Blue Shoe

( 22 )

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&#151nothing more than a gumball ...

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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&#151nothing more than a gumball trinket&#151left behind by her father. For Mattie, it becomes a talisman&#151a 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
When single mom Mattie Ryder finds a tiny blue rubber shoe in her dead father's car, she decides to investigate how it got there. What should have been a little trinket mystery turns into the key to her relationship with both her parents. A comforting middle-age meditation.
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.
From The Critics
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 Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 9/2/2003
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 657,395
  • Product dimensions: 5.62 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Help, Thanks, Wow, Some Assembly Required, Grace (Eventually), Plan B, and several others. A past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an inductee to the California Hall of Fame, she lives in Northern California.

Biography

Anne Lamott's recovery from alcoholism and drug abuse helped her career in two ways. First, it marked an artistic rebound for the novelist; second, she's become an inspirational figure to fans who have read her frank, funny nonfiction books covering topics from motherhood to religion to, yes, fighting for sobriety.

Early on, Lamott's hard-luck novels were impressive chronicles of family strife punctuated by bad (but often entertaining) behavior. Everyone in Lamott's books is sort of screwed up, but she stocks them with a humor and core decency that make them hard to resist. In Hard Laughter, she tells the (semi-autobiographical) story of a dysfunctional family rocked by the father's brain tumor diagnosis. In Rosie and its 1997 sequel, Crooked Little Heart, the heroines are a sassy teenage girl and her alcoholic, widowed mom. Another precocious child provides the point of view in All New People, in which a girl rides out the waves of the 1960s with her nutty parents.

Lamott's conversational, direct style and cynical humor have always been strengths, and with All New People -- the first book she wrote after getting sober -- she turned a corner. Reedeming herself from the disastrous reviews of her messy (too much so, even for the endearingly messy Lamott) 1985 third novel Joe Jones, Lamott's talent came back into focus. "Anne Lamott is a cause for celebrations," the New Yorker effused. "[Her] real genius lies in capturing the ineffable, describing not perfect moments, but imperfect ones...perfectly. She is nothing short of miraculous."

That said, Lamott's sensibility is not for everyone. The faith, both human and spiritual, in her books is accompanied by her unsparing irony and a distinct disregard for wholesomeness or conventionality; and God here is for sinners as much as (if not more than) for saints. Her girls are often not girls but half-adults; her adults, vice-versa. She finds the adolescent, weak spots in all her characters, making them people to root for at the same time.

Among Lamott's most messy, troubled characters is the author herself, and she began turning this to her advantage with the 1993 memoir Operating Instructions, a single mom's meditation on the big experiment -- failures included -- of new parenthood. It was also in this book that Lamott "came out of the closet" with her Christianity, and earned a whole new following that grew with her subsequent memoirs, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life and Traveling Mercies. However gifted Lamott was at conveying fictional stories, it was in telling her own stories that her self-deprecating humor and hard-earned wisdom really made themselves known, and loved by readers.

Good To Know

Lamott's Joe Jones, which is now out of print, was so poorly received that it sent the alcoholic Lamott into a tailspin. "When Joe Jones came out I really got trashed," she told the New York Times in 1997. "I got 27 bad reviews. It was kind of exhilarating in its way. I was still drinking and I woke up every morning feeling so sick, I literally felt I was pinned to the bed by centrifugal force. I wouldn't have very many memories of what had happened the night before. I'd have to call around, and I could tell by people's reaction whether I'd pulled it off or not. I was really humiliating myself. It was bad."

Lamott's father was a writer who instilled the belief in her that it was a privilege in life to be an artist, as opposed to having a regular job. But she stresses to students that it doesn't happen overnight; that the work has to be measured in small steps, with continual efforts to improve. She said in an NPR interivew, "I've published six books and I still worry that the phone is going to ring and [someone] is going to say, 'Okay, the jig is up, you have to get a job..."'

