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Seeking Enlightenment... Hat by Hat


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About the Author

Formerly an actress and a park ranger, Nevada Barr is now an award-winning and New York Times-bestselling novelist and creator of the Anna Pigeon mysteries, and numerous other books and short stories. She lives in New Orleans with her husband and various pets.


Reading the book jacket, one might well think, "Oh, great, another celebrity's version of a spiritual awakening where she discovered that we shouldn't cut down a tree because it might be the embodiment of dear, departed Aunt Martha." Read on. Barr, best known as the author of 11 mysteries (e.g., Deep South), has apparently experienced a true journey from atheism to faith. Barr grew up in a family with a disdain for organized religion that she carried into adulthood; subsequently, she survived a terrible marriage, an unpleasant divorce, and mental illness. Happily remarried, Barr now lives in Mississippi and attends an Episcopal Church simply because when she was at rock bottom she walked into one conveniently close by. "Had the Elks been meeting on the block that night and accidentally left their door unlocked, I expect my life would have taken a very different direction." This volume is a collection of more than 40 essays on a variety of topics that delineate Barr's still-ongoing faith journey. (One explains the "hat by hat" reference.) She now chooses to believe in God because it seems to make sense, and the ritual and traditions of the Episcopal Church provide a feeling of community. Recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/03.]-Mary Prokop, Savannah Country Day Sch., GA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"A life ago," Barr writes, "I was depressed, broke, homeless, unemployed and divorced." One evening she wandered into an Episcopal church, primarily because it was unlocked. Desperation, not interest in religion, had brought her there, but warmly accepting parishioners kept her, and soon she wanted to be confirmed. "I went to the priest and asked him if it would be okay considering I didn't accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior, didn't believe the Bible was divinely inspired and wasn't entirely sure about the whole God thing. Fortunately Father Andrew had been tending his flock long enough to recognize a lost lamb when one came bleating into his office and put no obstacles in my way." It was a turning point for Barr, who here describes the resulting changes in her life and thinking over the last six years. Readers of Barr's bestselling mystery series featuring park ranger Anna Pigeon might have hoped for a whole book full of enlightenment about Anna's creator. However, apart from the introduction and occasional anecdotes throughout, her first nonfiction work is more a collection of personal essays than spiritual memoir. In more than 40 short chapters, she looks at topics as varied as forgiveness, girlfriends, being ordinary, Halloween and of course hats, usually saying more about how she thinks life should be lived than about how she actually lives hers. Nevertheless, Barr's sassy style, self-deprecating sense of humor and trenchant observations make for a good-and, yes, enlightening-read. (June) Forecast: Barr's 11th Anna Pigeon mystery was published earlier this year and has been a PW and New York Times bestseller. This memoirish spirituality title should ensure that the multi-talented writer Barr will never be, well, pigeonholed solely in the mystery category. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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