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It's a fascinating project: attend 52 different churches in one year and report your first impressions. Shea, a New England novelist and former Catholic, engagingly writes of her initial visits to all kinds of churches: Shaker and Baptist, evangelical and mainline, African-American and Caucasian. Sometimes, these well-written first impressions yield intriguing analysis, as when she notes the total absence of children at the Mother Church of Christ, Scientist. But more often, the book's quick verdicts reinforce the idea that public Sunday worship is just one part of what makes a religion tick, and that it may be unfair to judge churches solely on this basis. Shea seems comfortable enough criticizing other people's intolerance-including that of former president and erstwhile Sunday School teacher Jimmy Carter-but myopically fails to see her own judgmentalism, as when bemoaning the Mennonite presence on a Hopi reservation or taking easy shots at televangelist Joel Osteen. Also, the book has some small factual errors; for instance, Mormons do not believe in the Holy Trinity, as Shea attests. Although the portraits are appealingly personal and often funny, readers may wish for a more rigorous examination of these churches than Shea's impressionistic approach is able to provide. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.