Blue Shoe

Blue Shoe

3.3 22
by Anne Lamott
     
 

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The New York Times Bestseller from the beloved author of Bird by Bird and Traveling Mercies.

Mattie Ryder is marvelously neurotic, well-intentioned, funny, religious, sarcastic, tender, angry, and broke. Her life at the moment is a wreck: her marriage has failed, her mother is failing, her house is rotting, her waist is expanding, her children

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Overview

The New York Times Bestseller from the beloved author of Bird by Bird and Traveling Mercies.

Mattie Ryder is marvelously neurotic, well-intentioned, funny, religious, sarcastic, tender, angry, and broke. Her life at the moment is a wreck: her marriage has failed, her mother is failing, her house is rotting, her waist is expanding, her children are misbehaving, and she has a crush on a married man. Then she finds a small rubber blue shoe—nothing more than a gumball trinket—left behind by her father. For Mattie, it becomes a talisman—a chance to recognize the past for what it was, to see the future as she always hoped it could be, and to finally understand her family, herself, and the ever-unfolding mystery of her sweet, sad, and sometimes surprising life.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Messy, brave and weirdly lovable...a substantial literary pleasure.”—New York Times Book Review

"Moving and funny, fetchingly irreverent and soulful, Blue Shoe is an absolute joy."—Chicago Sun-Times

”Everybody loves Anne Lamott...[she] writes with an emotional shorthand that’s instantly decipherable and funny to anyone who’s had children—or parents.”—The Christian Science Monitor

"Irresistible...Lamott has created a work full of shaggy, truthful charm."—San Francisco Chronicle

”Glorious...After reading Blue Shoe, you feel as if you had sat on the kitchen floor and talked with the author late into the night about your mothers, your bodies, your lovers, and God. And that, in a nutshell, is the minor miracle of Lamott’s writing.”—The Atlanta Journal Constitution

”Philosophical, honest, and poignant, Lamott writes about real life and how it goes on, through good and through bad.”—Boston Herald

”The novel’s effect on the reader is profoundly springlike: It is tonic.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Anyone who's ever had a heartache—or a family—will relate to Anne Lamott's poignant novels."—Rosie Magazine

"Blue Shoe is a gift you will want to give yourself."—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Don McLeese
Lamott's sixth novel shows her protagonist, Mattie Ryder, dealing with the sorts of temptations to which devout Christians rarely admit. Can middle-aged Mattie, a beleaguered mother and daughter, remain an essentially moral person while continuing to sleep with (and wanting to kill) her philandering ex-husband? Should she covet the affections of her handyman friend, who is faithfully, if not happily, married? It's a test of faith for Lamott's characters to find evidence of God's grace amid lives of such messy complexity, but the author shows that it's possible to find Jesus (as she herself has) without losing a sense of humor. Lamott's tragicomic embrace of life's travails and blessings reads like born-again Anne Tyler with a hippie past, depicting a generation that has exchanged the radical rebellions of the '60s for the comforts of lattes and white wine, National Public Radio and diminished expectations. There are a lot of flaws to be found in this book—soap opera complications, politically correct clichés—but there's also a lot of life.
Lamott's sixth novel shows her protagonist, Mattie Ryder, dealing with the sorts of temptations to which devout Christians rarely admit. Can middle-aged Mattie, a beleaguered mother and daughter, remain an essentially moral person while continuing to sleep with (and wanting to kill) her philandering ex-husband? Should she covet the affections of her handyman friend, who is faithfully, if not happily, married? It's a test of faith for Lamott's characters to find evidence of God's grace amid lives of such messy complexity, but the author shows that it's possible to find Jesus (as she herself has) without losing a sense of humor. Lamott's tragicomic embrace of life's travails and blessings reads like born-again Anne Tyler with a hippie past, depicting a generation that has exchanged the radical rebellions of the '60s for the comforts of lattes and white wine, National Public Radio and diminished expectations. There are a lot of flaws to be found in this book—soap opera complications, politically correct clichés—but there's also a lot of life. Author—Don McLeese
Publishers Weekly
Anyone familiar with Lamott's writing knows her strength is the portrayal of daily life: mothers raising children, lost love, ill parents and more. Mattie, recently separated from her husband, has moved back to the home she grew up in. She decides to renovate the badly run-down house, not anticipating the added complications in her life. Her mother is suffering from dementia, her children are misbehaving and Mattie is still drawn to her estranged husband even though he is involved with a younger woman. This unabridged audio captures the frantic pace of Lamott's work. There are long phone conversations between Mattie and her mother and talks with Angela, Mattie's best friend, who's moving away. Lamott aptly observes that Mattie seems more upset about not seeing her friend than not seeing her husband. Unfortunately, Merlington's quick, flat narration doesn't help bring the novel to life. Some may find themselves overwhelmed by the number of characters while others may struggle to focus on Mattie. While Merlington occasionally changes her voice when other characters are speaking, the overall impression is of a text being read too fast. Based on the Riverhead hardcover (Forecasts, Aug. 26). (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Lamott's fans will not be disappointed with this new novel, her sixth. Her heroine, Mattie Ryder, has problems-nothing earthshaking, just the painful kind that nibble at her self-esteem. She has left her philandering husband and moved into her mother's ramshackle house; her strong, save-the-world mother is slipping into dementia; her daughter chews on her fingers; her son refuses to do homework; and she is attracted to a married man. In addition, she discovers that she has a half-brother, the result of a union between her late father and the daughter of a family friend. Mattie manages these disturbances in part by being brave and by asking, "What would Jesus do?" Lamott (Operating Instructions) excels in her quirky descriptions, such as Mattie's five-year-old daughter looking like a "secretarial kitten gone punk" or someone's mouth having "scrabble-tile" teeth. While the plot meanders occasionally into implausibility, her humorous yet poignant characters will keep listeners interested. Laural Merlington reads convincingly although problems with the tape quality of the review copy occasionally obscured her voice. Recommended for most popular fiction collections.-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Lamott infuses this peripatetic story of a woman’s struggles after a divorce with the same quirky brand of Christianity she explored in her wildly popular memoir, Traveling Mercies (1999).

