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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

An Episcopal Priest has a Prominent Role in this Novel

Good-Bye and Amen
by Beth Gutcheon
Wm. Morrow, N.Y. 2008
$24.95 241 pages

Beth Gutcheon is known to Ann and me as Beth Clements. She and her husband Robin were members of Trinity Church, San Francisco, the last years before they moved to New York. We have remained good friends in spite of their failure to remain in San Francisco. Beth’s humor is best described as the gentle put down. I once said I was going to add some explicit details of my sex life in my memoir. She replied in her very Beth way, “I think not, Robert.”

When she told me she was putting a an Episcopal priest as an important character in her new book, she said, “No Robert, it’s not about you.” She knows my fragile ego needs lots of stroking but she was not going to do it in her new novel.

She did consult with Robert Willing, the retired Archdeacon of the Diocese of New York, and me. She was kind enough to include us in her list of acknowledgements, p. 442 to be exact. We described some of the processes and procedures of how the Episcopal Church moves people toward ordination; how rectors and bishops get elected and removed when necessary. She also knows a lot about parish life.

Goodbye and Amen is about three adult children who meet to split up the old family possessions after the death of their parents. Family values are presented skillfully with humor throughout the book. The Rev. Norman Faithful (pun intended) is the husband of Monica, one of the family members gathered together. The interplay between the family members, their spouses and children make up the drama, revelations and secrets that form so much of family life. It is set mostly in Maine where the parents lived. Boats, sailing, parties, islands, the sea, the joys and pain of the people involved make up the book.

I am going to give you some quotes that reveal Beth’s wit and wisdom. They are well worth searching the book for their contexts.

“Birth is usually instructive. Death always.”

“…he is aging disgustingly well.”

Job description of a rector’s wife: “Wear beige and shut up.”

Her favorite game was, “Let’s you and him fight.”

“Growing up together makes you familiar but that’s different from understanding each other.”

“…she had been brought up from childhood to be suddenly found guilty and bad at the most random moments.”

“The only vinegar in the house you wouldn’t douche with.”

‘He was mad at me because I wouldn’t let him put ginger ale in his corn flakes.”

“I thought the children should have been drowned at birth. I offered to do it but Monica discouraged it.”

Heaven will be a celestial kaleidoscope.

“Sending a bitchy woman to care for a sick woman is…like asking a tiger to nurse a rabbit with its foot in a trap.”

Daughter Sylvia to Fr. Faithful. “Our whole relationship is me standing around coffee hour after church, wanting to blow my brains out, I’m so bored, while you receive your adoring subjects.”

“Charisma is immoral.”

“When people see you as a Godlike person; you have a need to be found out.”

Three things I read in the book happened while Beth was at Trinity. A parish secretary is blamed for heading the bulletin the Sunday before Easter as Plam Sunday.

Three members banded together to raise hell in the parish. They were dubbed “The Unholy Trinity.”

A man was served a warrant in church on Easter Day. (The law firm heard about that sin from me and from gossip columnist the late Herb Caen.)

All of these lines and mots are in Good-bye and Amen. Do yourself a favor and go buy it and read it


Anonymous Rob Droste said...

Thanks for this Robert -- some great bon mots for future sermons, that's for sure.

11:32 AM  

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