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The House Where the Hardest Things Happen


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About the Author

Kate Young Caley is a writer and college professor. She lives in Quincy, Massachusetts.


Beginning with a child's view of a church where "everybody loved us," Caley relates her adult fixation on the day when this church ejected her mother for having "broken the covenant" by working in a restaurant that served alcohol. Caley's brothers wonder why she still thinks about this it occurred nearly 35 years ago and her mother feigns forgetfulness before finally admitting that she remembers the names of her ousters. The adult Caley seems shocked by the realization that these people weren't strangers, but women "I still meet sometimes at the post office or the October Fair. Women I know," yet this information doesn't propel her to confront them to discuss the event and its effects. Caley doesn't explore the possibility that perhaps the reasons for her family's ejection from the smalltown New Hampshire church may have had more to do with her father's nervous breakdown or her brother's being gay. Her quest for answers is unsatisfyingly shallow, and her search for God leads her only as far as another Protestant church. Caley is admittedly concerned about hurting her mother by examining these old wounds, which may explain her investigation's superficiality. However, readers are left with more questions than the author addresses. What's missing is the perspective of an adult recalling distant childhood events, some revelation of new information, an epiphany of emotions about what happened or psychological insight. Instead, Caley's view seems stuck in the eyes of the six-year-old she once was, forever craving an imagined world of perfect adults and unconditional love. Agent, Joseph Durepos. (On sale June 18) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

This spiritual memoir by poet Caley (creative writing & composition, Eastern Nazarene Coll.) is set in New Hampshire's granite hills during the mid-1960s. It tells of her family's ejection from their rural Protestant church when her mother, facing destitution, "breaks the covenant" of the congregation by taking a waitressing job at a restaurant that serves liquor. Nonetheless, she continues to say grace at dinner and take her children to Sunday school until the author (age six at the time) and her mother are ostracized by the teacher. This absorbing tale, told in linked essays rather than as a continuous narrative, introduces tantalizing threads only to leave them hanging for example, what eventually happens to her gay older brother, tormented by his macho classmates? Is he the reason for the family's ouster? How does Caley's mother sustain her faith and composure under pressure? A good discussion-starter for churches and book clubs, this autobiographical sketch is similar to the typical Oprah selection of yore but less torrid. In 1998, Caley won the American Academy of Poets Harold Taylor Prize, so there may be demand among the literary-minded. For public libraries. Joyce Smothers, student, Princeton Theological Seminary, NJ Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"Many centuries ago, St. Augustine wrote that our hearts are restless until they come to rest in God. Kate Caley's memoir is a priceless study of both the restlessness and the rest."
-Lauren Winner, author of Girl Meets God

"This is the story of a loving family in a dysfunctional world. Wounded outrageously by their church, the Youngs never lose faith. Up to their necks in hard work and hard times, they remain hopeful, adventurous, sweetly eccentric. Their daughter's thoughtful, affectionate reflections make a wonderful tribute."
-Betty Smartt Carter, novelist and author of Home Is Always the Place You Just Left

"A tender, thoughtful exploration of the life of a family with more than its share of suffering, in clear and exquisite writing. This spiritual memoir should appeal to anyone who has struggled with the damage that church can do to faith."
-Molly Wolf, author of Angels and Dragons "The House Where the Hardest Things Happened teaches us, moves us, challenges us in our hypocrisy and exclusivism in God's name. It is an exquisitely described journey, a pilgrimage toward a spiritual home.... It is a celebration of life in the midst of loss. It is a testimony to God's redemptive love and faithfulness. It is an accessible lesson in advanced spirituality."
-Louis J. Mitchell, Th.D., Presbyterian pastor and pastor/theologian, Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton, New Jersey "A thoughtful, luminous addition to the literature of faith."
-Kirkus Reviews

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