Eudora Welty wrote: “The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order, a timetable not necessarily—perhaps not possibly—chronological. The time as we know it subjectively is often the chronology that stories and novels follow: it is the continuous thread of revelation.”

Mary Jane Nealon’s gorgeous memoir works along that revelatory thread, examining the physical and metaphysical life of a person who became both a nurse and a writer.

“As far back as I can remember,” Nealon begins, “I wanted to be a nurse or a saint. I wanted to be heroic.” The fact that nurses and saints were her two models for heroism bespeaks her upbringing in a modest Catholic household in Jersey City, as well as her youthful hagiographic reading about Kateri Tekakwitha (an Indian healer), Clara Barton (founder of the American...

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