When Iola Anne Poole, an old-timer on Hatteras Island, passes away in her bed at ninety-one, the struggling young mother in her rental cottage, Tandi Jo Reese, finds herself charged with the task of cleaning out Iola’s rambling Victorian house.
Running from a messy, dangerous past, Tandi never expects to find more than a temporary hiding place within Iola’s walls, but everything changes with the discovery of eighty-one carefully decorated prayer boxes, one for each year, spanning from Iola’s youth to her last days. Hidden in the boxes is the story of a lifetime, written on random bits of paper–the hopes and wishes, fears and thoughts of an unassuming but complex woman passing through the seasons of an extraordinary, unsung life filled with journeys of faith, observations on love, and one final lesson that could change everything.
This story was a little slow to start for me. I had read The Sea Glass Sisters awhile ago which is the prequel to The Prayer Box and I was trying to figure out how the two books related to one another. Around page 60, I was so hooked into Tandi’s story that I stopped thinking about the other book and wanted to find out if Tandi would overcome her personal demons.
This is a very sad book in many ways. Tandi’s childhood and life up until this point was tragic and the she was unable to make better choices because she had nothing to believe in, most of all believing in herself as a worthwhile person. Readers see her subjecting her own children to a neglectful childhood, just as her parents did to her.
However, this is also a book filled with hope. Readers see through Iola’s story that times change and that all is not what it appears at times. Readers are reminded that sometimes people just need a little help and an opportunity for hope to change their lives. The best part of this book for me was the way that the Christian characters in this book didn’t try to improve Tandi’s circumstances by inviting her to church and leaving it at that. They loved her where she was and demonstrated God’s love.
This is a really great, inspiring book. Wingate expertly weaves a plot with characters that readers really get to know and love. Her descriptions of the setting pull you in so that you feel like you are really there in the beach community, seeing the old house, the sea glass, the sand, and the lingering damage from hurricanes.
If you are looking for a book to pull you in for a couple hours, this is a great one. Even after the end, the story and characters stay with you – it is that good!