Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow

It's taken me a few days to finally get here, but I wanted to write about one of the books that I've recently finished reading: The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow by Joyce Magnin.  I'm not really sure what this is categorized under, but I'm not sure if it really is Christian fiction... but either way, it was a good book.

The story is mostly about two sisters, one who has dedicated her life to taking care of her 600 pound sister.  Griselda doesn't mind taking care of her sister, Agnes, and has been doing so since her parents died.  It was not clear (or I can't remember) how long since their parents have died, but both women are in their 40's and neither married.

The town is convinced that Agnes has been touched by God and is doing His work through prayer.  According to the town, she has been able to heal cancer, stomach ulcers, help temperamental children calm down, to finding lost items - all through prayer.  She even keeps a notebook with her with all of her notes so she knows what to pray for.

Of course, a story like this would be just a little too boring, so here comes a stranger to the town, Hezekiah, who had heard about Agnes and her miracles.  Agnes prays for Hezekiah, like she does for anyone else in the town who asks for it, but the prayers go unanswered.  Months go by with nothing and the town starts to doubt Agnes' ability to perform miracles. 

The overall story was pretty good but some plots were not written as smooth as they could have.  Of course, I have no idea how they could have been fixed, but it seems like some of these different sub-stories could have used a little more help.  They felt like they were fixed or finished just a little too quickly.  This made parts of the book a little choppy to me.  It didn't stop me from enjoying the rest of the book though.

It's funny because my favorite character in this book was one of the main characters - the poor, long suffering Griselda.  She almost seems too good to be true, but the author still wrote some humanity in her.  Griselda loved being a librarian and found a type of peace when she was surrounded by books.  She didn't mind taking care of her sister, which made it impossible for her to date, get married or have children.  Even when she tried to go on her first date since high school, Griselda and her date get called away because Agnes was having a bad asthma attack.

It is shortly after this that Griselda starts questioning if giving up her life for her sister was worth it.  It seems like she can't really do much because Agnes does not like being left at home by herself at night, and if she does go out to church or town meetings, she has to return right away.  She starts to dream a little more about getting out of that small town to see what else there is beyond the mountains that she can see from her bedroom window... until Agnes calls her back to reality and downstairs so she can help her walk to the bathroom.

Despite all of the growing resentment that Griselda has for her sister, she still stands up for her and defends her to the town.  When the town wanted to put up a sign with Anges' name on it, Griselda was the first to try to get that idea shot down - knowing that it was not what her sister wanted.  When the town started to question Agnes' power in her prayers, Griselda is the only one that stands up and asks the town if anyone has been praying for Agnes while she's dedicated her life to praying for them.

If you can get past some of the bumpy parts in the writing, it is overall a good book.  It hardly took any time at all to read it, even though I think it was twice as long as the last book.  The characters are really neat to read about and some of the stories are really cute - re: Jesus pie (yes, you'll have to read the book to find this precious story).  :-)  :-)  :-)

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