The Prayer Box (Carolina Heirlooms #1)by Published 01 Sep 2013
|The Prayer Box (Carolina Heirlooms #1).pdf|
|Publisher||Tyndale House Publishers|
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 for Tandi.
"The Prayer Box (Carolina Heirlooms #1)" Reviews
Sometimes an author's work grabs you by the shirt, forces you to sit down and doesn't let go until the end of the story. And sometimes an author, as is the case of Lisa Wingate, gently takes your hand and invites you to come with her on a journey.
I really enjoyed Tandi's journey. I love how she learned how she was worthy of love, not because of anything she did or didn't do, but because she is a daughter of God.
I absolutely adored Ms Iola Anne, which is weird to say as she was dead by the time the book began. But, it all makes sense as Tandi's journey and Iola Anne's prayer boxes intersect in the most beautiful, healing way possible.
I also enjoyed seeing Sandy and Sharon and the Seashell Shop sisters. Everyone should be so blessed as to have a group of go-tos like that!
Tandi Jo Reese, along with her two children, is fleeing from an abusive husband. She is also breaking her drug addition, fostered by her husband. She ends up in the Outer Banks, the one place of happy memories spent with her beloved grandfather. When her elderly landlady, Iola Ann Poole, dies she agrees to clean out the house in exchange for free rent for the small guest cottage. When Tandi discover's Iola's letters to God, she must examine her own life. Her childhood was one of neglect and disfunction. She had her now teenage daughter when she herself was but a teen. Tandi has not been a good mother, her daughter too often caring for her nine year old brother. Through the letters Iola wrote, Tandi discovers a chance for grace, forgiveness and faith. I love Iola and how she choose to do and see good in all situations. With Iola's guidance offered in her letters, and the embrace of the townspeople, Tandi discovers the woman she wants to be.
Love this quote from one of Iola's letters: "Father, help these young people to see. Help them to show the world that our greatness is not in things we do for ourselves, but in things we do for others. In power that channels itself into kindness, in a hand outstretched in love. Be with these determined students. Help them to believe, when the naysayers come, that you make all things possible."
THE PRAYER BOX
By Lisa Wingate
I will never be able to look at a cute little box again and think just cute. In my mind and heart, it will hold precious memories. Tandi Jo had been given just such a box when she was a young girl, but over the years it had been lost as she was tossed from family, to foster homes and sometimes to her beloved grandparents. The little box had meant so much to her. Her life almost destroyed many times over, Tandi brings her children to the Outer Banks, running yet again from someone seeking to destroy her.
In the little cottage, beside the large old Victorian, Tandi and her two children have to learn to be a family again. Running out of money for rent, for food and gas, Tandi needs to find a job. When the church next door offers her the job of going through the old Victorian and cleaning it up Tandi says yes. Going through the kitchen, she finds food that will keep the hunger away. Going through a bedroom closet, she finds boxes and boxes of letters that feed her soul. Though Iola Anne has passed, her letters reach a part of Tandi that no one has ever reached before.
The island and its inhabitants soon become a safe haven for Tandi and her children, just as it did for Iola Anne…except Iola was almost a recluse. She was a recluse and no one on the island ever suspected or saw her big heart of love…or the secret she had to hide.
In so many ways, on this island love comes full circle. Like the pebble thrown into the pond, the ripples just keep going until they reach the shores of home. This book opens up places you don’t realize are hidden within yourself. Open the first page and find your treasure….
I put off writing this review for nearly a week. Not because I couldn’t think of anything to say. (Those who know me would never describe me as speechless.) I wasn't under time constraints or laboriously engaged. Quite simply, Wingate’s novel spoke to me on so many levels. Frankly, I was overwhelmed, trying to rein in compress all of my thoughts/emotions/opinions into a mere paragraph or two. No sooner would I sit at the keyboard, my eyes would well up and rain; thinking about a lifetime of successes and failures - a journey of sorrows and joys - ongoing, upwards, onward, ever hopeful – fictional, and otherwise.
Now that I've gotten my emotions back in check, I’ll write a line or two then let a few of quotes from this delightful novel speak for themselves.
The Prayer Box is truly an amazing story of surprising breadth, depth, and introspective intrigue. The characters were identifiable and relatable to both the story-line and real life situations. Anyone who has ever been a single parent faced with raising two polar opposite children – one being a teenage daughter – will find parts of Tandi’s story amusing and other parts heartbreaking.
“Welcome to the teenage years . . . They are their own creatures. You have to think of it like ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers.’ Eventually [they] will defeat the invaders – you just have to keep yourself from killing the hostile organism[s] while you’re waiting.”
Those who have experienced the challenges of running from a painful or abusive or an embarrassing past will also feel a connectedness to the story. As will those who have ever felt misunderstood or rejected.
“I understood, in more ways than I could possibly say what it was like to have your life floating in pieces.”
Additionally, the Outer Banks post storm setting allows for atmospheric layers that exemplifies one of the undercurrent themes: “Some of the best things in your life come out of the worst.”
“What does a lighthouse do . . . It cannot hike up its rocky skirt and dash into the ocean to rescue the foundering ship. It cannot calm the waters or clear the shoals. It can only cast light into the darkness. It can only point the way.”
“The trouble with drowning in the mess of your own life is that you’re not in any shape to save anyone else. You can’t be a lighthouse when you’re underwater yourself.”
“You’ll make a lot of excuses for yourself while you’re letting your life tumble down a well. It’s not until you hit bottom that you see what a deep hole you’re in.”
“Fear builds walls instead of bridges. I want a life of bridges, not walls.”
“Our greatness is not in things we do for ourselves, but in things we do for others.”
Mysterious/Enlightening – Joyous/Sorrowful – Complex/Simple – Fearful/Hopeful – Humorous/Maddening. The Prayer Box: a multifaceted jewel of a story. Four stars – just shy of five, due to the resolve being just a smidgen too tidy, verging on syrupy.
The top three words that come to mind upon finishing this book? Beautiful, beautiful and ... beautiful.
OK, that was one word, but one so true about this story that it deserved to be repeated three times.
With a gift for crafting a story that digs into how a person's past can shape their view of themselves and of hope itself, Lisa Wingate never disappoints to deliver a first-class novel. The Prayer Box is just that sort of book. Through Tandi's eyes, we experience the life of a very real woman, shadowed by her past — a past that was pretty messed up by the adults of her childhood. Having spent most of her adult life moving from wrong man to "wronger" man and bad choice to worse choice, Tandi grasps on to one solitary memory of happiness and peace from her childhood and steals away from Texas — and a controlling, unethical man — to the Outer Banks.
When her elderly landlord dies, Tandi unexpectedly finds employment sorting through the woman's belongings. As Tandi immerses herself in the letters found in Iola Anne's once-palatial home, change begins within her heart; a change that reflects into her life and the lives around her. Iola's letters allow Tandi a glimpse into a world where people give without expecting anything in return, love knowing they are bound to be hurt, and work hard to safeguard the things that are beautiful and true in the world.
Although the story may lean more toward women's fiction than contemporary romance, romance is most definitely present--in both negative and positive forms. As Tandi realizes who she was, is, and can become, she finally begins to recognize the difference between being some hot guy's glorified arm candy and being cherished by an unusual, and unusually wonderful, man.
Expect both smiles and tears as you read this beautiful novel, but do read it. You won't be sorry.
(this review originally appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)