In an essay accompanying Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, Lamott described her decision to begin writing in earnest about Christianity: "Thirteen years ago, I first lurched -- very hung over -- into a little church in one of the poorest communities in California. Without this church, I do not think I would have survived the last few years of my drinking. But even so, I had written about the people there only in passing. I did, however, speak about the church whenever I could, sheepishly shoehorning in a story or two. But it wasn't really until my fifth book [Operating Instructions], that I came out of the closet as a real believer.... I started to realize that there was a great hunger and thirst for regular, cynical, ragbag people to talk about God..."

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    1. Hometown:
      Fairfax, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 30, 1953
    2. Place of Birth:
      San Francisco, California
    1. Education:
      Attended Goucher College in Maryland before dropping out to write

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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First Chapter

One

The world outside the window was in flames. The leaves on the pistachio trees shone fire-red and orange. Mattie studied the early-morning light. She was lying on the side of the bed where her husband should have been sleeping. Those trees were one reason she'd moved back into her parents' old home after leaving Nicholas, these trees and the sloping grassy hillside behind the house. Also, there was no mortgage: her parents had paid it off during the course of their marriage. She and her brother, Al, had grown up playing on the hill and in the buckeyes with their low, broad branches; her six-year-old, Harry, played there now, and her daughter, Ella, two, would also climb one day soon. The leaves of the delicate Japanese maple between Mattie's window and the wobbly fence were still green, but elsewhere in the garden were russets and butterscotch-oranges, other trees giddy with color, almost garish, like gypsy dresses. When she strained to listen, she could imagine them saying, We gave you shade, and now we'll give you a little kick-ass beauty before we die. A choir of chickadees and finches sang above the sounds of a quiet neighborhood waking up, the cars of people heading to work and school, the clatter and thumps of the recycling truck, a dog barking, leaves rustling in a gentle wind, silence. A moment later she heard the rats in the walls begin to stir.

Her mother, Isa (it rhymed with "Lisa"), who still owned the house, had failed to mention that there were rats in the walls. Rats, and the green rug in the master bedroom that for many years had been peed on by Isa's cats. A faint odor of urine clung to it despite Mattie's every effort at eradication. Isa had been planning to sell the house as a fixer-upper in the wildly inflated San Francisco Bay area real estate market, but a month after she'd reached the top of the waiting list for The Sequoias, a retirement community where she hoped to grow old, she'd moved out. She had some money socked away from her husband Alfred's small life insurance policy, which, coupled with Social Security, was enough to pay for her expenses in the new apartment.

Her unwanted stuff was still on the shelves, and in the garage and attic. The house looked much as it always had, or at least for the nearly twenty years Isa had lived there alone, after Mattie and Al had moved out and Alfred had died. Isa had taken one couch with her to the new apartment, a few chairs, a dresser, and Al's old twin bed, and had sent the rest of her furniture to the dump or Goodwill. There were mirrors in every room of the house. Isa had always liked to look at herself, striking movie star poses. Mattie avoided the mirrors whenever possible. What she saw when she did glance at her reflection was chestnut-brown hair, which she usually wore in a braid; tired eyes, so dark that the pupils didn't show; fair English skin and a broad snub nose from her mother; black lashes and brows from her dad, as well as his big teeth; and full lips, set off nicely by a white ring of scar on her chin from a rock Al had thrown at her when they were young.

Isa had left her house vacant for six months at Mattie's request, while Mattie got up the nerve to leave her husband. She'd been planning to break away from Nicky in spring, because she'd had it with his mammoth inconsistency-his hilarious and brilliant conversations, interspersed with brooding narcissism; his charming and amiable contributions to the business of raising children together, wedged in between immobilization and depression, for which he would not seek help; his inexhaustible interest in her thoughts about the world, progressive politics, and the arts, marbled into the slow, cold gaze with which he looked up from his secret phone calls when she entered his study; the silent, wounding way he stopped making love to her for weeks at a time, right after nights of hot, tender sex. Then, in March, when the world was wild and green, full of blossom and fragrance and mud, Mattie's best friend, Angela, had told her gently that she was moving to Los Angeles, to live with Julie, the woman she'd recently fallen for.

