Excerpt from Pew by Catherine Lacey, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Pew by Catherine Lacey X
Pew by Catherine Lacey
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  • First Published:
    May 2020, 224 pages

    Jul 2021, 224 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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Print Excerpt


IF YOU EVER NEED TO—and I hope you never need to, but a person cannot be sure—if you ever need to sleep, if you are ever so tired that you feel nothing but the animal weight of your bones, and you're walking along a dark road with no one, and you're not sure how long you've been walking, and you keep looking down at your hands and not recognizing them, and you keep catching a reflection in darkened windows and not recognizing that reflection, and all you know is the desire to sleep, and all you have is no place to sleep, one thing you can do is look for a church.

What I know about churches is that they usually have many doors and often at least one of those doors, late at night, has been left unlocked. The reason churches have so many doors is that people tend to enter and leave churches in groups, in a hurry. It seems people have a lot of reasons for entering a church and perhaps even more reasons for leaving one, but the only reason I've gone to a church was to sleep. The reasons I've left a church were to avoid being caught sleeping or because I'd already been caught sleeping and was being asked to leave. Those are the only reasons I can remember, though I'm having trouble lately with remembering. I left some place, began walking, slept in all those churches, then everything else happened—that's all I know.

I don't think they're so great—churches. I don't think they're so great at all. That's not what I mean when I say you can go to one when you're tired. I'm not talking about grace or deliverance—a person cannot really speak of such things. What I mean is a church is a structure with walls and a roof and pretty windows that make it so you can't see outside. They're like casinos in that way, or shopping malls or those big drugstores with all the aisles, music piped in from somewhere, the endless search for that final thing.

But a church is also a building, often a sturdy building, and it can keep the outside far from you and when the outside is far enough from you, that is when a person can sleep. One thing it seems that every body needs is to sleep, and one thing people might not always have when they need it is a place to sleep or enough time to travel to a place where they can sleep, and so—a church. Maybe a church will fix this problem for you someday or maybe it already has.

For some time, I only slept in churches. A few nights I tried to sleep in some woods or a bathroom stall or behind a gas station, and I took a few good naps in a cemetery, but the only place I could ever sleep for any real time back then was a church. Since then I am not sure I've completely fallen asleep or woken up. Days and nights unspool together. Sometimes I think I might be writing a letter to sleep, that I might be asking him if he remembers me, if he ever plans on coming back. I've received no word from death's brother. I have not entered a church in some time.

The large churches, that's the sort of church you'll want to look for if you need to sleep. The large churches have more doors that might be unlocked and more unlit spaces between all the buildings and rooms and hallways and playgrounds and gymnasiums and a kitchen or two and sometimes they even have a smaller chapel next to the larger one and the smaller chapel is almost always left unlocked. Also, the people that go to a large church are often too various to agree about anything in particular, so if you are caught sleeping there, the person catching you will likely not have a clear idea about how to proceed with getting rid of you (whether to call the police or the pastor, whether to give you something or take something from you) and people who are unsure of how to proceed are easy to escape. I have done this again and again. It seems that people who belong to a large church might want that church—so vast, so many rooms—to do the believing for them, but the church is just a building. The church has no thoughts. The church is brick and glass. If they ever slept there, they would see that.

Excerpted from Pew by Catherine Lacey. Copyright © 2020 by Catherine Lacey. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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