Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow by Joyce Magnin

Recently I saw that The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow had been selected by Library Journal as a top Christian fiction read in 2009 and then read that author Joyce Magnin had followed the first book with three other stories set in Bright's Pond, Agnes' hometown.  Intrigued, I checked our library system and downloaded The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow and also ordered a print copy of a succeeding book through interlibrary loan.

Despite being set in 1972, the story has a more contemporary rather than historical feel.  And it certainly defies any simple genre categories that I can name. This is a story of Agnes Sparrow, whose extreme weight has confined her to the family home for years, leaving her sister Griselda to care for her every need, from making her meals to straightening her cramped legs. In their forties, the two women have settled into a life pattern that appears destined to continue for years. Griselda leaves a few hours a day to work at the local library and Agnes spends her time praying for her local neighbors and friends.  And it appears that Agnes' prayer line is a direct one, as several townspeople have experienced almost miraculous answers to prayer requests.  As the book begins, townspeople have gathered to commission a sign and a statue honoring Agnes as their most glorious citizen.  

Griselda is NOT in favor of the sign or the statue, fearing that intead of bringing honor to Agnes, the publicity will turn into a freak show, with Agnes as the freak.  Very quickly, readers will see that Griselda has been her sister's protector and keeper since childhood, a role that has meant she, too, has become a virtual prisoner to her sister's size, appetite, and needs.  The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow has quirky characters, and a mysterious, unexpected plot twist, but basically is a story of an extremely unusual sisterhood.    

I can't say that I really enjoyed this book, but I do think Joyce Magnin has a talent for creating unique characters and stories.  She also gives us much to discuss - the role guilt played in Agnes' self-imprisonment,what to do if helping another is causing you to lose yourself, what are the long lasting effects of bullying, and even why does bullying continue into adulthood.  Because Magnin found such "fresh" people and stories the first time she visited Bright's Pond, I plan to make another visit when I read Charlotte Figg Takes over Paradise.  Hopefully, I'll enjoy the story a little more; I know the writing will be good.

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting, different perspective. I was surprised, when I began reading expecting a very different story line.
    Are you buried under snow? Wichita, where Julie lives and Mom and dad will arrive today, got 12 inches last week and are predicting another 11 starting tonight. Lubbock has stayed below the snow line, none out of the last system that went through and right now there is a blizzard warning just one county north of us and we are enjoying sunshine and 57 degrees! If the system wraps around in the right way we may get some moisture, which will be most welcome. Have a great week.