Book Review: “Here If You Need Me: A True Story” by Kate Braestrup

 

“If anyone needs proof that God has a sense of humor, here it is: I am a middle-aged mother of four who works primarily with young, very fit men….And I, a famously loquacious person, have a job that requires me to mostly just show up, shut up, and be.”

This is the quote that appears on the back cover of Kate Braestrup’s extraordinary account of her journey from writer to widow to chaplain, a journey filled with love, irony and heartbreak. While none of us will ever have a journey of our own exactly like this, her experience nevertheless evokes much that resonates with what it is to be human. Life shocks, amuses, perplexes, gratifies and propels us toward bravery.

Kate Braestrup had a satisfying life as a writer, married to Drew, a Maine state trooper. Drew dreamed of a second career after retirement from the police force; he wanted to become a Unitarian Universalist minister. But he never got a chance to pursue that dream because in 1996, he was on the receiving end of a fatal accident.

Kate’s world was changed forever. In the blink of an eye, she had gone from future minister’s wife to a bereaved woman. But during the following year, she made a decision that surprised everyone who knew her: she joined the seminary herself. She became one of the first chaplains for the game warden service of the state of Maine.

Her new job required her to provide spiritual comfort in a variety of situations, such as sitting with the parents of a girl lost in the woods, accompanying wardens to the site of a drowning, notifying family members after a hunting accident. She would listen to outpourings of grief, attempt to answer difficult questions about the afterlife, be a steadying presence for the wardens. Who better to console the distraught than someone who has been in a similar situation?

But all is not dark and harrowing in this book. Indeed, one of the remarkable things about it is that the author has managed to keep a healthy sense of perspective and humor. She knows the healing power of laughter. She recounts biblical misinterpretations, a bewildering formative experience with the church, kids who are disappointed that she doesn’t get to carry a gun in her line of work, singing along to Alanis Morissette in her vehicle.

And there is much affection here, whether in her day-to-day dealings with her children, her reminiscences about her husband, her respect for her co-workers and the people she meets in the course of her duties. Her descriptions are so vivid that you feel like you are right there with her in the woods amongst the wildlife. Some of the passages elicit smiles and tears simultaneously.

Kate Braestrup’s story is inspiring. Instead of becoming paralyzed with fear, moaning about the unfairness of the world (which would have been perfectly understandable), she was able to get herself and her children through a devastating loss, choose a new path and devise a rewarding life, showing gratitude for blessings along the way. She was even able to find love again. Would that we all tap into such strength within ourselves.

“Here If You Need Me” is a surprisingly quick read. The chapters are brief but powerful. And the themes are universal.

Title: Here If You Need Me: A True Story

Author: Kate Braestrup

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

IBSN: 0-316-06630-3
 

Article written by staff writer, Karen Brauer

Karen Brauer is a happily married woman in her forties living in a little house on the prairie. Her passions include: photography; classic and some modern literature; classic, foreign and some modern film; and music of all kinds. Her blog is called “browser life”: http://browserlife.blogspot.com/

 

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  • T. Earp

    I just picked up a copy of this book at a garage sale. Is God telling me something???
    😉

  • Sherrie Oliver

    not available as an ebook which is how i mostly read these days, will keep a watch out for it though as it looks like a good read.