An ordained Unitarian Universalist minister comes to terms with a son joining the Marines.
Maine Warden Service chaplain Braestrup (Marriage and Other Acts of Charity: A Memoir, 2010, etc.) embraced a faith-based livelihood after her first husband, a state trooper, tragically perished in a car accident. With affable flourishes and a healthy sense of self-deprecating humor, the author brings her eldest son, Zachary, into vivid focus. After her husband’s sudden death, Braestrup was compelled to embark on a ministry career that led her to a law enforcement chaplaincy and countrywide speaking engagements on grief, trauma, and bereavement. Her anecdotes are innocuously entertaining in their brevity, frankness, and sunny delivery: the gushed confessions from total strangers who see her clergy collar; her unflinchingly compassionate delivery of spiritual care at a “woodland calamity”; memories of her father, who served in the Marine Corps and fought in Korea; and the pleasures of mothering (and stepmothering) six children after remarrying. Perhaps most affecting is the sudden avalanche of worry brought on by the “salesman’s enthusiasm” of the recruiter who visited Zach after a school career day. As “the first to launch from the familial nest,” her eldest child put the squeeze on her heart when he decided to enlist in the Marines. As parents’ memories often do, Braestrup’s narrative wanders down Memory Lane often, as she shares many of Zach’s firsts, filled with foibles and amazing acts of bravery and solidarity (at 11, he sewed a rainbow patch on his book bag to oppose anti-gay classmates). While immensely proud of her oldest, the author naturally fretted over his safety. “I was afraid he would be changed into a monster and the change would be forever,” she writes. Sensitive and wholesomely charming, the book is refreshingly free of preachy proselytization and instead addresses the bittersweetness of parenthood and perennial nurturing.
Braestrup delivers another appealing, tenderhearted memoir braiding faith and family.