Chasing Grace: Reflections of a Catholic Girl, Grown Up

Martha Manning, Author
Martha Manning, Author HarperOne $20 (225p) ISBN 978-0-06-251311-3
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-06-251312-0
Ebook - 240 pages - 978-0-06-174048-0
Ebook - 240 pages - 978-0-06-149394-2
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-0-06-149389-8
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 240 pages - 978-0-06-149392-8
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Manning, who had a critical success with Undercurrents, fares less well here, perhaps because her book veers between the modes of Mary McCarthy's Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood and Erma Bombeck's domestic epistles. Bombeck's shoes pinch this derivative author, as witness the episode of burying her daughter's dead goldfish. Keara, who has more sense of non-occasion than her mom, smartly dismisses the ceremony as ""really gross."" Child psychologist Manning's ""bad-mother mistakes"" take a toll on the reader, if not on her only child, who receives her mother's cloying ""last will and testament"" in these pages. But when Manning recreates her own childhood as the eldest of six offspring of Catholic parents, readers, especially those whose youth spanned the pre- and Vatican II eras, will feel a glow as she recalls the drill: for example, earned ""indulgences"" (known among Manning's Long Island classmates as ""Purgatory Parole"") and high school sex education taught by celibates. God, remembers Manning, was like Santa Clause, ""essentially benign but waiting for you to screw up."" Each section of the memoir is titled with a sacrament, with Barbie dolls turning up under Holy Orders--a confusion of the McCarthy-Bombeck protocols that plague the book. $50,000 ad/promo; author tour. (Sept.)
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