Chasing Grace: Reflections of a Catholic Girl, Grown Up by Martha Manning

By Martha Manning

From the writer of the "absolutely soaking up" (USA this day) memoir Undercurrents comes an unforgettable portrait of youth, kinfolk and neighborhood. The eldest baby of a religious Irish-American Catholic relatives, Martha Manning weaves her tale round the seven holy sacraments: baptism, penance, communion, affirmation, holy orders, marriage and final rites. She recollects her early life pratfalls, adolescent yearnings and front into motherhood with knowledge, wit and memorable honesty. instantly poignant and laugh-out-loud humorous, Chasing Grace is a unconditionally unique story of friends and family, satisfied occasions and tough ones -- and thepainful, joyous trip from formative years to maturity.

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When she collected the absentee notes, I presented mine last, closing my eyes and wincing as she reviewed the awful envelope and its contents. When she finished, she looked up at me. She was flushed and I was sure I was dead meat. But then she beamed. “Please thank your father for this lovely note,” she said, motioning for me to take my seat. She Chasing Grace / 37 gazed at the note for several moments longer. In that small space of time, she lost her pug face and her threatening stance. She looked softer somehow, almost human.

They clutter my parents’ desks and form collages of Manning generations. Grandchildren’s report cards and pipe-cleaner-and-paperplate constructions share magnets with my brother’s award from hairdressing school, next to a writing award I won last year, under letters of commendation for major deals my brother or sister have made. Another sister’s clever faxes are Chasing Grace / 31 affixed to memos about scheduled birthday parties and holiday chores already assigned by my organized mother. There are yellowing smart-ass notes and cartoons from all of us.

Faceup is by far the preferred method of delivery because the shoulders can turn inward to ease the baby through the birth canal. But I was, as I often still am, looking down. They did everything but dynamite me out. The doctor had to push me back in, turn me around, and then pull me out. I cooperated with none of this. ” I looked so bad after delivery that my parents took one pained glance and rejected the pictures routinely taken in the hospital nursery. My face was cut and bruised from forceps.

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