The Prayer Box ~ Lisa Wingate — A book review by Cindy M. Jones
Fiction That’s Good for the Soul
One evening while strolling the aisles of Books-A-Million, a cover caught my eye. It was A Thousand Voices by an author I’d never heard of, Lisa Wingate. I purchased it for vacation reading on the beach. After my trip, I knew I had found another favorite author.
Lisa isn’t just a favorite author, but she has become a wonderful mentor and friend. Today I would like to introduce you to her latest book, The Prayer Box by Tyndale Publishing.
To my delight, the setting was on a small island with the beach infused community that I so love. In fact, it was that very love that influenced my family’s most recent move to the wonderful Gulf Shores, Alabama, area. Now, I don’t have a few days to read a couple of select books, I can enjoy beach reading every weekend to my heart’s desire. And Lisa’s book was my latest.
The prayer box weaves a heart warming story behind a woman’s desperate attempt to salvage herself and her children’s future. It made me want to go find my own prayer box. Lisa’s vivid setting and character descriptions always draw me in. I feel as though I’ve personally met each one and have walked by the storefronts, taken in the bakery smells, and touch a mermaid’s tear.
You, like me, may be interested in how Lisa got her idea. I decided to ask.
Lisa, How did you come to write this story?
The Prayer Box book was originally to be set in Texas, but when my special reader-friend, Ed Stevens, visited the Outer Banks (his daughter Shannon has a beach house in Duck) after hurricane Irene, he asked me to set a book in the Outer Banks to draw attention to the destruction there and the plight of residents — Irene was mostly thought of as a “non-event” because it didn’t hit New York etc. as was predicted. Damage on the OBX/Hatteras was very bad.
At first, I sort of put Ed off about the OBX book idea. In winter 2012, I’d just started work on The Prayer Box, set in coastal TX. I knew it was a post-hurricane story, and we’ve had our share of hurricanes here. We lost our family beach houses (relatives on the coast) during Ike several years ago, so I understand the aftermath of having family treasures scattered to the tides, and the feeling of losing a place you’ve loved and where you’ve made memories.
Ed pushed a little harder by asking Shannon — if Lisa *decided* to set a book on the OBX, could she stay in the beach house? — then he emailed me and told me Shannon and Wick had offered to let us stay in the house *whenever* I did decide to set a book on the OBX. The rest is history. Seriously, how could you say no to an offer like that? He also sent me links about OBX history and pics of the islands. I was hooked at that point and it occurred to me to change the setting of The Prayer Box to the Outer Banks. Wouldn’t it occur to anyone who was offered an Outer Banks beach house as a research retreat?
Ed has also shared much advice with me over the years about parenthood and its transient nature. It’s good advice for young parents. This bit of Norman’s letter to his daughter from Dandelion Summer was from him. The video has done really well over the years. Ed helps me with technical projects, like producing the Youtube channel, etc : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0p1p-0TQrms
He’s a great example of a senior person who still has skills and talents to use and made an effort to reach out to someone he didn’t know, in an industry he had no experience with, to help with something he believed in. He’s an amazing encourager and I have him to thank for the idea of setting the story in North Carolina.
Did the book involve special research?
After I jumped on the offer of a free stay in the Outer Banks to research the setting and meet the stalwart residents of there, our trip to the Outer Banks was amazing. We canvassed the place. A reader-friend-now-gal-pal and my mother (my assistant — another “retired” senior with skills) went with me. Photographed like crazy, talked to locals, found a location for the fictional village of Fairhope, etc. Learned about what the people on Hatteras were going through. And that was pre-Hurricane-Sandy. Now it’s even worse there. Sandy took out the bridge to Hatteras again. Right now, it is ferry-only traffic which is very tough for them. There are some who say the island is a lost cause and should just be abandoned, but of course the people living there and owning property there don’t feel that way at all. Not sure we want to get into that debate, but just making you aware. I do hope the book will bring attention/tourism/help etc. to the OBX and Hatteras in particular. They are great people and it’s a beautiful place with rich history.
When I revisited during my recent book tour, I learned that bookstores there were already selling The Prayer Box and looking forward to having it for many tourist seasons in the future.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Some readers tell me that they didn’t ‘like’ Tandi at first. She isn’t doing a very good job of mothering, and is following her dysfunctional family patterns in many ways and they don’t admire her for that. But, as they get to know her and realize she is struggling to become a better person and looking for the way, they warm up to her and root for her. Isn’t that always the way in real life? When we don’t like a person it’s because we don’t really understand where he or she is coming from. I hope readers reflect some on that point.
And, of course, the influence of Iola’s letters shows Tandi how this gentle soul overcame many disadvantages and traveled a path of grace, helping many in her community even in the face of their indifference to her. Iola becomes a mentor to Tandi through those letters and I can hope Iola mentors to some readers in need of her messages also.
In The Prayer Box, there is the message of being active and mindful of the things you’re praying for. Even though only around 50% of Americans report that they go to church, 90% say that they believe in prayer.
I think prayer boxing and the idea of taking the time to record our prayers, hopes, and gratitudes in writing (as Iola did in the book) catches on with my readers. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, when a child graduates, to be able to give that child the box of hopes and prayers written during the first year of life? Or for a couple on their 25th anniversary to re-open the box from their first year of marriage? For years, I’ve given journals or prayer boxes to couples as wedding gifts and encouraged them to write down their hopes and gratitudes during their first year of life, then keep them. It’s a great exercise while they’re doing it and a precious keepsake for later. It’s also their story, preserved.
I would like to thank you for visiting today and encourage you to pick up or order your copy of Lisa’s book today. It would make a great Christmas present or stocking stuffer! Also, take the opportunity to visit her sites to check out her other great books. You can keep up with her adventures and see what’s up and coming by following her on facebook, twitter, and her blog links which are included for you
Cindy M. Jones ~ Stories for Readers, Tips for Writers
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