Rating: 3 stars
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.
This book was an okay read for me. It wasn’t what I was expecting to read, but I thought it was okay. What I liked about The Prayer Box was the background story the reader received about Tandi and why she was on Hatteras Island. Her dark past with her ex-husband was something I found I could relate to and pulled me into reading this novel. I also enjoyed Lisa Wingate’s writing. She is very descriptive about Iola Anne Poole’s Victorian house and it made me interested in finding out what Tandi was going to find in the home. She also described the scenery on the island well enough to where I could picture where Tandi and her children were living.
I also enjoyed reading about Tandi’s growing relationship with the people around her and her children. Lisa Wingate shows some strong character development with Tandi that I really enjoyed seeing as she was reading Iola’s letters.
However, there was a lot in The Prayer Box that was missing for me. The letters Tandi finds in the boxes that were written by Iola were really disappointing to me. I felt as if they didn’t really give the reader Iola’s character. If anything, the letters told us more about Iola and her past, but I didn’t feel as if I could understand her character from reading them. While I did enjoy hearing about Tandi’s past, the reader really doesn’t get a whole lot about why she and her children left. We know that Tandi’s ex-husband Trammel was bad, but I felt as if we as readers don’t get the full picture as to what happened with him. We also don’t get a whole lot about what’s going to happen to Tandi now that her ex-husband is in jail and that Iola’s house isn’t going to be destroyed. The book just suddenly ends with no real conclusion.
I also found Tandi’s character to be disappointing. While I do understand what she went through, I felt as if she didn’t really learn from her past. The reader can see this in The Prayer Box through her relationship with Ross and the relationship she has with her children at the beginning of the book. Ross is a lot like Tandi’s ex-husband Trammel and she even mentions that when she’s talking about him. However, Tandi doesn’t realize how bad of a man he is for her even after what happens with Gina. Instead, she’s upset about his cheating but doesn’t do anything. The relationship Tandi has with her children in the beginning of The Prayer Box is terrible. It is exactly the way Tandi says she was raised as a child. But Tandi doesn’t realize this at all when she talks about the way she was raised and doesn’t even realize her bad parenting until near the end of the book. Then when she tries to be a better parent it always falls flat to me. While I do enjoy seeing that she is trying to do her kids right by her, I felt as if Tandi never really learns from her experiences. Her character made reading The Prayer Box that much more difficult for me.
Part of the reason I struggled with reading this book was because I placed high expectations on this book. I was expecting a lot more than what I got out of The Prayer Box, but I just couldn’t connect with it on the level I wanted to. It just didn’t speak to me in the way it has with other readers and that’s why it’s an okay read for me. While there were parts of The Prayer Box that I enjoyed, it was an overall okay book to read. I definitely enjoyed reading The Story Keeper more and am interested in reading some of Wingate’s other novels.