Here If You Need Me

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I accidentally read this book in 24 hours. I don't think I have ever read a book that fast. This is our November pick and I started it on the Friday before our Sunday night September meeting. I try not to get more than two books ahead. I wound up with a lot of extra time at work and this book was a very quick read. I enjoyed every page. I didn't read fast because it was super-gripping, although it was enjoyable. It was just a collision of circumstances that gave me lots of large chunks of time.

This book has a nice flow to it. It is enjoyable with an easy style that is captivating and thought provoking. Yet, at the same time there are several huge words peppered throughout the book. I think I have a pretty decent vocabulary but words like "immiseration" (p. 118) and "quotidian" (p. 173) are just a little beyond my easy-reading level so that felt incongruous. I think Braestrap (or editor) could have found a word that was a little easier on the brain cells.

On a scale of 1 - 5 (5 being a lot of examples/instances):

Sex: 1

Religion: 4

Gruesome: 0

Suspense: 2

Morality: 4

Traditional: 4

Sex - perhaps a few references so poetic as to be unrecognizable (p. 46)

Religion - the author is a minister talking about her life in the ministry so there are a lot of religious references but I suppose there are always room for more as if it were an instructional manual so therefore only 4 out of 5

Gruesome - nothing stands out that I recall as gruesome although it is possible there was a brief mention to someone being injured in a rescue situation

Suspense - she tries to build suspense by telling part of a story and then not resolving it for a few chapters which kept it interesting but definitely didn't keep me awake wondering or reading long into the night

Morality - it's far from preachy but, with the exception of maybe one or two victims, everyone seems to walk the straight and narrow in this book

Traditional - through no fault of her own the author is a single parent and then remarries and has step-children. I personally have walked a very similar road - I'm not passing judgement, just indicating that it is not 100% traditional but still very respectably close.

I became a widow at the age of 30 with two children, ages 9 and 6. I could definitely identify with Kate Braestrup. One of the most resounding sentences was on p. 36, "My children grew accustomed to having a mother who leaked tears, although it bothered them when I actually sobbed."

I feel like I finally got an answer to one of the great ponderings of life. In Ch. 17 she explains there are little accidents, like spilled milk, and big accidents, like car crashes. God doesn't spill the milk or crash the car. The Bible doesn't say God is the spill or the crash. God is love. So where God is in a horrible situation is in the love that results. (p. 187)

Discussion Questions

The author's note explains that she became a minister because it was her late husband's dream. Were you concerned that it was poor motivation? Did the end of Ch. 5 justify her decision or assuage your concerns?

Discuss the idea of caring for your loved one's corpse. (Ch. 2)

Discuss the study questions from Kate's class (p. 57), "Did Christ suffer only in appearance, or was his suffering real? If it wasn't real, how could it be said that he was truly human, since humans truly suffer? If Jesus's suffering was real, how could Jesus be God? Can God suffer? Can God be God without suffering?

What was the most interesting death fact you read in this book?

Like the hiker who died on the mountain (p. 74), where would you choose to die?

Discuss Kate's ideas about Heaven and Zach's idea that he'd have to give up his place as covered in Ch. 12.

Do you agree with her definition of a miracle "not defined by an event. ...defined by gratitude." (p. 81)

Discuss ideas / paradoxes from Ch. 19:

  • God knew what He was doing vs. Did He need a minister so bad He'd take a dad of 4?

  • If Drew lived, jobs would be unworked, people unmet. Her new life is good too. What's lost vs. what's found? (p. 202)

Did you like the end and the opportunity to experience a lack of explanation?

Theme Ideas

Serve volunteer food (p. 10): coffee, doughnuts and Dinty Moore beef stew.

Serve brownies like the first neighbor brought after Drew died. (p. 53)

Serve tea and scones like Jan Cook. (Ch. 7)

Serve sandwiches, Cheez-Its and powdererd mini donuts like the fisherman in Ch. 8. Also serve coffee Coolatas to represent water. (p. 90)

Serve food from the last search: lasagna, coleslaw, oatmeal cookies and jell-o Salad. (Ch. 20 / p. 210)

Decorate with coffee table books:


Give samples of Keri lotion (or decorate with it) in honor of her time as a candy striper. (Ch. 5)

Play a game of providing directions with nothing of human invention. (p. 82)

Play a game of recalling what your family members wore this morning. (Ch. 8)

Tell your best religious jokes. (Ch. 12)