When the oldest of Kate Braestrup's four children was 10 years old, her husband, a Maine state trooper, was killed in a car accident. Stunned and grieving, she decided to pursue her husband's dream of becoming a Unitarian minister. She eventually began working with the Maine Game Warden Service, which conducts the state's search-and-rescue operations when people go missing in the wilderness.Whether she is with parents whose six-year-old daughter has wandered into the woods, or wardens as they search for a snowmobile rider gone under the ice, or a man whose sister left an infant seat and a suicide note in her car by the side of the road, Braestrup provides solace, comfort, and spiritual guidance when it's needed most. And she comes to discover that giving comfort is both a high calling and a precious gift.
In this account of her life and the events of her unusual job - sometimes joyful, sometimes heartbreaking - Braestrup is warm, unsentimental ("No one is immune to the Plucky Widow story!" she acknowledges), and generous. Here If You Need Me is a funny, frank, and deeply moving story of faith and hope.
Here If You Need Me, written and read by Kate Braestrup, no doubt delights fans of the Unitarian Universalist minister who also serves as chaplain of Maine’s Game Warden Service. But this is a book that deserves a wider audience than those already familiar with Rev. Braestrup’s work. Here If You Need Me has meaning for anyone who has known the grief of losing a loved one or anyone who has witnessed the resilience of the human spirit. It is a soul-comforting book to listen to and one to keep in mind as a gift.
Braestrup’s reading of her memoir about the loss of her husband and how profoundly her life changed is reminiscent of a radio play. The author’s talent for mimicry gives voice to Game Warden Service radio dispatchers, Game Warden colleagues, her four children as they begin to live their lives without their beloved father, a vapid girlfriend of a missing drug dealer, a bereaved wife, a not-so-bereaved brother, and more characters along the way. Listener warning: it helps to have tissues handy as it is possible hear Braestrup’s voice clench and almost break during certain detailed and personal descriptions of her first husband’s unexpected death.
Here If You Need Me also deals with Braestrup’s confrontation with death and with love and miracles as part of her out-of-the-ordinary job. It focuses on the humanity of the individuals in the Maine Game Warden Service who devote their lives to taking care of the outdoors; work that often includes rescues and, sadly, recoveries. The result is thoroughly engaging storytelling with even a few laughs.
More than “just” a memoir, Here If You Need Me serves up a palatable portion of theology, encouraging listeners to give thought to the notion of miracles and where exactly God might be in the midst of tragedy. More than anything else, though, the book is a message of hope: of doors and windows being opened, new chapters beginning, and of love continuing, as always, to grow. Carole Chouinard
"Braestrup's insightful essays are extraordinarily well written, mingling elements of police procedural and touching love story with trenchant observations about life and death....always with compassion and a concern for the big questions inescapably provoked by tragic events." (Publishers Weekly)
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