Reading is and always has been a great love of mine. Variety is my preference and I invariably have several books of different types going along with my daily Bible time. One book in the mix tends to be something that stretches me and helps me go deeper. Another book will often focus on history or historical content as the theme. Whatever the mix turns out to include, a novel will be there as well.
It can be easy to shortchange how powerfully a novel can speak to our hearts, but over time I have discovered good novels, good fiction, often speak volumes that help me grow, inspire me, and touch my heart.
Reading Lisa Wingate’s book, The Prayer Box, was my first introduction to this author. As her words began to weave together the story, I was caught up with not only the characters but the underlying themes as well.
The setting for the book is the Outer Banks of North Carolina and tells the story of Tandi Reese and her children who have recently moved from Texas. Her life has been upended in more than one way, but she is hoping to find enough work to afford the cottage she is renting from 91-year-old Iola Anne Poole.
Tandi has no idea how she will be able to stay in this cottage. She arrived in North Carolina on fumes and barely has enough money to get started. She’s hoping something will turn up for at least a chance to stay there for a short time, hoping that Iola Anne Poole will somehow let her stay even if she discovers she only has pennies in her pockets.
But Tandi has no idea what this 91-year-old woman’s influence will become or how it will change her life and ultimately the lives of her children who are living with the consequences of Tandi’s poor choices.
A cast of other characters will enter the scene including a group of special ladies from Sandy’s Seashell Shop, a current boyfriend named, Ross, who has shown her the party life of a surfer, Rowdy, her daughter’s boyfriend, and a few others. But it will be Iola Anne Poole whose life and character will unfold alongside Tandi’s story in this significant narrative that will inspire and confound you (just as it does Tandi).
The Prayer Box invites the reader to experience the faith and life of Iola along with Tandi as she discovers the prayers Iola has written for many years and tucked away in various prayer boxes. These prayers will reveal the untold stories of Iola’s life, how she came to own the Victorian style house where she lives and also the cottage Tandi is renting.
Iola’s prayers are laced with not only her untold story, but also powerful words that lead Tandi to a life she never believed possible.
In one prayer letter to God (or “Father” as the letter begins) Iola writes, “…the most difficult battles are not the ones fought outside the armor, but the ones within it.”
In another prayer letter that begins “Dearest Father”, Iola reflects on her relationship with God in these words, “How strange that when the hours are long with misery, when needs are many and my heart aches, I seek the solace of conversation with you. Yet when the day is sun-drenched and calm, as peaceful as a milk-full foal splayed on the grass, I am silent, my needs quiet in their slumber.”
It would be easy for me to tell you more about this story, but I would encourage you to discover these two stories, Tandi’s and Iola’s, for yourself. You won’t be disappointed. Tears filled my eyes as I read the final pages. My heart embraced the story of the young broken woman, Tandi, and the 91-year-old, Iola, whose own life had been broken and then went on to impact more people than anyone ever guessed until Tandi discovered The Prayer Box.
Tyndale House publishes the book, but they did not provide me with a copy for my review nor ask me to review it. This link will take you to Tyndale for an additional synopsis of the book: The Prayer Box.