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A rote addition to the glut of inspirational allegories promising quick fixes for ontological angst through prayer.

The authors, co-founders of Sacred Center New York (“one of the fastest-growing spiritual churches in America,” according to the book’s publicity material), bring us Joseph Hutchinson, a farmer circa 1883 who has always wanted to be a carpenter. Joseph has inherited the family farm and the family curse—all of his male ancestors going back generations have died in their 20s. Joseph expects to suffer the same fate, but finds respite in the farmhouse attic, which exudes a comforting aura. When wife Miriam dies after caring for the daughter of his neighbor (and former crush) Grace, Joseph is left with two small children, a debt-ridden farm and crushing guilt—just before Miriam’s death, he had unwisely dissed a vision of the Angel of Death, who only wanted to give him a mysterious chest. Joseph uncovers a mildewed chest in the attic, containing a notebook left by Joseph’s ancestor Malachi in 1780, which transcribed Grandma Mary’s three secrets of prayer—unfair to divulge here, but suffice it to say that when it comes to prayer, it’s all about you. Joseph replicates the chest according to his vision, and Grace provides the gold lock. The characters write prayers on slips of paper and deposit them in a slot at the top of the chest, which cannot thereafter be opened—kind of like an IRA, only forever. Their prayers are answered: The mean bank president, Charlie, who threatens Joseph with foreclosure, gives him lucrative carpentry contracts. When Charlie’s carriage accidentally runs down an orphaned immigrant Jewish girl, Sarah, Charlie adopts her. Sarah rallies everyone to host a Christmas party, where the town children will receive toys designed by Grace and carved by Joseph. There’s artistic fulfillment and business opportunities for all (except doomed Sarah) and even a fourth secret—whose revelation will have to await the inevitable sequel(s).

Facile redemption aplenty.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-385-52023-2
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2007