The life-and-death experiences of the first female chaplain in the Maine Warden Service.
Novelist and journalist Braestrup (Onion, 1990) became a Unitarian Universalist minister after her husband was killed in a car accident. He had planned to join the ministry after he retired from the Maine State Police, and she decided to honor his memory by achieving his goal and devoting herself to law-enforcement-related service. Her stories of search-and-rescue operations in the Maine woods make it clear that she quickly became very good at helping others. When disaster struck, she traveled with the wardens, clad in the same uniform but with a plastic clerical collar attached, sharing their jokes, their cold and discomfort and their bad meals. Though they gently taunted her with such nicknames as “Holy Mother” and “Your Holiness,” the wardens seemed to enjoy having Braestrup along and to value her presence. It freed them up to do their own jobs when she reached out to provide on-the-spot comfort to the parents of a lost child, the wife of a man who disappeared while ice fishing, as well as other frightened, stressed-out and grief-stricken people. Interspersed among accounts of violent death and dismemberment in the wilderness are sweeter, sadder essays: detailed recollections of preparing her husband’s body for cremation; confessions of her paranoia about their four children’s safety; and surprisingly unorthodox thoughts on heaven and hell, miracles, prayer and Jesus. Braestrup’s occasionally self-mocking prose conveys a warmth and humor that lighten some heartbreaking, even gruesome scenes. Her characters and story lines seem custom-made for a high-quality television series.
A heartening book about applied theology by someone practicing her faith in a rough-and-tumble world.