For The Someday Book

Book Review: The Stage is on Fire

Posted on: October 18, 2011

The Stage is on Fire: A Memoir by Katie Steedly, self-published, 204 pp.

I know Katie Steedly by way of her parents, who are members of my church. I met Katie when she moved back home to work on the 2008 presidential campaign for Barack Obama. We discovered immediately that we were easy conversation partners, and never had enough time to cover all the topics we began. So reading Katie’s memoir felt like continuing the conversation, hearing her take on the world and the unfolding of her journey to become herself.

The Stage is on Fire is a series of reflections on the defining moments, decisions and awakenings that made her the person that she is. The book felt conversational, and the author’s style is frank, direct and revealing. Reading this book is like having a chat with a good girlfriend—laughing loud and long at life’s oddities, conferring over little choices, leaning in close when the sharing gets intimate. Except this girlfriend speaks (writes) in beautiful, considered prose, with a honed wit and eloquent syntax. It is one woman’s story of coming to terms with dating in her 30s, wrestling with health and body, owning her own debt, and navigating her own spirituality.

There were two particular chapters of the book that resonated deeply with me. “Cats on Ice” is the hilarious story of driving across country with two cats and no air conditioning—a journey that, like the author, I have made myself. What drew me in, however, was not my personal parallel story of panting felines, but the shared sense of wanderlust. The chapter begins:

I have always been a traveler, and moving is like traveling on steroids. It bespeaks a lack of comfort in being comfortable. It denotes a need for movement for fear of stagnation. It screams that life is about the rolling stone rather than the moss. (47)

I share this restlessness, and often refer to my “gypsy heart” that keeps me moving every few years. Steedly captures the freedom and flexibility of this lifestyle, but also the deep questions about the meaning of home. In each of her moves, she is accompanied by family members who support her. Even among strangers, she discovers her roots are strong. She concludes:

I will always be a person who moves, but will create home wherever I live. Home will be a fluid concept comprised of the family I have and the family I create. Staying will be about more than geography. It will encompass lifelong support from loved ones, regardless of my address. (59)

Each chapter follows a similar design—recalling a particular incident or triumph or tragedy and how it formed her on the journey. She covers dating, running a marathon, living with a genetic disorder, teaching high school theater, and overcoming debt. Each one comes with a sense of humor and irony, depth and introspection, and always hope.

I was also drawn (for obvious professional reasons) to the chapters about spirituality. Steedly is a child of the church, but takes a long journey to find her own path to the Spirit. She finds her way through yoga and through writing, among other things, but she always stays connected to the community of the church. She understands something I have always believed: “Miracles happen in the basement of churches.” Amen! Way to make a pastor’s heart swoon.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Stage is on Fire, and I think you will too. You can get a copy for yourself at www.katiesteedly.com.

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About Me

I am a full-time pastor in the United Church of Christ, mother of a young child (B.), married to an aspiring academic and curmudgeon (J.). I live by faith, intuition and intellect. I follow politics, football and the Boston Red Sox. I like to talk about progressive issues, theological concerns, church life, the impact of technology and media, pop culture and books.

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