Read Prayers for Sale Online

Authors: Sandra Dallas

Tags: #Mountain, #Older Women, #Depressions, #Colorado, #West, #Travel, #Fiction, #United States, #Suspense, #Historical, #Female Friendship, #1929, #Cultural Heritage, #Contemporary Women

Prayers for Sale

BOOK: Prayers for Sale
9.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub




Prayers for
















New Mercies


The Chili Queen


Alice’s Tulips


The Diary of Mattie Spenser


The Persian Pickle Club


Buster Midnight’s Cafe




Prayers for






St. Martin’s Press
New York




This is a work of fiction.
All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel
are either products of the author’s imagination
or are used fictitiously.


. Copyright © 2009 by Sandra Dallas.
All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.
For information, address St. Martin’s Press,
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.


Book design by Kathryn Parise




Dallas, Sandra.

         Prayers for sale / Sandra Dallas. — 1st ed.

                  p.   cm.

         ISBN-13: 978-0-312-38518-7

         ISBN-10: 0-312-38518-8

    1. Female friendship—Fiction.   2. Older women—Fiction.

3. Depressions—1929—Fiction.   4. Colorado—Fiction.   I. Title.


    PS3554.A434P73 2009




First Edition: April 2009


10   9   8   7   6   5   4   3   2   1






For Ted Cole


For your grace and courage









In 1963, I moved to Breckenridge, in Summit County, Colorado, as a bride. The dredges there had been shut down for years, but despite the town’s rebirth as a ski area, Breckenridge still lived under the shadow of the gold boats. The skeleton of one squatted in the Blue River on the west side of town. Two others moldered away in nearby gulches, surrounded by the silent rock piles they’d created. The old people still talked about the screeching that the dredges made and the silence when the boats broke down that woke them from a sound sleep.

When I began research on
Prayers for Sale
, I started with my own file on the town and found there a letter from Helen Rich, a novelist, who lived in a log cabin on French Street with her roommate, the poet Belle Turnbull. “You’ve really got the bug about doing Breckenridge,” she wrote. “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 dated August 11, 1967, and it took another forty years of seeping before I finally wrote about Breckenridge.

The town of Middle Swan in
Prayers for Sale
is based largely on Breckenridge, although there really was a Middle Swan. Prowling through a deserted cabin on the Swan River in Summit County years ago, I found a wooden box addressed to: “
Tom Earley, Middle Swan, Colo

The town may have been only that single cabin, but I loved the name and used it as well as the man, Tom Earley, in
The Diary of Mattie Spenser

I owe a great deal to Helen and Belle and their works, especially Helen’s
The Willow-Bender
and Belle’s
The Tenmile Range
, for, although I listened to the old men on the Blue talking about dredging when I lived up there, I was more interested in lode mining and didn’t write down a word of what they said. I’ve drawn heavily on Helen’s notes, now in the Western History Department of the Denver Public Library, and on Mary Ellen Gilliland’s books on Summit County, especially
Summit: A Gold Rush History of Summit County, Colorado
. The librarians at Western History were diligent in turning up materials on gold mining. Chuck Bond of Keystone tracked down information on dredging, while Bill Fountain in Breckenridge shared his extensive research on the gold boats, culled from Summit County newspapers. Buff Rutherford filled in the blanks about mining and mountain people, answering obscure questions about history while waiting for church services to begin in Georgetown.
My longtime friend Jim Richards dealt me a fine poker hand, and Todd Berryman provided banking information. Nationally known quilter Teddy Pruit conveyed her love of Southern quilts. Novelist Arnie Grossman, author of
Going Together
, kept
going, as he always does.

More than any of my other books,
Prayers for Sale
is a collaborative effort. Danielle Egan-Miller and Joanna MacKenzie, my agents at Browne & Miller Literary Associates, LLC, read what began as a loosely connected collection of short stories, many based on Colorado history, and insisted that I turn the lot into a novel. They worked with me through several drafts to develop the story. Jennifer Enderlin, my superb editor at St. Martin’s Press, shepherded the book through the editorial process, from smoothing out rough passages to coordinating promotion with Joan Higgins and Dori Weintraub.

Prayers for Sale
wouldn’t have had a prayer of a chance without the help of all of you.

Most of all, I want to thank my family—Bob, Dana, Kendal, Lloyd, and Forrest, Mary and Ted, Mike and Sheila—who are my answered prayer.




Prayers for









Chapter 1



The old woman peered past the red geraniums in her deep front window at the figure lingering in the moon-white snow at the gate. In the gloom of the late winter afternoon, Hennie Comfort did not recognize the woman, who stood like a curious bird, her head cocked to one side as she looked at the fence, then the front door, and back at the fence again. Hennie watched, thinking it odd that anyone would wait there, mute as the snow itself. Why would a body stand in the cold when she could come inside by the stove?

Hennie had gone to the window to read her letter in the winter light, because the heavy snow had weighted down the wires, causing the electric to go out. It was too dark inside now to read, although Hennie knew the words wouldn’t be any different from what they were when she read the letter at the post office that morning.

BOOK: Prayers for Sale
9.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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