you will enjoy. The book was a little slow the first few chapters but you get to know the characters and you want to keep reading. There are also lots of twists in the story. I recommend it and I will read the other books in the series. I believe this is book #1.
sajo More than 1 year ago
More on the citizens of Bright's Pond and not at their best. However, this is the way most people behave, self centered and if things don't go their way, blame someone else, no matter how innocent they may be. The story has turns and twists and ends OK. I dislike books that hurry through the last ten pages and tie up all the loose ends, leaving a lot of unansered questions. The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow did not do this. Recommend reading for those who like stories that have a message.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a great author! Reminds me of Judy Blum. A touching story of relationships in a small rural town. The descriptive writing is fantastic. I will definitely be reading more from this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The whole Bright Pond Series is delightful! The stories are full of quirky characters and situations that shed an interesting light on the problems of life. You can't help but fall in love with the main characters and their quaint little town. Check them all out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow was filled with an odd assortment of characters. It read like the town of Mayberry on LSD – but I liked it! The idea that a whole town would go to a 700 lb housebound woman to ask her to pray for them as though she had a direct link to God was funny and sad at the same time. When things go well, Agnes is a hero, but when things don't go so well, she is suddenly cast as the villain. Much as we treat God when things don't go the way we think they should. There are a few lessons to be learned along the way, but they are so coated in pie, M&Ms and laughter that they go down real smooth.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book wasn't full of wild twist and turns (though there were a times I gasped out loud because I was so shocked at what just happened). Nevertheless, I could NOT put it down! Best read I've had in a very long time!!! As soon as I finished it, I went on my library's website to see if it was there for a Nookless friend of mine--I was that desperate to recommend it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting characters in a little town make you feel at home in this book. A light look at some tough things, even adult bullying! While not a gripping can't put the book down kind of was enjoyable and I would recommend it for a summer read or a rainy day!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nice & simple but I was waiting for more.......
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cute story about a small town of people
LeiaJ More than 1 year ago
what a great book I got this from the library, I enjoyed it so much I wanted for my permanent library so I got it for my nook. At first i was not to sure but as I began to read this I found I could not put it down.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this cozy book
brianna22 More than 1 year ago
Excellent book. <p> This book was well written. You will be able to relate to all the characters. You will smile, laugh, and cry. I recommend this book to everyone to read. You will really enjoy it - I did.</p>
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this story a lot. It was entertaining. There were some parts where I did not want to put it down. It was a touching story about life.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book, was not what I expected....wished for a different ending..but still good....made me think that people don't change their prejudices about others who are overweight.
TLJo More than 1 year ago
Another great book about the people of Bright's Pond. I'm really enjoying this series. Thank you!
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