The Shaping of a Life: A Spiritual Landscape

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9780385497558: The Shaping of a Life: A Spiritual Landscape

Lively, entertaining, and inspiring, THE SHAPING OF A LIFE is in the tradition of the beloved bestsellers by Kathleen Norris and Anne Lamott, an intimate, lyrical, and thought-provoking memoir from one of the most respected and admired writers on religion in America today.

In THE SHAPING OF A LIFE, Phyllis Tickle recounts her life with honesty and humor, richly conveying both the external events and the internal insights and emotions. She shares stories of her childhood in eastern Tennessee as the only child of the dean at the local college—including her first inkling of the power and comfort of prayer and her realization that prayer required a disciplined routine, that it is "best practiced by a composed mind and spirit." She writes of the sense of freedom and independence she discovered at college, where she fell in love with the language and the teachings of The Book of Common Prayer and decided to leave the Presbyterianism of her childhood and join the Episcopal Church.

As Tickle chronicles her deepening understanding of prayer and the rewards of marriage, family, and a spiritual life, she reaches across the boundaries that separate one denomination from another and presents a portrait of spiritual growth and transformation that will appeal to devout practitioners and their less religious neighbors as well. Within a very personal story, Tickle reveals the keys that will help readers of all faiths find the path that leads from the everyday world of "doing" to the special place of simply "being."

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Review:

Phyllis Tickle's exquisite memoir Shaping a Life ranges across a sweeping Southern landscape where we see the events--highly dramatic and tenderly simple--that shaped her esteemed spiritual life. (Tickle, author of The Divine Hours, is a contributing editor on religion for Publisher's Weekly and is one of America's most respected authorities on religion.) When we first meet Tickle, she is a highly imaginative only child growing up in the mountains of eastern Tennessee in the 1930s. By the end of the book we have followed her through the formative days of college, her migration into the Episcopal Church, and into some of her most riveting moments as a young wife and public school teacher in the 1950s.

Tickle has the wisdom of a mature storyteller as well as the humility of a spiritual seeker. She makes meaning out of the smallest details, showing us how a backyard forsythia bush became a sacred hiding place, foreshadowing her lifelong compulsion to find private sanctuaries. We meet her gentle mother, who made a daily ritual out of reading a magazine, manicuring her nails and studying the Bible. This, she concludes, influenced Tickle's adult attraction to the daily psalms. Even the way she sneaked cigarettes in her college dorm offers insight into the nature of her Christian yearnings.

Some of her scenes are utterly gripping, like her near-death experience after having an adverse reaction to an anti-miscarriage drug. "Without a care for anything that had ever been or ever was or ever might be, I lifted toward the light as lithely as if I had been a sparrow upon the courses of the early morning wind." Throughout the memoir we are held in this kind of lilting narration. Like a feminine version of Pat Conroy, Tickle is a strong, descriptive author who thoroughly appreciates how Southern landscapes, family, marriage, and death can shape a character as well as a spirit. --Gail Hudson

From the Back Cover:

"A deeply moving memoir by one of America's most accomplished spiritual writers of her journey toward God. With consummate skill, Tickle shows us how a busy outer life, filled with school, marriage, family, and a near-death experience, can give birth to an inner life of prayer and hope. A luminous book, one to be treasured."
--Philip Zaleski. editor of The Best Spiritual Writing series and author of Gifts of the Spirit.

"Mrs. Tickle writes very well about American life in the mid-twentieth century, and I am sure that many readers will appreciate her spiritual journey. I hope the book will sell hugely!"
--Susan Howatch, author of Penmarric, Glittering Images, Absolute Truths.

"I have always loved Phyllis Tickle, and reading her personal story tells me why. She is real, honest, human, humorous, and deeply spiritual. Her book is a treasure."
--John Shelby Spong, author of Here I Stand: My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love and Equality

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