Comfort fiction, that's what I'd have to call it, so appropriate since the main character is named Hennie Comfort (formerly Ila Mae Stubbs Lloyd, but there's lots of name changing in this book!).
PRAYERS FOR SALE is not chick lit, romance, mystery (although there are a couple of foreshadowings and improbable surprises), definitely not action/adventure: Historical fiction, engaging and comforting, like homemade mac n' cheese or chicken pot pie. PRAYERS FOR SALE reminds me of a more adult version of Little House on the Prairie; although the story ends in 1936, during the Great Depression, it begins in 1864 and includes wagon trains, hardship, log cabins and subsistence living in a remote gold mining camp high in the mountains of Colorado.
Hennie Comfort is 86 years old and facing tough decisions about her life in Middle Swan, Colorado. Her adult daughter wants Hennie to come down off the mountain and live comfortably with her in Iowa. Mae wants to take care of her aging mother and to know that she is safe:
"Mae was right, Hennie admitted to herself. If she fell, the snow would cover her up, and nobody would know where she was until she melted out in the spring."
But Hennie has lived in Middle Swan for 70 years, since she came to the camp from White Pigeon, Tennessee, essentially a mail-order bride (heck of a blind date!) at the age of 16, after the loss of her young husband and baby daughter during the last days of the Civil War. (She married for love the first time at age 14 and was a widow and bereft young mother at 15.) Hennie doesn't want to leave her mountain life or her memories and stories.
A small sign on her fence, long-forgotten, brings 17-year-old Nit Spindle to Hennie's door: Prayers For Sale. Nit is new to town and suffering her own heartache after losing her baby at birth on the journey to Colorado from Kentucky. Nit asks Hennie to pray for her baby. Hennie takes to Nit and decides the girl needs her help to settle into the community and survive as a mountain woman, the wife of a dredge gold miner. A love for quilting and storytelling brings the two women together.
PRAYERS FOR SALE is a wonderful story about friendship and community, although not much happens in the present. Secrets hinted at the beginning (about Hennie's daughter Mae and Hennie's last unresolved secret), later revealed are anti-climactic and seem farfetched coincidences. The strength of this book is in the stories Hennie tells about the past, her own and others: tales of colorful characters and tragedy, lady luck and fallen ladies, mining, hardship, fortune and loss.
PRAYERS FOR SALE is comfort fiction, to be savored and enjoyed.