THE SEWING ROOM by Barbara Cawthorne Crafton

THE SEWING ROOM

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Spiritual embroidery on everyday themes, with the accent on love and compassion. Crafton serves as a vicar at Seamen's Church Institute, a prominent N.Y.C. human-service establishment. Her claim to fame, however, comes from her status as one of the first women to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church. She writes often about being a pioneer, most strikingly when describing how a visit to England, where resistance to women's ordination remains strong, left her ``shaken by culture shock.'' Hers is a warm, sensible voice, finding spiritual lessons in quotidian affairs Ö la Robert Fulghum, but with less wit and a dash more moral smugness. ``People are what matter,'' she says--and who could disagree? Many of her observations, like this one, skirt the edge of platitude or sentimentality, only to be rescued by her kindness and her ear for story. Crafton's lessons always come wrapped in anecdote. She and a gaggle of Girl Scouts dye Easter eggs at a shelter for the mentally ill, and she cries when a recalcitrant old patient comes out of his shell; make the right effort, she seems to say, and redemption comes in the most unexpected ways. Crafton remembers her good mother, who avoided anything grave or grim; she writes about fear of death, the precariousness of life (``so you'd better love what you have while you still have it''), the emotions engendered by moving out of her childhood home or being called a ``girl'' in middle-age (``I'll be one. When I choose to be''); and she complains about the new math. But the strongest essays are those in which she confronts real suffering: victims of AIDS looking for love, a paranoid parishioner who finds a home, memories of her dead child. Despite the author's priesthood, Christian images are scarce, although one lovely, atypical piece muses on the benevolence of the Virgin Mary. Generic goodwill, in appetizing bites.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-670-84113-7
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1992