An intriguing spiritual memoir from an unusual woman.
Centered on Thayne’s near-death experience following a car accident when she was in her 60s, this autobiography contains thematic chapters that explore her changing beliefs about mortality through meditations on family, language and other daily concepts. As a Mormon grandmother, parts of Thayne’s life—her long marriage, religious devotion and large family—are seemingly typical for someone of her generation. However, Thayne is also a poet and writer, weaving many of her poems and other writings into the body of this work. Often, Thayne describes the two roles of homemaker and author as being at odds with one another, at least within her own mind. In addition to her active, fulfilling involvement in the Mormon Church, she characterizes her writing life as almost a personal struggle. In a major theme of the book, Thayne seeks to resolve the internal conflict she feels when torn between her vocation and her concerns about meeting outside expectations. Interestingly, she addresses this internal conflict by looking both into her Mormon heritage and out toward other spiritual traditions and lifestyles. Discussing her parents and grandparents, Thayne reveals their warmth and the absence of doctrinaire beliefs in her childhood home. Her description of “everyday Mormonism” could be compared to the “women’s Islam” for Muslim writers like Fatima Mernissi and Leila Ahmed. However, in her search for enlightenment, Thayne isn’t content merely focusing on previous generations of her own family. Instead, she visits healers, helps bring to light the work of artists with AIDS and recognizes many influences from outside her own community. As a result, she’s a complex, evolving narrator, grappling slowly with her own expectations and the challenges of life. Her meditative, fluid narrative might not satisfy readers looking for an eventful, action-oriented story, but readers interested in the optimistic pursuit of spiritual development shouldn’t miss this one.
Gentle, inclusive ruminations sure to strike a chord.