A Colorado mining town during the Great Depression and an 86-year-old woman as a heroine don’t exactly scream the literary equivalent of “sexy.” But Sandra Dallas is more interested in strength than sexiness—and the result is the surprisingly powerful novel Prayers for Sale.
In 1936, aforementioned octogenarian widow Hennie Comfort is facing her last year in the high altitude of Middle Swan, having promised her daughter she’d move in with her in Iowa come the next winter. Meanwhile, Hennie forms a friendship with new arrival Nit Spindle, a lonely 17-year-old bride whose husband has come to work the gold-mining operations. And as the two women grow closer, Hennie spins stories from her life and the life of the town.
Those episodic tales make up a large part of the narrative, following Hennie from the Civil War in Tennessee through two marriages and encounters with a variety of colorful characters, from preachers to prostitutes to con artists. But the anecdotes become part of a larger portrait of the novel’s setting and the people who looked to the forbidding climate of the Rocky Mountains—“earth’s backbone,” in Dallas’ words—as a place to begin again, whether financially or psychologically. With a perfect ear for the plainspoken dialogue of the time and place, Dallas fashions an emotional tale of fierce loyalty and unlikely connections forged over common tragedies, wild raspberry pie and a quilting frame. Join the author for a reading and signing this week.
Sandra Dallas: Prayers for Sale @ The King’s English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, 801-484-9100, Thursday, April 30, 7 p.m. KingsEnglish.Booksense.com