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Occasions of Sin
ISBN: 0393057356

By Sandra Scofield
Review by: Mary Keith Trawick

12/01/04

"When you lose your mother at a young age you lose a large part of who you are; you spend years navigating what amounts to chaos without any sort of reliable compass." Sandra Scofield welcomes the reader on the most important journey of her life, as she navigates through her memories in search of herself with her most precious tool, the pen. "Suddenly, I realized how much my writing meant to me. It was from someplace inside me, ... where I simply was." Along the way the reader picks up pieces of themselves from the vivid bits of storytelling tapestry that Sandra Scofield creates in her memoir, Occasions of Sin.

In the beginning, Scofield places the reader in one of the most pivotal moments in her life, her mother's death. Scofield discusses the six nude pictures her mother had made of herself by a neighbor just before her death. Is this one of the "Occasions of Sin" the book is entitled after? "I believed that my grandmother did not speak of Mother because she had done bad things" With the background knowledge of what is to come, Scofield transports the reader back to her early childhood. The imagery from her childhood is wonderful as Scofield describes her surrounding such as the hot, arid land of Wichita Falls, using Necco wafers as communion, and riding her bike in circles through the neighborhood.

Catholicism played a large role in Scofield's life after her mother decided to become Catholic. In the same way Scofield searches for her identity, her mother searched for her own identity and stability through Catholicism. "Becoming Catholic was one of Mother's notions. A 'notion' set her apart from her hard-working kin; it was an impulse that sprang from eccentricity, a torque in her self-perception. She didn't seem to know who she was." Feeling it was for the best, Scofield's mother Edith placed her in Catholic boarding schools until her junior year. In an effort to be closer to her mother, Sandra fell into Catholicism with a deep devotion. Scofield's time in boarding school was lonely as she was away from her family and only saw her grandmother during meetings over the school fence. It is during this time, that Scofield found solace through pen and prayer: "I had arrived a little scared and immensely lonesome, but my pride and determination to please my mother carried me until I was caught up in habit and the small pleasures of scholarship."

Scared of losing her mother without fully knowing her, Scofield returns home her junior year. She struggles to find her place in her mother's life, at the same time she struggles to discover herself through adolescence: "I was learning that men are occasions of sin. Even boys are dangerous, because the morals of girls are fragile, like the shells of baby birds." Still trying to reach her mother even after death, Scofield felt the need to break the shell: "Sometimes parked in a car with a boy who hardly knew me, I would wonder what my mother would say if she could see us. I went from worrying about doing the wrong thing to striving for it. You're not the only one! I might have been screeching to heaven." It is here that Scofield finds herself in the same horrific situation as her mother years before, lives parallel.

Scofield artistically takes the reader on her journey of self-discovery. It is her portrait of pure honesty that makes this a pleasure to read.

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