How was the Church of the Second Chance different, and how did it offer Ian a 2nd chance in Saint Maybe?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Anne Tyler's novel, Saint Maybe, Ian Bledsoe believes that he is the ultimate cause of his brother's death. Danny dies in a car wreck when Ian, angry that he has been kept waiting by babysitting for Danny's "kids," infers that Danny's new wife has been unfaithful. Ian's brother storms out and while driving, his car runs into a tree— killing him.

Danny feels especially guilty. When Danny's widow ultimately kills herself (unable to cope), Ian drops out of school to raise the children. While at first he fights the feeling that it is his responsibility, we watch Ian grow into a strong and decent man, dedicated to the children. What really drives him to do so is his surprising connection with the Church of the Second Chance. The members are certainly quirky, and one might think a young man like Ian would not have time for this "weird" group of fellow sinners. For example, they are a congregation that does not believe in using second names.

What binds the members of this distinctly downscale congregation is their adamant belief in the need for "amending" -- for showing God they are serious about making up for past sins by doing good deeds.

Reverend Emmett (first name) charges Ian with accepting the responsibility of the harsh things he said to Danny. Whether Danny died accidentally or because of Ian's "rash words", the pastor tells Ian it is his obligation to take care of Agatha, Thomas and Daphne. The irony is that in becoming a central figure in the life of the church, Ian becomes a good father. Eventually, as the children grow up, other things in his life work out, and he feels blessed not just because of his connection to the church, but because of the responsibility he assumed—as others in the church have—to "make amends."

The Church of the Second Chance gives Ian a second chance by providing him with a way to feel he has been able to, in some way, make up for the loss of the children's parents. In losing his "youth," Ian finds himself.

Read the study guide:
Saint Maybe

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