Monday, September 28, 2009

Fat Woman Devoted to Prayer

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow by Joyce Magnin

The first half of The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow reads like a slice of life in a small town in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. It’s full of quirky characters with names like Studebaker Kowalski and Personal Best. Its star citizen, Agnes Sparrow, is a 700 pound woman who prays miracles for her neighbors. Their attempts to honor her are quite humorous, even though she tries to give the glory to God. They ignore her desires because their views on prayer are more superstition than religion.

The narrative is fun to read, but I began thinking the story could have been told in a lot less space. Then, halfway through the book, the events and people began to change. Magnin surprises the reader with a series of unexpected events that change the direction of the story. As they play out, she develops several layers of complex themes. The book becomes a parable about idolatry, a treatise on group think, a lesson on faith and a personal narrative about betrayal. This is a book that would generate interesting discussions in a high school English class. Like all good literature, it provokes thought without pronouncing explicit truths. In spite of this it does have a satisfying ending, with a hint of “happily ever after.”

Pros: Wonderful characters and a great setting. Deep themes that leave you pondering.

The sudden shift in the plot may deter the reader who enjoyed the first half of the book. The local church is important to the story, but the minister offers weak spiritual leadership.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow

Abingdon Press (September 2009)


Joyce Magnin

Joyce Magnin is the author of short fiction and personal experience articles. She co-authored the book, Linked to Someone in Pain. She has been published in such magazines as Relief Journal, Parents Express, Sunday Digest, and Highlights for Children.

Joyce attended Bryn Mawr College and is a member of the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Fellowship. She is a frequent workshop leader at various writer’s conferences and women’s church groups.

She has three children, Rebekah, Emily, and Adam; one grandson, Lemuel Earnest; one son-in-law, Joshua, and a neurotic parakeet who can’t seem to keep a name. Joyce leads a small fiction group called StoryCrafters. She enjoys baseball, football, cream soda, and needle arts but not elevators. She currently lives in Havertown, Pennsylvania.

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow is her first published novel.


The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow is the story of an unusual woman, Agnes Sparrow. No longer able or willing to leave her home, where she is cared for by her long-suffering sister Griselda, Agnes has committed her life to the one thing she can do-besides eat. Agnes Sparrow prays and when Agnes prays things happen, including major miracles of the cancer, ulcer-healing variety along with various minor miracles not the least of which is the recovery of lost objects and a prize-winning pumpkin.

The rural residents of Bright's Pond are so enamored with Agnes they plan to have a sign erected on the interstate that reads, "Welcome to Bright's Pond, Home of Agnes Sparrow." This is something Agnes doesn't want and sends Griselda to fight city hall.

Griselda's petitions are shot down and the sign plans press forward until a stranger comes to town looking for his miracle from Agnes. The truth of Agnes's odd motivation comes out when the town reels after a shocking event. How could Agnes allow such evil in their midst? Didn't she know?

Well, the prayers of Agnes Sparrow have more to do with Agnes than God. Agnes has been praying to atone for a sin committed when she was a child. After some tense days, the townsfolk, Griselda, and Agnes decide they all need to find their way back to the true source of the miracles-God.

To read the first chapter of The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow, click HERE

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