As usual Davis Bunn came through with a great read for the Christmas season. I found the characters believable and the story line stirring. I liked the way the issues resolved and God used one situation to help in another. He often does that in real life. I identified with the main character as I also lost a child to stillbirth and am a nurse who worked in a maternity unit. I found my grief much quicker to resolve than hers did but understood a lot of the feelings she had.
Prayers of a Stranger: A Christmas Journey by Davis Bunn is a story about forgiveness, healing and the giving of self. While set in Melbourne, Florida and Israel during the Christmas season, it would be good reading for any time of year. The journey of healing after the loss of a baby, opening arms of welcome to a prodigal daughter, and the hope that comes to a struggling business all combine to make this much more than a Christmas story.
At the urging of her husband, Amanda accepts the invitation of their neighbor, Emily, to travel to Israel - and it is on this trip that an unexpected encounter with Miriam at the Wailing Wall helps Amanda to look beyond her year of grief over the loss of her stillborn baby. Back in Melbourne, Florida, Emily's husband, Frank, struggles to accept that their prodigal daughter has truly changed after so many broken promises. And Amanda's husband, Chris, puts his ethical business beliefs on the line in an effort to keep his small electronics business from going bankrupt during an unstable economy.
This is a well-written story with fleshed-out characters, and I enjoyed every minute immersed in its pages. Bunn has the ability to pull you into the story, as if you were seeing Jerusalem's golden walls reflected in the noonday sun, experiencing the sights and smells of Bet Jola's open market, or feeling the raw emotions of a mother's grief. Amanda "had never seen anything like Israel, the startling combination of past and present, divine and intensely earthbound, the eternal and the present problems . . ."
Halfway through their trip, Emily says to Amanda, "I didn't come here to see Israel. I came to grow closer to our Lord. . . . I feel like we're running too fast to see anything at all." Much to their host's displeasure, they decide to leave the tour in order to explore on their own, and it is at this point that their path to healing begins.
One of the book's main strengths is the way prayer is woven throughout the story, uniting both those in Melbourne and in Israel - from prayer groups where Chris and Amanda work, to handwritten prayers pushed into cracks in the Wailing Wall. Miriam prays for Rochele, a child in her care, and then says to Amanda, "You will heal her."
It's often said that God never wastes a hurt, and through an entertaining fictional account, Bunn shows how one person who is open to God can help lift another's sorrow. I highly recommend Prayers of a Stranger to those who enjoy inspirational fiction, but it would be especially meaningful to someone dealing with grief. While marketed as a Christmas story, this book can be enjoyed throughout the year.
For more information on Davis Bunn and his books, go to http://www.davisbunn.com/
This book was provided by Thomas Nelson Publishers through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
I'm starting to sense God's presence in all things, especially in the latest books I've been writing and Prayers of A Stranger by one of my favorite authors, Davis Bunn is certainly no exception. In fact I've highlighted more passages that spoke to me personally than I think I ever had in a book before and to me, that means something.
"It's a shame that life does not give us a time free of other worries when we can heal."
In the novel, Prayers of A Stranger, Davis Bunn accomplishes something more than taking the reader along for a great story. He lets the presence of God speak to your own heart, if you are willing to listen and open yourself up to Him. In fact he does this so well, you feel as if the journey is designed especially with you in mind and I personally feel that is God's anointing on this wonderful novel without being heavy handed on religion that would put most people off when reading a Christian book.
Prayers of A Stranger is a story about healing and seeing the good that often accompanies difficult times we can not understand and may not this side of heaven in our walk on Earth. Amanda Vance works at the local hospital as the administrative assistant under a harsh director, Moira Campbell, who makes work a living hell for those working with her. In fact her day starts out like the ordinary but soon turns into something quite unexpected. All the hospital staff seem to be in good spirits and being close to Christmas is not the reason. It seems that Moira is about to be reassigned, and thus the need for the rejoicing of all the hospital staff. It even puts Amanda in better spirits.
She learns the new director will be starting in the coming days and she is advised to take a few weeks off to think about what direction she wants to take her career in. Seems some of the staff think she will return to her former job as a critical care nurse since she was seen waiting just outside the nursery of the critical care infants. But she can't go back to that. Not yet. It's still too soon and the pain is as fresh as the day it happened. The day she lost their only child, before it had a chance at life. This is the reason she stayed as far away as possible and taken the position of working as an administrative assistant. How will she ever move forward.
When Amanda is given a gift of a trip to Israel with her neighbor Emily, who can't take her husband Frank since he is waiting a double hip replacement and can't endure the trip. Rather than having the trip wasted, Emily invites Amanda to see the Holy Land with her. Amanda isn't sure she should go since her husband Chris is still trying to find a way to save his company Avery Electronics from going bankrupt in this tough economy. Yet even Chris knows that Amanda hasn't been the same wife he married since the loss of their child and thinks this might be the answer to restoring her faith and helping to heal her from this loss. Yet neither of them could prepare for what happens when Amanda places a simple prayer into the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. It's truly an inspirational story for cold hearts to make them whole again.
I received Prayers of A Stranger compliments of Thomas Nelson Publishers and Net Galley for my honest review. I have read several of Davis Bunn's books and remain amazed at how many different directions his writing has taken him. This is such a great book to share with those that may be questioning their own walk of faith through tough times. I know for me, it has truly been a huge walk up call and has melted my own hardness of heart and restored my prayer life. Thank you to Davis Bunn for sharing God's message to my own soul. For this reason, I personally rate this one a 5 out of 5 stars in my opinion, and I am sure that there is something for everyone is this one. It comes at the perfect time for those looking for a bit more than just a really good Christmas story. Perhaps one with just the perfect message in store to speak to your own heart. Are you will to listen and open your heart?
Davis Bunn has written another novel with memorable characters, strong emotion, extraordinary personal challenges, and, above all, eventual healing by the Spirit of God. The book is equally beneficial for men and women, and appropriate for any time of year. After reading it, the reader will feel that he/she has actually been in Jerusalem and its surroundings. (I must mention that I'm glad that while in that great city decades ago, I never met any of the young students in the book who were preying on tourists while training to be rabbis!) Above all, this book underlined for me the absolute power of prayer in healing all manner of grieving in the lives of believers--by all who call themselves a friend.
The way the Holy Spirit brings all the pieces together for all concerned is beautiful indeed!