"But you're my only real friend!" Mattie wept, and Angela had cried too. They had been talking in different kitchens for years now, ever since the night they met over a stranger's stove during a party for Nicky, when the College of Marin made him an assistant professor of literature. Minutes after meeting, the two women broke off entirely from the others. They sat on the kitchen floor and talked like teenagers about their mothers and their bodies and God, to whom they were both devoted, and their pets, to whom they were also devoted, and Nicky, about whom they were both ambivalent. Angela worked with him at the college, where she read and graded papers for the entire English department, and while she enjoyed his sense of humor, she disliked his elitism. He liked to discuss books and politics; he had no patience for stories of real people trying to get through the day. Angela and Mattie started getting together several times a week, to hike or cook or help each other around the house. Nicky accused Mattie of being in love, of going gay. At the same time, he had dropped hints that he didn't think Angela was a real lesbian: she just hadn't met the right man yet, it was a phase, and would pass. And a few years ago, Angela noticed that Nicky had taken off after classes with of one of his students, a beautiful twenty-two-year-old black woman. Mattie was six months pregnant with Ella at the time. Several years before, he had had an affair that nearly ended the marriage, although he had never given Mattie further cause to doubt his fidelity. But one day after she and Mattie had become inseparable friends, Angela followed Nicky and the young woman to the Tamalpais Motel, and then she told Mattie. Mattie confronted Nicky, and he broke off the affair, and while Mattie eventually forgave him, without forgetting, Nicky never forgave Angela, and Angela never forgave Nicky.

Angela sometimes wore her short honey-colored hair in two vertical tufts, like velvet giraffe horns. Her wide eyes were steel-blue. She was Jewish, expansive and yeasty and uncontained, as if she had a birthright for outrageousness. She knew things. Mattie couldn't live without her.

The smell of wet soil, blossoms, and grass wafted through the kitchen window as Mattie heard Angela's news. "But you're not going to have to live without me," Angela said, crying. "We'll talk every day, and I'll come up every chance I can."

Mattie went back into therapy to deal with the devastation of losing Angela. The therapist pointed out gently that some of her grief must be related to her deteriorating marriage. In some ways, losing Angela was harder. It was like the death some years before of Mattie's old cat, who had loved her the way her parents were supposed to have loved her: purely, without conditions. In any case, for a few months Mattie didn't have the strength to bear both her friend's departure and the end of her marriage. And then one day, she did.

When the leaves began to blaze and the days grew shorter, she brought her children and their things to the house she had grown up in. She brought some furniture, their dog, two cats, a couple of porno movies stolen from Nicky, and his bottle of Valium. He did not ask her about them. It was assumed that the children would live with her, and visit him on the weekends. He adored them but would not have been willing or able to share custody, even if Mattie had been willing. As it was, he took them most weekends, often late Saturday morning, then dropped them off Sunday nights with an air of weary heroism, like a firefighter returning the engine to the firehouse after a particularly difficult outing. The children were grief-stricken that he did not live with them anymore. Mattie prayed with them every night, then prayed separately for their hearts to heal, even prayed for Nicky's happiness and half meant it. After a month of weekend visits with Nicky, the children's distress lessened.

Mattie hadn't worried so much about Ella, who had ways of comforting herself and a generally sunny disposition. But Harry was sad and concerned. He was erratic, like Nicky: sometimes he acted so mean to Mattie and Ella that Mattie wanted to strike him, and at other times he could be utterly charming, especially with his sister. He'd carry her around from room to room as if she were an animated grocery sack, making faces and wisecracks to amuse her. Mattie saw how much he wanted Ella to disappear sometimes, but that he also listened for her when she was in her crib. He put his face right into hers to make her laugh, and she chortled, pleased that something was so grabbably close. Then he'd pinch her and make her cry. He took things from her, and she wailed, while he looked blank and innocent. He hugged her too tightly, he loved her too much, he hated all the same things he loved about her-her ineptitude, her cuteness, her messiness, her smells.

Mattie stopped seeing the therapist, and paid for Harry to go instead.

