BOOK REVIEW: Amy Wright Glenn’s Birth, Breath, & Death by Natalie Weaver

Natalie WeaverAmy Wright Glenn’s Birth, Breath, & Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula is a mid-life memoir of the author’s personal encounters and professional insights drawn from her work in the spaces of birth and death.  Glenn gleans from her formative experiences as a daughter and sister, her trained experiences as a teacher and doula, and her wisdom experiences as a mother, chaplain, and friend.  In an accessible voice, Glenn reflects compassionately on her early life in a Mormon family.  She considers critically the nature of religious worldviews that are doctrinally dualistic and apocalyptic.  Glenn further describes the therapeutic and illuminating value she found in the scholarly study of religions as an anthropological phenomenon.  Glenn explores how religious discourse both expresses human joy and grief and also aids us in our encounters with life and death.  Glenn intertwines her academic study with personal narrative and achieves a professionally-informed and experientially-based “thinking out loud” about the bookends of human life.   Her writing is tender, and her vision is thought-provoking.

As a teacher of students in the medical and caregiving professions on spiritual issues that surface in the context of suffering and dying, I find this book to be especially helpful in exploring how caregiving can transform the caregiver.   While she incorporates some case study discussion, Glenn’s narrative focuses primarily on her own transformations in light of her highly integrative praxis as a thinker and caregiver.  This book has particular value for readers considering the impact of caregiving professions on their own lives.  The book is also an interesting study in both memoir writing and also the hermeneutical process of applied theological reflection.   With her first book, Glenn invites the reader to enter into a deeper awareness of the delicate illuminations that shine forth from the peripheries of life.

Read an excerpt of Birth, Breath, & Death shared by Amy Wright Glenn here on FAR, last month: “Meditating on Oneness”

Birth Breath and Death Front Cover copy



Natalie Kertes Weaver, Chair and Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio. Natalie’s academic books include: Marriage and Family: A Christian Theological Foundation (Anselm, 2009); Christian Thought and Practice: A Primer (Anselm, 2012); and The Theology of Suffering and Death: An Introduction for Caregivers (Routledge, 2013)Natalie is currently writing Made in the Image of God: Intersex and the Revisioning of Theological Anthropology (Wipf & Stock, 2014).  Natalie has also authored two art books: Interior Design: Rooms of a Half-Life and Baby’s First Latin.  Natalie’s areas of interest and expertise include: feminist theology; theology of suffering; theology of the family; religion and violence; and (inter)sex and theology.  Natalie is a married mother of two sons, Valentine and Nathan.  For pleasure, Natalie studies classical Hebrew, poetry, piano, and voice.

Categories: Childbirth, Death and Dying, Grief, Healing, Mormonism, Review, Spiritual Journey

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1 reply

  1. Very interesting. I don’t remember much about my son’s birth, but I’ve been an AIDS and hospice volunteer, so I know a little bit about the end of life.


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