Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Prayers the Devil Answers by Sharyn McCrumb

Title: Prayers the Devil Answers
Author: Sharyn McCrumb
Read by: Candace Thaxton
Simon & Schuster
Length: 10 hours and 56 minutes
Source: Review Digital Audio from Simon & Schuster – Thanks!

Ellie Robbins had always prayed that her husband Albert the Sheriff would not be taken from her by a killer only to have her prayer answered by him dying instead of pneumonia.  Or as Ellie says, it is a prayer that the devil answered. Ellie Robbins is the first female sheriff in her rural Appalachian town appointed to finish her late husband’s term.  What seems to be a routine job becomes a turning point in Ellie’s life when she has to officiate a public hanging.    Prayers the Devil Answers is based on the true story of the last public hanging in Kentucky that occurred in 1936 in Owensboro, Kentucky, by a female sheriff who served out the term of her late husband and officiated during a hanging.  Although in the true story, the criminal was quite different than in this novel.

Ellie Robbins has moved to town from a rural Appalachian farm with her husband and their two young sons during the 1930’s.  Things are looking up for the family when Albert wins election as county Sheriff.  Unfortunately not too long into his term, Albert dies of pneumonia.  Ellie is left with their two boys and no income.  She plucks up her courage and asks the county commissioners to appoint her to finish her husband’s term and they do.  Little does she know when she starts the job that a murder will soon take place in their sleepy community.

Lonnie Varden is a traveling artist working for the Government painting a mural in the local post office.  He receives help from a local teacher, Celia, on finding out the clothing and other historical accuracies for his mural.  They fall in love and marry.  Their lives seem like a fairy tale, until they suddenly take a violent turn.

As Ellie navigates being the Sheriff and has to pull together the courage to officiate at a public hanging as part of her duties and raise her two boys, she finds herself drawn to Lonnie Varden and can’t help but wonder why he did what he did.  As she slowly unravels his story, she discovers that there were hidden depths to her own husband that she never knew.

I’ve always enjoyed the mystical aspect of Sharyn McCrumb’s novels.  That aspect to this story was that Celia had attended a “Dumb Supper” with local girls to determine who they would marry.  Celia had not observed the rules to the supper appropriately and her friends are sure that is why she came to a bad end.

I have enjoyed Sharyn McCrumb’s novels since I was a teenager.  I really enjoy the rural Appalachian settings and the great realistic characters.  In this novel in particular, I loved Ellie Robbins.  She is a strong woman trying to make the best of her circumstances and to do the job to which she was appointed.  The mystical aspect of this novel wasn’t really that important and frankly wasn’t needed.  I just loved Ellie’s story and wanted more about her!


What really made this novel for me was the revelation about Albert and the waitress at the café.  Ellie realizes that Lonnie and Albert were the same kind of man who strays from their wife.  They just made different choices on how to handle it.  I thought it was fitting that Ellie had Lonnie wear one of Albert’s suits and had him buried by him.  This particular part of the novel, Ellie’s internal struggle and her way of dealing with the truth about Albert really moved me.


Candace Thaxton was an excellent narrator.  She was the voice of Ellie to me  . . . even when she was narrating others points of view.  This was a great audiobook to listen to around the house.  I listened to it on a trip to Michigan last week and the kids enjoyed listening to parts of it as well.  I did turn it off when it got to talk of murder and hangings.

Overall, Prayers the Devils Answers is a very interesting novel and audiobook with a great main character, great setting, and unique premise.  I highly recommend this novel.

Have you ever discovered something about a person that you love that you wished you’d never found out?


  1. Laura, you wrote an excellent review of this audio book. It sounds very engaging. Ellie sounds like a terrific character.

    I am back from our trip, and back to blogging!

  2. Fantastic - I'm glad to see you back. Ellie's character was my favorite part of this audiobook.