A woman examines her mother’s 45-year hunt for religious truth.
Debut author Fraser set out to understand her mother’s dogged interest in the religious life, and the result is a kind of spiritual biography. Her mother, Peace, was born in New Zealand, the great-great-granddaughter of a prominent Christian reverend. But she wasn’t particularly drawn to religion until the age of 37, in response to the aching grief she experienced at the death of her mother, surprising because the two were never close. Peace joined the Anglican Church, and it immediately became her lodestar. She wasn’t entirely satisfied with the succor it provided, though, and started to explore other alternatives: first the writings of George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, then Co-Freemasonry, the Theosophical Society, and finally Zen Buddhism. After “ten years in the bosom of the church,” Peace officially left to pursue a path of inner spiritual development. She spent 20 years as a practicing Buddhist, and 45 years after leaving the church, she returned to it, this time as a Presbyterian. Yet again, her reconversion seemed to be a result of painful loss—this time her dog’s death. While Peace’s journey seems meandering at a cursory glance, the author observes that an abiding interest in Jesus’ teachings was the philosophical thread that ran through all the permutations of her mother’s religious evolution. Fraser recounts her mother’s life to better understand this woman of contradictions—impulsive yet disciplined, philosophical yet doctrinal. This is a brief sketch of her mother’s odyssey, and often a profoundly meditative one. The author has embarked on a spiritual quest of her own, one characterized by a sense of urgency and seriousness, and spangled with great erudition. This is necessarily an intensely personal, even intimate investigation, but Fraser’s attempt to draw general philosophical conclusions pulls the book in the direction of more universal relevance. Her conclusions are sometimes quirky: the author ultimately attributes Peace’s attachment to the Christian church to her previous lives: “Her background in this life was not the Christian Church which leaves me with no other possibility to explain her attachment to it than to suggest that these experiences must have occurred at some other time and place.” This is, nevertheless, a thoughtful and engaging rumination, as well as a touching tribute to the author’s mother.
A short, intellectually lively spiritual biography.