It helped; time's passing helped. Nothing really helped. And the house-it had been a mistake to move back in. It was falling apart, revealing mold and memories and ghosts. Mattie's beloved father had died of a heart attack in the laundry room, twenty years before. He was fifty-one and had never looked better than in the moments before his death. He had looked a lot like Mattie's brother Al did now, but trimmer, tall, with thicker brown hair, and the huge teeth that hardly fit in his mouth. Everyone had loved her father, including, about half the time, Isa. Still, it had been a miserable marriage, a shifting, malignant lava-lamp of a marriage, although it always looked great from the outside, two tall handsome parents well-known in the town for their willingness to serve on the city council, the school board, liberals who agitated for the poor, who had an air of being with it, hikers in the days when knapsacks were avant-garde. They were people to whom others turned for advice. But inside the house, which they had bought for $20,000 in 1963, slammed doors and loud silences filled the spaces between exquisite meals and good California wine.

Mattie had thought she was getting such a great deal when she moved back in-free rent on a house with a bedroom for each of her children. But it didn't take long to notice the secrets and memories tiptoeing around, holding their highballs, debonair and amused at first, then hissing in the master bedroom as her mother had when her father returned from his monthly trips to Washington, D.C. Harry was now sleeping in the bedroom where Al had grown up, where at fifteen he had started doing drugs while Isa and Alfred pretended he was doing homework; Ella slept in Mattie's old room, the one with the slanted ceiling and eaves, behind which all manner of nightmares had waited quietly.

The laundry room where her father had died looked almost exactly the same as before, with its old washer-dryer from Sears, lots of sunlight and trees outside the window, and space to move around. Isa had spent hours here, pawing through her husband's clothes, looking for clues to his absences, searching her teenage son's pockets. What did she think she would find-needles, bindles, a treasure map? She'd searched her daughter's clothes here too, for cigarettes and birth control pills, which she'd found and seized like a customs inspector.

Why, in the current crisis of divorce and bottomless loss, had Mattie run back to the past, to her parents' home, her husband's side of the bed? She hadn't known where else to go. It was free and it was familiar.

"Where else can I go? Nicky owned that house before we got married. It's his. Otherwise, he doesn't have much money, I don't make much. He'll help us, but I can't afford to rent anything as nice as this. With a yard."

When Mattie moved in, Angela, who called herself a Newj, for New Age Jew, flew up to perform an exorcism, a deep-smoke smudge with Native American herbs that made the house smell for days as if the Grateful Dead had been practicing in the garage.

After the first autumn rains, Mattie discovered just how much damage her mother had been disguising over the years with paint and caulking and cabinets. Isa had evidently installed cabinets wherever rot or cracks or mold had appeared. So there were cabinets everywhere, which was great for storage. But if you removed even one section, you discovered that behind the shelves were moldy patches of Sheetrock, exposed live wires in broken sockets, ugly swatches of bore beetle infestation. Mattie shuddered to think what was behind the cabinets in the damper areas-the garage and laundry room.

The rats' scratching grew louder. She asked her mother to pay for an exterminator. Mattie was barely getting by with child support and a little extra from Nicky and the money she made as a fit model for Sears: she was a perfect size 12. But she had forgotten to get an education.

"Oh, for Chrissakes," Isa had said when Mattie asked her for the money. "What is it with you? Why don't you count your blessings for a change?" Mattie did count her blessings, all the time. She always had. She'd always believed in a freelance God, but kept it to herself, as her parents and brother were devout atheists. A few years into her marriage, she'd found a church nearby, where she staggered like Monsieur Hulot into a relationship with Jesus. And she had come out of the closet as a believer. Her brother referred to it as her blind spot. Her mother refused to discuss it, as if Mattie believed in pyramid power. Mattie didn't care. She thanked God several times a day for what she had, and trusted Him for what she needed. She thanked Him for two healthy children, for her church, for a house with a yard. She thanked God for helping her finally get out of her marriage, and for helping her more or less survive the pain of Angela's leaving. She even thanked God for giving her such a difficult mother, because she believed that while it had been nearly life-threatening to survive Isa's mothering, the price she and Al had paid was exactly what it cost to become who they were. She thanked God, and her mother, for giving her Al. And she prayed to accept and believe that she had everything she needed. But she also had rats.

