Summary from Amazon
“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.”
I wasn’t far into the story when I wondered if I had downloaded the correct book. Was this really Christian fiction? The following extract, to me, has all the delicious eeriness of a Stephen King novel.
“. . . as I stood on Iola Anne Poole’s porch. It was my first indication of a knowing, an undeniable sense that something inside the house had gone very wrong.
I pushed the door inward cautiously, admitting a slice of early sun and a whiff of breeze off Pamlico Sound. The entryway was old, tall the walls white with heavy gold-leafed trim around rectangular panels. A fresh breeze skirted the shadows on mouse feet, too slight to displace the stale, musty smell of the house. The scent of a forgotten place. Instinct told me what I would find inside. You don’t forget the feeling of stepping through a door and understanding in some unexplainable way that death has walked in before you.
I hesitated on the threshold . . .”
After I finished reading the book, the story has stayed in my thoughts – the mark of a book well-written. The characters are realistic, struggling with believable problems. With her troubled background, could Tandi ever become a ‘good’ mother? Could she ever have the confidence in herself to even try? Would she ever trust other people? Could she trust God?
“I’d wanted to earn my own way, to do this myself, to form a new life on my own, but instead, this had been given to me. This life. This place. These letters.
This revelation. Prayers are answered in ways we don’t choose. The river of grace bubbles up in unexpected places.
I closed my eyes, and tears pressed hard, seeped through, traced hot and sweet over my cheeks. I tasted their salt, like the tip of an ocean.
“Thank you,” I whispered. “Thank you for this.” Zoey and J.T. could be sitting in a foster shelter right now, in a home with strangers. I could be in jail, caught up in Trammel’s mess, or dead beside a bottle of pills, gone just like my mama, while my kids still needed me. I could be living in Trammel’s house, existing in a fog, in the prison of believing everything he told me about myself.
Instead, I was here.
Thank you. I wanted to write it on paper and fold it up in a box to remind myself, the next time I couldn’t see anything but mountains ahead, that where there’s a mountain, there’s always a river flowing nearby.
Ultimately the river is the more powerful of the two.”
Lisa Wingate is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over thirty novels, including the instant NYT bestseller The Book of Lost Friends and Before We Were Yours, which remained on the NYT list for over two years and has sold over three million copies. She is a Goodreads Choice award winner for historical fiction and a Southern Book Prize winner. She lives with her husband in Texas.