From Publishers Weekly
It may take ingenuity to interest browsers in a memoir by a middle-aged mother who, 11 years ago, was suddenly widowed, then became a Unitarian-Universalist minister, and now works as chaplain to game wardens in Maine. But good memoir writing does not depend on celebrity or adventure—who'd have thought that a self-confessed recovering neurotic like Anne Lamott or a monastically inclined poet like Kathleen Norris would make it big?—and Braestrup's insightful essays are extraordinarily well written, mingling elements of police procedural and touching love story with trenchant observations about life and death. Alert to comic detail even in grisly circumstances (bears, for example, like to play ball with human skulls), she tells stories of lost children, a suicide, drunken accidents and a murder, always with compassion and a concern for the big questions inescapably provoked by tragic events. Why did Dad die? her children ask, and her response describes not only her theology but also her reason for being a chaplain: Nowhere in scripture does it say 'God is a car accident' or 'God is death.' God is justice and kindness, mercy, and always—always—love. So if you want to know where God is in this or in anything, look for love. (Aug.)
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Braestrup was an accidental chaplain. Her husband, Drew, a Maine state trooper, died in a car accident at a time when he was considering a second career as an ordained minister. After her shock subsided, Braestrup decided to follow in his footsteps and became a chaplain for the Maine Warden Service, which sets up search-and-rescue missions throughout the state. Practical, unsentimental, straightforward, she is the kind of person who considers a book entitled Death to Dust: What Happens to Dead Bodies? a romantic gift (Drew's to her on her thirty-first birthday). She, not the mortician, bathed and dressed Drew's body. She witnessed its cremation. And, rather anomalously, she, a middle-aged mother of four, works mostly with young men. Her own remarkable story encompasses those of the men and women who work alongside her, incorporating many touching anecdotes, none more moving than that of the state police detective, a breast-feeding mother whose last name is Love, who arrests a sexual predator for a young woman's murder. A poignant, funny book by a sympathetic, likable, immensely appealing figure. Sawyers, June