Chasing Grace by Martha Manning

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Chasing Grace by Martha Manning is different than other books I've read. Chasing Grace is a compilation of many short stories throughout Manning's life that had a particular influence on her. The stories appear to be in no particular order and carelessly jump back and forth from her childhood and adulthood. Each story has a moral and/or meaning based on her personal experiences.

Martha as a child was the eldest of six and moved around a lot because of her father's job with the FBI. Finally settling in Long Island, Manning attended an all girl catholic schools all the way through high school. She continued her education and went to graduate school for Psychiatry. Martha got married and gave birth to one daughter, Keara.

Growing up catholic and her faith in God both play large roles throughout the book, comparing her situations with stories from the bible. For example when she was in middle school she wanted to be with the popular girls and did what she could for them to notice her.

When they did begin to invite her to hang out with them, she had to lie to her close friend and cancel their plans. This leaded to more conflict because the "cool" girls didn't approve of her other friend's status. They would poke fun at her and test Martha's loyalty and try and get her to join in on the teasing, but Martha said nothing, for or against her friend's defense. This was the first time Manning felt real guilt and found that without saying anything she was not neutral but in-fact betrayed her good friend. "Sin isn't always what you do; it's also what you don't do". She related this situation to how Peter, Jesus' close friend, and how he denied knowing him three times. Through her own trials she begins to understand the scriptures from a different angle.

Another story that caught me was when Manning described her feelings of when she sees a homeless woman in the park. She gave detail about her appearance and how she looked like her soul was dead. She thought that this woman hadn't been homeless for long. "I've learned that the Lord giveth, and the Lord can sure as hell take away. What is the difference between that women and me?" This Quote made me think how fast any of us can be on the street, and how similar we are.

Manning has many touching stories but it is not all put together and interconnected with each other in a particular order. It seems as if she placed them in order of when she randomly thought them up and wrote them down. So after reading the book you kind of try and put them in a chronological order of when they happened. Martha's faith means a lot to her and she has carried that on to her daughter. Though I think it's clear that she didn't enjoy being catholic with all the going-through-the-motions work and memorizing. I think she would have accepted Protestantism more openly.