Books, Marriage, Marriage Equality

Marriage and Other Acts of Charity

Marriage and Other Acts of Charity: A MemoirMarriage and Other Acts of Charity: A Memoir by Kate Braestrup

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m a big fan of Kate Braestrup’s. We both live in Maine, but we’ve never met, despite some near misses and one email exchange. I’m looking forward to hearing her speak at a panel on marriage offered by Bangor Theological Seminary this fall. She’ll present alongside Marvin Ellison, professor of Christian Ethics and author of “Same-Sex Marriage,” which is on my “to read” list.
Not surprisingly, I approached a book on marriage cautiously. I’ve just been burned, and I must admit to feeling like a pretty massive failure after being divorced for the second time. I used to say I could grant anyone *one* mistake…but here I am after two, reading the book of a woman who loved and adored her late first husband and who has an apparently happy second marriage. And I recognize how hard I worked to tell the story of my second marriage as a happy one. Blog readers saw me doing it and if you caught the underlying angst, you were more honest about my life than I was with myself.
Braestrup’s book, like “Here If You Need Me,” weaves her personal story with her work as Chaplain for the Maine Warden Service along with stories from the Bible. I remember reading “Here” with delight in the summer of 2008, loving the way these pieces came together. Despite my initial qualms about the topic, I had similar feelings of delight reading this book.
I will say, it’s pretty heteronormative. You have to wait to page 186 to get any mention of the relationships between same-sex couples. I guess that surprises me, because while she’s living in the law enforcement world, she’s also a Unitarian Universalist, and I would have expected her experiences to be a little broader. Perhaps because it’s outside her experience, she doesn’t feel she has the expertise? To be clear, she does speak in favor of gay marriage, although that explicit endorsement comes not in the body of the book but in a few questions she answers after even the Postlude.
Despite that caveat, which is really about my interest in what will happen around marriage equality here in Maine in the coming year (there’s a hope to get it back on the ballot or in the legislature in 2012), I’m an enthusiast about Braestrup and highly recommend this funny, touching, readable book.

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6 thoughts on “Marriage and Other Acts of Charity”

  1. I love that you can so gracefully interject a word like "heteronormative," a word that–despite my life experience–did not enter my lexicon until just last month when a farm volunteer apologized for her "heteronormative worldview." I'm in a curious place where I both feel a profound ache of desire for a recognized marriage and a profound unease with public advocacy for the same. Like you, I've been burned–thought the betrayal was more political than personal–and I'm leery of those who tell me I ought to once again "get my hopes up."Thank you for your continued advocacy. There are days when the torch is to hard to carry, and it feels good to know that you and others help bear it.

  2. would you recommend this book for someone going through a tough period in her marriage? (posting as anon b/c the feelings are fairly tender right now)….

  3. MaineCelt, I hope we're all in this together.And anon, yes, I would. She's honest about the challenges in her first marriage, which sounded fairly idyllic in the previous memoir, because eventually it was, moreso.

  4. I really liked Braestrup's first book, which my SIL sent me a few years back. Sounds like this one is worth picking up, too. Thanks for the recommendation.

  5. I really enjoyed this book because it gave me a chance to reflect on things I do in my own marriage. It has been a couple years since I read this, but I guess I didn't expect her to do more than reflect on her relationship (as opposed to her religious/social views). Maybe she says more about the latter than I remember, making the lapse you noted more conspicuous. Maybe she had a larger note and an editor discouraged it for publishing's sake (I hope not). It is cool that you're in such close proximity to her. I really would love to do her job (trauma, tragedy and all).

  6. Julia, she tells stories about a lot of other marriages, and she reflects on marriage as a sociological construct, and that's what begged my question.Do you remember the section about the sex Ed class?

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