Divorced with two kids, on the run from a vicious ex and strapped for cash and credibility, Tandi jo Reese finds herself two months behind on the rent in the cottage-slash-bungalow she’s renting from an elderly woman (whose lush manse is just across the yard) on Hatteras Island in (on?) the Outer Banks. As is wont to happen when one is dealing with wealthy reclusive old ladies in spacious mansions, Tandi one afternoon finds that Iola Anne Poole has died in her sleep (and left her house to the church). Worried about her living status and desperate for income, Tandi accepts an offer to clean out the old mansion, which is filled with the detritus of numerous years.
But amid the trash, there is treasure: Tandi comes across dozens of decorated prayer boxes that contain hundreds of Iola’s reflections — notes, prayers, secret letters, spanning decades of life. Through the prayer boxes, Tandi learns so much more about Iola and—because obvi—herself.
The Prayer Box is every bit as touching as you would expect from a tale as old as time—flawed woman with relationship issues finds solace and insight through the life of an older, also flawed, but well-loved and well-lived older woman, who is, incidentally, deceased. And with the glaring exception of Fried Green Tomatoes (because duh), It would be fair to say that I usually balk at these kinds of novels, which always seem to include tear-jerky life lessons and covers depicting women’s legs in various states of self-discovery (see:).