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.