When I find an author who I enjoy, I am delighted when she writes a second book. Kate Braestrup fits the bill with her recent memoir, Marriage and Other Acts of Charity, (2010, Regan Arthur Books, 224 pages) which follows her first memoir, Here If You Need Me. (2007, Little, Brown and Company, 224 pages)
In her first book, Braestrup writes about how as a mother of four and wife to Maine State trooper Drew Griffith, she thought her life was in order as a wife, mother, and writer. Drew’s plans were to go to school to become a Unitarian minister. Suddenly though, Drew is killed in a car accident. Kate becomes a widow and 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.
There is much to enjoy in Here If You Need Me. Braestrup is a gifted writer. She has a gentle and humorous way of sharing her experiences and challenges. She shares her grief and growing spiritual awakening in a personal and poignant way. As a natural storyteller, much of the book is a series of vignettes in which she allows her readers to enter her life as a chaplain for the Maine Game Warden department. In sharing her experiences, she provides her thoughts 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.
In her second book, Marriage and Other Acts of Charity, Braestrup reveals that not long before her husband’s death, the couple had suffered a marital crisis and sought counseling for what the author considered clearly Drew’s incurable character disorder; however, she was jolted from the brink by the thought of their losing each other. This came to me as a surprise, as she made no reference to this discord in her first book. But doing so in her second book made her seem all the more human—a woman who struggled in her marriage, found a way to work things out and then have her husband killed in a car accident shortly thereafter. Marriage and Other Acts of Charity is about the author's experiences with not only marriage, but life, love, God, parenting, organized religion, motherhood, grief, spirituality, and creating meaning when it seems impossible. Braestrup offers lessons she has learned from experiencing and observing the male/female relationship.
One thought that stuck with me was the idea that “100% of relationships end.” Braestrup writes that we are lucky if they end after a long, happy life together, but the fact is some relationships are cut short. Whether it’s through divorce, untimely death, or other events beyond our control, we should learn to appreciate every moment. We should focus on the happiness, not the frustrations of a relationship if we want it to thrive. These are certainly words of wisdom that we all can benefit from. If you are looking for one woman’s genuine sharing of her both her common and uncommon life’s experiences, reading Braestrup’s companion books will fit the bill!
Diane Burke recently retired from a 30 year career in education and moved to Hampton Roads from upstate New York. One of her life long passions has been reading books about real women. A retirement goal was to find a way to share this passion with others. She created a website www.booksaboutrealwomen.com in which she has organized and reviewed over 100 books about women. She lives in Chesapeake with her husband and is the mother of three and the grandmother of eight.