They don’t call Joyce Magnin the queen of quirk for nothing.
Before I ever read a word she wrote, I heard her speak twice to our writer’s group, and let me tell you this: She’s as funny in person as she is on the page. I was eager to read her series of novels set in the fictional Pennsylvania town of Bright’s Pond, so while home in Illinois for Christmas, I took the plunge and began reading The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow.
The first of the series focuses on two sisters, Griselda, the town librarian, and Agnes, the controversial patron saint of Bright’s Pond. Because of Agnes’ prayers, several Bright’s Pond residents have experienced miracles, and they want the world (or at least everyone traveling on the Turnpike) to know about Agnes Sparrow.
What ensues is comical and heart-wrenching. When things take a turn for the worse in Bright’s Pond, the sisters face some tough decisions. Magnin handles these issues and her characters with wit and grace, and it’s not hard to find pieces of yourself in their actions.
This book was a feast for my brain — like mental chocolate. I couldn’t get enough. I’m only sorry I waited so long to start the series. Magnin’s recently release the fourth book in this series, so I have some catching up to do. Check out Magnin’s books and stories at her website.
FAVORITES: The character names of everyone in Bright’s Pond are original, funny and sometimes a little strange, but they’re fitting. I appreciate the care Magnin took in creating unique names for her characters. That makes them more memorable to me.
FAULTS: I read a digital edition of this book and found some typos, as well as some inconsistency of the name of the chapel in Bright’s Pond. Little that bother the editor in me but don’t detract from the overall story.
IN A WORD: Entertaining. I had so much fun reading this book.
Bonus content: I didn’t wait long to read Charlotte Figg Takes Over Paradise. While it doesn’t feature many of the characters as the first book, it takes place in the same region as Bright’s Pond. It’s a delightful story about a recent widow who moves to a trailer park, makes friends, starts a softball team and well, unintentionally, takes over. Hers is an inspiring story of what can happen when you free yourself to follow your dreams and instincts.
FAVORITES: Memorable characters. And not just their names, as was the case in Agnes Sparrow, but Magnin creates a community of people I want to meet and hang out with. We learn about their struggles and care about what happens to them. I’m convinced that Magnin either knows some really wacky people she’s written into her novels or her imagination is out of this world. Maybe a little of both?
FAULTS: The ending felt a little rushed to me — like a steep downhill slide after the long trek to the climax. The story was over almost before I realized it, and I was sad to say good-bye so quickly to Charlotte Figg.
IN A WORD: Uplifting. Charlotte Figg grieves the loss of her husband but she doesn’t stay mired in it. She decides to get on with and do something with her life. She has struggles, but she presses on, with help from her newfound friends and a renewing faith in God.