Ms. Breyer's description of a year in the seminary left me disappointed in two respects. First, the discussion of academics was very similar in tone to "One L", the story of a first year law student at Harvard, without the compelling human interest aspect. We hear too often of her struggle with learning Greek and how tired she was from studying Greek. Unless you are actually considering the seminary, this is only relevant and/or interesting to a point.
My second complaint with the book is more substantive. Ms. Breyer readily admits that she was actively writing this book throughout her first year at General Seminary. As a consequence, I found myself doubting her motives as she described her turmoil with certain crucial decisions. For example, she writes that her decision to take an internship as associate chaplain at Bellevue Hospital in New York was based on the potential for spiritual and personal growth; however, I often thought another motivation might have been the potential to recount in her book the unique and often tragic stories of Bellevue's patients. Other instances also left me wondering whether she was only gathering more fodder for the pages of her book.
There are, fortunately, wonderful aspects to this book, not the least of which is her description of counselling a mentally ill patient and how each of us can try to do too much.
Chloe Breyer's story of a young woman's first year in a Christian (Episcopal) seminary is well-conceived and written brilliantly. She tells a fascinating story and demonstrates a deep sense of kindness and respect for those whom she encounters whether they be professors, fellow students, or people she finds in the wilderness that is New York City. Here is a young woman, very much living in the post-modern world, who is able to confront the doubts and uncertainties, the anomalies and eccentricities, the ambivalences and ambiguities of trying to be a person clinging to an ancient faith while at the same time exploring whatever it may be she feels led to explore. She descibes her journey with a balance of both seriousness and whimsy and has achieved impressive doses of wisdom and insight in the process. This book will have special appeal to clergy and those thinking of becoming clergy. It might also provide older folks a view of how younger folks feel, thing, and believe.