New York Times Best Selling Author

Prayers for Sale

"The human spirit triumphs over hardship of the worst sort…It makes for the best story of all."
—The Salt Lake Tribune

Prayers For Sale, Sandra’s eighth novel, is an unforgettable tale of a friendship between two women, one with surprising twists and turns, and one that is ultimately a revelation of the finest parts of the human spirit.  In 1936, Hennie Comfort, eighty-six, meets Nit Spindle, seventeen, just as the old woman learns she must leave the Colorado mountains that have been her home for seventy years. Nit has lost her baby, and Hennie takes the girl under her wing, telling her stories about mountain life, stories that are as much about Hennie as they are about the historic people of the high country. The harsh conditions of life that Hennie and Nit have suffered create an instant bond, and an unlikely friendship is formed, one in which the deepest of hardships are endured and the darkest memories are confessed.

Author’s Note

In 1963, I moved to the Colorado mining-town-turned-ski-resort of Breckenridge, as a bride. The gold dredges that had once operated in Summit County were shut down long before I arrived, but the town still lived under the shadow of the gold boats. Many of the men who had worked on the dredges lived there yet. Two Breckenridge writers, novelist Helen Rich and poet Belle Turnbull, had captured the dredging years in their evocative books, published in the 1940s and 1950s.  Helen and Belle encouraged me to write about Summit County.  In fact, I still have a letter in my files from Helen in which she says, “I feel quite sure about you and you have the grace to grow…As you have found out the stuff out of which such books are made has to seep into a person.”  The letter was written in 1967.  The seeping took some 40 years, until I realized I could combine Breckenridge and its dredges with another idea I’d had for a long time.  That was to write a sort of updated version of Eliza Calvert Hall’s Aunt Jane of Kentucky, a group of short stories told by a quilter, first published a hundred years ago. I liked the idea of playing the warmth and comfort of quilts against the harshness and brutality of the dredges.

So Prayers For Sale (the title comes from a sign I read about in the WPA slave narratives; a former slave stuffed his pockets with prayers and carried around a sign advertising them for sale) began as a series of connected short stories. My agent suggested that the stories would be better as a novel, and as I had gotten caught up in the life of the storyteller, Hennie Comfort, I agreed.  I loved the idea, incidentally, of bringing in characters from my other books—Zepha from The Persian Pickle Club, Emma and Ned from The Chili Queen, Marion Street from Buster Midnight’s Café, and especially Tom Earley from The Diary of Mattie Spenser.  I’d intended that he would have only a walk-on role in Prayers For Sale, but Tom had a better idea.

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