When Mattie finally accepts that her marriage to the charming but unfaithful Nicholas is over, she moves her two children, Harry (six) and Ella (two), back into the house where she grew up because it’s free: conveniently, her mother, still intimidatingly energetic and competent at 72, has paid off the mortgage and decamped to an apartment. Over the next four years, Mattie goes through all the familiar rites of divorce: anger, longing, desperation, slow recovery to strength, and new love. Her children bring her solace even as they drive her crazy (Lamott is the master of domestic detail): Ella’s nail-chewing, Harry’s bouts of temper, as well as moments of tenderness are rendered with casual perfection. The description of the failed marriage itself, however, is generic, and Mattie’s sense of blamelessness in its collapse sets up a self-righteous tone not masked by self-deprecating humor, a Lamott trademark. Mattie prays her way out of bad feelings, and her religion weaves its way throughout, helping her cope as complications arise—which they do. She sleeps with her ex even after his girlfriend moves in and has a baby. She finds clues that her lovable father, a lawyer and liberal activist who died 20 years earlier, had a dark side. Her mother’s mind and body begin a slow, painful slide into senescence. Mattie’s dog dies. And then there is Daniel. We know he’ll become Mattie’s soulmate when he can’t bring himself to kill the rats he’s been hired to eradicate from Mattie’s infested house. While Danielresists her attraction because he’s married, she takes him to her church (his wife is a nonbeliever), and they become best friends to a degree that would threaten the most secure spouse.

Lots of charm in the details, not much for momentum.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781573223423
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/02/2003
Edition description:
Reissue
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
626,511
Product dimensions:
5.62(w) x 10.90(h) x 0.88(d)
Age Range:
18 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

BLUE SHOE
by Anne Lamott

 

INTRODUCTION

At the beginning of Blue Shoe, Mattie Ryder thinks that life cannot get any more complicated. She is newly divorced and living with her two children in her childhood home, which is infested with rats and too many unanswered questions from her past. While the rat problem can be cured with an exterminator, coming to terms with her past will require Mattie to unravel her family secrets and learn some painful truths, especially about her father.

The clues to his life are contained in a plastic bag that was recovered from the glove box of his old car. Inside are a paint key from a can of blue paint and a tiny blue rubber shoe. As Mattie comes to know it, the story of her father's world shocks her, but it also explains her mother's erratic behavior and distance while she was growing up.

What she learns will help Mattie come to peace with her own life as she finds love with a man with whom she can have an intimate and honest relationship, and accepts the emotional baggage that she carries as a part of herself instead of a burden.

Blue Shoe is an honest, irreverent and compelling story laced with self-deprecating humor, grace, and wit. As always, Anne Lamott creates characters with whom we can identify, as she explores the depths of human emotion.

 

ABOUT ANNE LAMOTT

Anne Lamott is the author of the national bestsellers Traveling Mercies, Bird by Bird, and Operating Instructions, as well as five novels, including Crooked Little Heart and Rosie. Her column in Salon magazine was voted the Best of the Web by Newsweek magazine, and she is a past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Consider the blue shoe. What does it mean to each person who carries it—Alfred, Mattie, Daniel, Noah, and Ella? Discuss it in reference to what Mattie remembers reading about children of the Holocaust (page 38): "Then a social worker determined that if the children were each given a piece of bread to hold at night, they could fall asleep. This was not bread to eat, there was plenty of that when the children were hungry. No, this piece of bread was just to hold on to, to reassure the children through the night that they were safe now, that there would be bread to eat in the morning."

