The Close: A Young Woman's First Year at Seminary

Chloe Breyer, Author Basic Books $24 (256p) ISBN 978-0-465-00714-1
Breyer entered General Theological Seminary three years ago. Since then, she has been questioned by high school friends, Harvard roommates and strangers on airplanes about why she wants to become an Episcopal priest. She allows that the question is not without merit; she was an ace student with a passion for social justice, raised by a secular Jewish dad (Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer) and an English, Anglican mom. But, eschewing more lucrative fields like the law, the Harvard alumna decided that the Episcopal priesthood was a great vehicle to pursue an activism about which she is passionate (she's a vegetarian, and was committed to nuclear disarmament as a kid). This memoir of Breyer's first year at seminary alternately engages and bores. She worked at a New York hospital while taking classes, and her salty and humorous discussions of the trials and tribulations of hospital chaplaincy--like giving communion to a Jewish patient--are unforgettable. However, her attempts to reflect on more narrowly religious themes often fail. Predictably, the book is structured according to the church calendar (like recent spiritual memoirs by Frederica Mathewes-Green, Nora Gallagher and others), but Breyer's musings on the meaning of Advent and Lent read like notes she took in class and hastily crammed into her book. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-465-00715-8
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