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Grace Period: My Ordination to the Ordinary
GRACE PERIOD tells the story of the barrage of painful life events--above all, the nightmare of her teenage daughter's intractable depression--that led Popham to leave home, at age fifty-six, for Yale Divinity School., not in pursuit of late-call ordination to the ministry, but quite simply to study God. What she discovered, though, was was that, for her, encountering God happened beyond an Ivy League Seminary. It came from encounters with off-leash dogs, a shining meadow, and fierce loneliness. GRACE PERIOD is not only about Popham's study of God, but about God's education of her.
Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 7 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 8.25 out of 10


Plot: The memoir is honest, sometimes funny, painfully honest, and engaging. The author's story is well told and well paced.

Prose: The author's prose is eloquent and a pleasure to read. Despite her hardships, Popham is never self-pitying.

Originality: While memoirs about spiritual journeys are nothing new, this one is compelling and fresh. The author is often self-effacing and refrains from proselytizing.

Character Development: Both the author and her daughter are brought to life in this memorable memoir. Readers get a good sense of the characters' lives and struggles.


Date Submitted: May 17, 2017

In this impeccably written memoir, Popham (Skywater) recounts a spiritual journey launched by the dissolution of her unhappy marriage and her teenage daughter’s descent into an intractable depression. Set in the late 1990s, the story moves from Los Angeles to Yale Divinity School and back again as the author allows herself a grace period in which to rebuild her sense of self, “after having my interior taken down to the bare studs by the events of the past five years.” She describes at a leisurely pace, with meticulous detail, what she learns from “mundane miracles and minor accidents, those spiritual fender benders that are collisions with grace itself.” The struggles of a turtle to get through a fence and cross the road serve as a metaphor for her own struggles to reach God. She is humble and honest about her shortcomings, as when she erupts with anger and foul language at unsuspecting passers-by when she and her dog get lost, and about achievements as well. When she concludes that her vocation is ordination to “my plain old ordinary sacred self,” she proves herself a highbrow, refined, spiritual sister to Anne Lamott. (BookLife)