What to Wear to See the Pope by Christine Lehner

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The Codwell family is a jovial, tight-knit clan that dines together often and for whom dinner table conversation is repartee as art form. But subtext runs deep, patience wears thin, and recriminations run rampant. A conflicted Catholic and amateur linguist, Ursula Codwell’s passion for saints and semantics is surpassed only by the affection she feels for her family—and that includes her precious bulldog. Brought up in what she refers to as the “fraught and schizoid tradition of Belgian Catholicism,” Ursula is herself rather fraught and schizoid, personality traits that often threaten to overwhelm her children and her ostensibly tolerant Unitarian husband (“What he generally had to say about the saints was not worth repeating”), not to mention herself. Her indecisiveness and excessive attention to detail lead her to become fixated on matters such as what to wear to see the Pope when he comes to her hometown in New York’s Hudson Valley or reclaiming her surgically removed teratomas from the pathology lab. Reminiscent of Allegra Goodman’s The Family Markowitz, Christine Lehner’s What to Wear to See the Pope is a dead-on portrait of fragile family connections and crises of the soul, brought to life in ten wonderful interconnected stories.

About Christine Lehner

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CHRISTINE LEHNER's last book, What to Wear to See the Pope, a collection of stories, was published by Harcourt in 2005. She lives with two dogs and thousands of bees.
Published March 29, 2004 by Carroll & Graf. 224 pages
Genres: Religion & Spirituality, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Ursula Codwell is obsessed with saints, her drippy-eyed bulldog Saint Joan, her teenaged son's minimalist vocabulary (with "chill" as an anchor), the exact fruit that may have been the apple in the Garden of Eden and much more idiosyncratic minutiae.

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