GRACE: A Memoir

Mary Cartledgehayes, Author . Crown $23 (304p) ISBN 978-0-609-60834-0

This breathless, pulsating, sensual memoir by a Methodist minister demonstrates a poetic mastery over language and breaks open stereotypes about Methodists, ministers, feminists, grandmothers, musicians and all the other roles Cartledgehayes embodies. The book is a brisk excursion through her unusual childhood on a small island, her early pregnancies and failed marriages and the dramatic miracle that propelled her into church, a loving relationship and the ministry. Cartledgehayes steers the reader firmly through life as a woman in a conservative divinity school and into her post with a struggling congregation. This is not a Pollyanna story about how the maverick but plucky outsider wins the hearts of a skeptical, resistant community; it is a mosaic exploration of how hard it can be to love a community (let alone please everyone in it). Cartledgehayes lets readers glimpse the exhausting, give-it-your-all world of creating sermons without deconstructing or diminishing the spiritual power that gives them life. She flips with ease between the daily grind of ministry and connections with the divine; the Zen-like moments she enjoys holding her grandbabies and the healing sex she shares with her husband. She swears liberally and loves passionately. The memoir also dissects the issues that eventually propelled Cartledgehayes out of the ministry and into piano lessons, hence the many piano metaphors sprinkled throughout the book. Somehow Cartledgehayes turns herself inside out in this memoir without turning the reader off; it is a dense and juicy book that moves both heart and mind. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/03/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
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