  2. Isa takes wonderful care of people, especially strangers. She fights for underdogs, champions their causes. Is she trying to help the world in order to compensate for her lack of control in her own home? Why is she such a hero to others, while her daughter feels deprived? Are Mattie's feelings of neglect justified? Do you think Isa was a devoted or neglectful mother to Alfred?

  3. Al says the following about the Ryders: "This is how it always ends up in our family, everyone just going off alone—doing whatever they feel like, and not honoring promises" (page 186). Is Al referring to his father's behavior? What impact did Alfred's behavior have on Mattie and Al as children and on who they are as adults, even though they did not learn the details about his life until they were adults?

  4. Throughout Blue Shoe there are references to light and shadow and what they mean at different times of the year. The light, or its absence, affects Mattie's moods, and she is continually lighting candles or adjusting the light. "Mattie was so aware of the darkness in the fall. She put lights up everywhere, candles, white Christmas tree lights, a string of plastic fish lights that Al gave her. She loved the shorter days, frowning, lowering, Heathcliff days, and she liked the early nights, the wintery rawness in the air" (page 88). Discuss the meaning behind these references to light and shadow, to seasons changing.

  5. Isa lived knowing that her husband loved another woman, who was the same age as her own child. "Isa had known all along, not only that Alfred had girlfriends: Isa had known all along about Abby and Noah, and knew still, somewhere deep inside her brain" (page 194). What effect did her husband's "wandering" have on Isa's life? Do you think his infidelity shaped who she was to Mattie and Al? If so, how?

  6. Why does Mattie continue to have sex with Nicky after their divorce? Does sleeping with him kill her desire to get back together with him, as she suggests (page 59)? Or does she need to fill the holes of her childhood with some form of affection, even if it is the wrong kind? Dr. Nolan tells Mattie that when she feels disgust for herself, she keeps hope alive (page 86). Discuss this in reference to Mattie's relationships with her father, Isa, Nicky, and her children.

  7. Lamott writes a particularly telling line about baggage in people's lives when describing how Mattie wishes William might view her. "She wanted him to see her as someone with just a few pieces of colorful carry-on luggage, instead of multiple body bags requiring special cargo fees and handling" (page134). How does Mattie's attempt to be someone else affect her relationship with William? How does her honesty with Daniel affect their relationship?

  8. Mattie takes great pride in winning Daniel away from Pauline. Pauline's hate letters to Mattie, "gave her a sense of superiority, a sense of having won the guy for once: she was used to being the unsuspecting woman in the dark, or the daughter of the woman in the dark, the woman whom the man could not live without, but whom he didn't pick" (page 260). What does being picked mean to Mattie? Does it make her feel superior to Isa? Is there some vindication here for her own father's lying to her?

  9. Discuss Isa and "Tilly." Why does Isa embrace this woman, who is actually the Yvonne she so hated?

  10. Throughout the book Ella inflicts various pains upon herself, among other things repeatedly chewing on a sore on her wrist (page 81). Her physical pain is evident; discuss her emotional pain, and that of the other characters: Mattie, Harry, Daniel, Pauline, Isa, Noah, and Abby?

  11. Discuss the role of faith in Mattie's life: faith in friends, faith in God, faith in family, faith in herself. Does it bring her the acceptance and the love that she feels are missing in other parts of her life? How is her faith tested, and how rewarded, in the novel?

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

"Messy, brave and weirdly lovable...a substantial literary pleasure.”—New York Times Book Review

"Moving and funny, fetchingly irreverent and soulful, Blue Shoe is an absolute joy."—Chicago Sun-Times

”Everybody loves Anne Lamott...[she] writes with an emotional shorthand that’s instantly decipherable and funny to anyone who’s had children—or parents.”—The Christian Science Monitor

"Irresistible...Lamott has created a work full of shaggy, truthful charm."—San Francisco Chronicle

”Glorious...After reading Blue Shoe, you feel as if you had sat on the kitchen floor and talked with the author late into the night about your mothers, your bodies, your lovers, and God. And that, in a nutshell, is the minor miracle of Lamott’s writing.”—The Atlanta Journal Constitution

”Philosophical, honest, and poignant, Lamott writes about real life and how it goes on, through good and through bad.”—Boston Herald

”The novel’s effect on the reader is profoundly springlike: It is tonic.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Anyone who's ever had a heartache—or a family—will relate to Anne Lamott's poignant novels."—Rosie Magazine

"Blue Shoe is a gift you will want to give yourself."—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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