Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review of the Day: 42 States of Grace

Three years after her husband's sudden, accidental death, Maureen Hovenkotter decided to retire from her job as a Senator's aide and go on a spiritual journey, hoping to rediscover her authentic self.   A cradle Catholic with an open and curious mind for the sacred, one might expect Hovenkotter to spend time at a retreat center somewhere. Instead, she sold her house and most of her belongings, bought a large motor home, and set out for a year of "prayerful reflection" and cross-country travel.

From this very premise, it is easy to see why 42 States of Grace: A Woman's Journey is not your typical coming-of-New-Age memoir. Hovenkotter may be unusually adventuresome, but she had to undertake her pilgrimage the way a regular woman would have to – she he didn't get a six-figure book advance to let her eat, pray, and love her way around the globe; she paid her own way and drove a large RV around North America with her golden retriever Charlie.

It is this realistic normalness that makes the book so wonderful. Hovenkotter's self-analysis will strike a chord – and sometimes raise a chuckle – with most women, who will recognize something of themselves in her. She blends her spiritual musings with anecdotes about Charlie, her traveling companions, and the people she meets, and with travelogue describing the Maine coast, South Dakota's Black Hills, Sedona, Florida beaches, and other places she visits. She tries to use whatever comes her way – from bad weather, to impossible-to-negotiate-in-an-RV turns, to difficult boyfriends – as guideposts on her road to personal growth.

Hovenkotter shows by example how it is possible to find God's grace simply by stepping out of your normal routine so you have time and space to encounter God in the present moment, "in just being and waiting." She shares the lesson she learned during her year-long retreat that "life is truly beautiful and abundantly rich in opportunities, forgiveness and do-overs."

A good reminder, that. This is a beautiful book that reminds the reader, over and over, to look for -- or wait for -- God's love in ordinary, daily activities.


  1. A spiritual "Travels with Charley." Excellent idea.

  2. It is! And from a woman's perspective. She mentions Steinbeck several times.

  3. It was pure coincidence my canine traveling companion was also a Charlie.

  4. Looks good and may, from your description, have a bit of a "Blue Highways" feeling about it.



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