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Here If You Need Me: A True Story Paperback – July 2, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 211 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (July 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316066311
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316066310
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (222 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kate Braestrup is one of the first chaplains ever appointed to the Maine Warden Service. She is the author of a novel, "Onion," and has written for Mademoiselle, Ms., City Paper, Hope, and Law and Order. She in lives in Maine with her husband, Simon van der Ven, and their six children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

97 of 99 people found the following review helpful By Maudeen Wachsmith VINE VOICE on August 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a mother of four and wife to Maine State trooper Drew Griffith, Kate Braestrup thought her life was in order as a wife, mother, and writer. Drew's plans though were to go to school to become a Unitarian minister. Suddenly though, Kate becomes a widow and then decides to pursue Drew's dream. She becomes a Unitarian minister and begins working with the Maine Game Warden department, mainly ministering to the families of those involved in search and rescue attempts - the hikers, the lost snowmobilers, the swimmers falling over a waterfall, the despondent young women, the lost children.

However this book isn't, as I had first thought, simply full of anecdotes of Kate's involvement with search and rescue attempts. Oh no, it is much, much more than that. There, are plenty of interesting anecdotes that's for sure but it is a story of Kate's life as a single mother, as a spiritual woman, as a spiritual leader, and as a caring human being. It is a book full of the essays of a talented writer giving her take on life, death, and heaven, all in a gentle way where it is easy to imagine the skill in which she is able to minister to those in need. She does so without judging anyone be they a fundamentalist, atheist, agnostic, or of any other belief.

There is the story of a young suicide victim whose brother she counsels and consoles as he is worried she will be unable to have a Christian burial because of the way she died, there is the story of the parents Kate spends the night consoling with after their daughter goes missing, answering the atheist mother who says, "It's so cool that the warden service has a chaplain to keep us from freaking out," by responding,"I'm not really here to keep you from freaking out. I'm here to be with you while you freak out.
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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By K. M. VINE VOICE on September 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps Unitarian Universalist chaplains don't pray for weather (a joke in the book, actually), but here's a prayer Chaplain Braestrup offered for law enforcement officers:

" 'May you be granted capable and amusing comrades, observant witnesses, and gentle homecomings.

" 'May you be granted respite from what you know of human evil, and refuge from what you must know of human pain.

" 'May God defend the goodness in your hearts.

" 'May God defend the sweetness in your souls.' "

Kate Braestrup's HERE IF YOU NEED ME swoons, sighs, mourns, celebrates, and etches out new patterns of thought. In twenty beautifully written chapters that could be delivered as commencement speeches or sermons, tough-minded, tender-hearted Braestrup shines an examining spotlight into various corners of her life. She suddenly became a widowed mother of four. She studied for and was ordained to the U. U. ministry. She still is the chaplain to the Maine game wardens.

Her vivid, visceral prose grapples with the physical realities of life (and death) on the one hand. On the other, it contemplates tenderly, lovingly, such spiritual subjects as whether an afterlife exists or how suicides should be treated by the church. Freely irreverent, and often funny and pithy, Braestrup arranges glimpses of her various charges: her children, her game wardens, and the public she and the wardens serve with determination and full hearts.

But the author excels best when she unabashedly shares her own individuality. For instance, unease (or even revulsion) vies with admiration in the reader as Braestrup tells of bucking the modern trend of leaving the newly dead to the ministrations of funeral homes.
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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Kearney VINE VOICE on September 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
HERE IF YOU NEED ME is a book that can be appreciated by many readers for a number of different reasons. Some may appreciate it as a religious memoir, others may relate to her being a single mother rebuilding her life after the tragic death of her husband. People thinking about a midlife switch in careers could find the book inspiring. New England enthusiasts, especially those who love Maine, will appreciate the book's setting. Those in public safety may believe that the author is telling their story, perhaps in a different setting with different situations, but still telling a story that only those in this line of work know in exact detail. For me, the connection to HERE IF YOU NEED ME was based in her ministry as a chaplain to Maine's game wardens. As a person who is also in ministry (a Roman Catholic priest), I immediately connected to Kate Braestrup's story, at first because she's a good story teller, and judging from the book a likeable person. As the book progressed, I saw her in situations I could understand even though the work we both do is different and are from areas that share few similarities: Boston and its suburbs are a but different than rural Maine. Still, I do face the challenges of being present to people in situations where there are no answers, life's rough edges become more apparent, and hoping that you're acting and speaking when it's appropriate to do so and just being present when a quiet presence is what is needed and hoping you have the wisdom to know what the best course of action for a situation happens to be. This is much of what we find in this book. My guess is that this is common in most denominations, and Braestrup has the ability to look beyond what could potentially divide and get to what we share in common.Read more ›
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