I had this book in a pile of about 6 other books that I was reading at the same time, but this book was too good and I found I just had to read it through to the end. Braestrup has written a memoir that reads like a novel, and has managed to touch incredible emotional and theological depths with a straight-forward "real people" tone.
In her own words, hers is the story of "the plucky widow" who, following the death of her state trooper husband, pursues his dream of becoming a Unitarian Universalist minister. She intends to be a chaplain to the state troopers, but instead ends up chaplain to the Maine Warden Service. This job means that she is the chaplain for search and rescue missions and for the game wardens who carry those out, so she talks about the times they find the lost child and bring them home, and the times when what is recovered is a dead body, and the times when no closure is ever found.
Reading this right after I read Eat, Pray, Love I was struck by the similarities. Both are memoirs written by middle aged women (with excellent writing skills) who lose (divorce, death) their marriages and find god. (Both authors use the "big G God", but I prefer small g, so I'm doing what I want here.) But while Gilbert chooses to divorce her husband and sets off with only her own emotional baggage on a trip around the world, Braestrup's husband dies suddenly in a car accident and she is left the widowed mother of four children. Braestrup's discussions of god are the kind of discussions that come from regular life - why do bad things happen to good people?, why do people do bad things?, how do we come to terms with the fact that we will all die? And the answer that she explains over and over again is that we will find our sanctuary and our meaning in the love that remains - in the people who will be there to support us and love us in hard times, and in the love that we give out to the world.
I liked Eat, Pray, Love but that book is destined to be passed along. I love Here if You Need Me and I want to keep the book near me, to return to this wise voice when I need to.