Midway through a memoir of transition that is at once rueful, humorous, profound, and a touch evasive, Joy Ladin reflects on a notable experience from her childhood. She is seven years old and has gone berry picking with her family. Surrounded by buzzing bees and “a maze of bushes bursting with blueberries,” she understands that God is “there for the taking. … It was all so clear,” she writes, “but no one seemed to know it. It was a secret, and it was my job to tell it, to tell the truth about the world we were living in, the God we were living with” (170). The responsibility is too much for a small child to bear, and the moment passes into her memory as a failure of nerve. “God was there, beyond a doubt,” she writes, “but I was missing in...

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