Mary Cartledgehayes Grace: A Memoir

ISBN 13: 9780609608340

Grace: A Memoir

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Mary Cartledgehayes’s life was going along swimmingly. Her husband, Fred, was about to take early retirement so the two of them could embark on a life of travel and leisure. There was just one problem: God. It had all started when the roof of her new gold Chevette became transparent and radiance poured in on her head. Now it was clear that a life of leisure was out; Mary embarked on the arduous, exhausting, and wonderful experience of becoming a minister. Grace is her story.

Divinity school wasn’t an obvious choice for Mary in middle age, once a wildly unconventional single mother of two who’d been twice divorced by age twenty-five, who had pretty dresses in her closet and expletives on the tip of her tongue. Grace reveals how an all-too-ordinary woman comes to terms with the sometimes devastating impact of the sacred. With unabashed exuberance, Mary tells of leading a congregation as its first female pastor, of her moving struggle to knit the congregation around its most ailing member, and her painful realization that in order to live faithfully she must leave a job she loves. Simultaneously, she decides to take up piano and discovers a pursuit whose spiritual rewards are both abundant and unexpected.

Inspired and inspiring, Grace is a wickedly delightful account of spiritual and personal renewal in midlife and a lively testament to the transformative power of grace in all its many guises.

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From the Back Cover:

“Even if the church sometimes seems ‘an intellectual mausoleum,’ and Cartledgehayes’s faith journey
in her first pastorate turns into a rocky road, she keeps preaching the Good News in fireworks and spangles and lives her Christianity with such reckless commitment that she’s spiritually contagious. Be forewarned: reading this book might lower your soul’s immune system so far that it opens your heart to serious infection by love, laughter, and God.”—Doris Betts, author of Souls Raised from the Dead and former chair of the literature panel of the National Endowment of the Arts

“Cartledgehayes’s account of her experiences in the ministry is unexpected in the best possible way. It takes on the most ethereal of subjects—religious faith—in the most gritty and pragmatic of voices. Always provocative and frequently hilarious, this book provides no easy answers, but somehow allows us to sit comfortably with uncomfortable but crucial questions about our own place in the universe and the way we live our lives.”—Martha Beck, author of Expecting Adam and Finding Your Own North Star

“At last, a preacher who knows—and is not afraid to say—that two of the greatest gifts God has given us are sex and a sense of humor. I believe that God always speaks the language that can be understood—and that He uses all kinds of people in all kinds of ways. Grace has certainly spoken to me and I love this book. Mary Cartledgehayes is that rarest of all creatures—a preacher who is also a person—and she not only knows
that, she celebrates it. This book is real, it is funny, it is real funny. I would go to this woman’s church every time the doors were open.”—Jill Conner Browne, author of The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love

“A gorgeous memoir that will squeeze your heart and make you laugh at the same time.”
—Philip Gerard, author of Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life

“Cartledgehayes writes the way she preaches: all out, holding nothing back. Earthy and transcendent, angry and funny, her memoir turns the joy and grief of daily life into spiritual music.”—Kevin Kerrane, coeditor of The Art of Fact: A Historical Anthology of Literary Journalism

“Unsettling, compelling, intellectually invigorating, and spiritually motivating. Grace is a diamond of a book.”—Lee Gutkind, author of The Art of Creative Nonfiction

“Like the stories in the Bible from which she preaches so powerfully, Cartledgehayes’s is one of life, death, friendship, conflicts, and choices—the winding of life and the uncertainty that rises and falls in all of us.”—Tamara Jeffries, executive editor of Essence magazine

About the Author:

MARY CARTLEDGEHAYES is an ordained United Methodist minister. A native of Middle Bass Island, Ohio, she holds a Master’s of Divinity from Duke University and an M.F.A. in creative nonfiction from Goucher College. She lives in South Carolina.

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