Ella lay in her crib one afternoon playing with her belly button, in the room where Mattie had grown up. Ella had just woken from the nap she took every day after a vigorous morning at day care. Mattie couldn't take her eyes off Ella-her blond hair, pudgy limbs, sweet and self-sufficient character. When Ella was born, she'd been colicky and had to suckle all the time; when she wasn't nursing, she'd needed to suck on Mattie's fingers. She'd graduated to a pacifier for a while, then found her thumb. The discovery of her belly button at a year and a half had marked the start of a new relationship, one of pleasure and comfort.

Whenever her shirt and pants gaped open, she'd put her finger inside. She twiddled the belly button, played it as if thumping the twangy connection between her and her mother, her belly a guitar.

Her belly button was an extra sense organ: if something had a nice texture, if it was slippery, say, or warm, she put it against her tummy; her voice would grow thick and furry, and she would say clearly, as if there could be any mistake, "My belly." Mattie had to make sure she had access through her clothes so she could find it. When she did, her whole body went soft and she let out a sigh.

Mattie reached down in the crib and lifted Ella out. "Let's go make something with blocks. Harry will be home soon, and we'll have grilled cheese sandwiches." Both of them missed Harry when he was at school-he had just started first grade-but life was much more peaceful in the hours when he was gone. Harry was busy, and loud, and lived in movement. He took life by the throat and shook it. He had his father's temper, his gift for instilling fear in others. He'd made an instant friend of the boy who lived next door, right after they'd arrived in the house. While she walked one afternoon with Ella and Harry, Mattie had noticed a towheaded boy, a year or so younger than Harry, in costume chain mail, a wooden sword dangling from his belt, in the yard next door. He'd been watering a hydrangea bush, as his blonde mother watched from the back step with a dish towel draped over her shoulder. Mattie stopped and waved to the mother, and the boy had whipped around, still holding the hose, so that Ella and Mattie had been sprayed. The mother had come running, with everyone laughing but Ella. Mattie wiped Ella's face with her T-shirt while Ella tried to decide whether to cry, and the boy's mother handed Mattie the dish towel. The two boys faced off, staring at each other as if seeing themselves in a mirror.

The mother's name was Margrethe. She was from Denmark, but had only a faint accent. The boy was named Stefan, and he only whispered. He could hardly contain himself; he had something marvelous hidden in his fist behind his back. His mother urged him to share it.

"No, no, is my little itty tro," he said with great pleased worry.

"Show Harry your itty tro," said the mother. Mattie was alarmed to see the agitation on Harry's face. He seemed to be in a battle to restrain himself from knocking the boy over, as if he was about to say, "I'm going to shoot it out of your hand, boy."

Stefan peered into the opening of his fist.

"Is my itty tro," he chirped. "My little itty tro."

"But what is it?" asked Harry. "What do you do with it?"

Stefan moved his fist through the air like a toy plane. "Zah! Zah!"

Mattie reached for Harry, who was breathing hard now. She felt heat spreading through his T-shirt, and his heart pounding beneath her hand.

"What is his little itty tro?" Mattie asked as nicely as possible.

"I don't know, this is the first I've heard of it," said the mother.

"Is my itty tro!" Stefan proclaimed, and flew his fist through the air. "Zah zah zah!"

Harry studied Stefan in a hard, bored way. Then he said, quietly, too quietly, "Give me the itty tro."

Stefan looked at him, worried as a kitten, and took one step back.

"Give me the itty tro!" Harry said. Stefan made a quiet strangled sound, like the sound a hurt deer might make. Harry raised his fist, and Stefan opened his own hand to reveal a feather.

Somehow they ended up best friends. They played together nearly every day.

Mattie now held Ella in her arms. The rats in the walls were squeaking. God, they had gotten so loud. The scratching had been bad enough, but the squeaks sounded like a mob was assembling back there, lighting torches. Beams and rafters were being nibbled into battering rams. Mattie scurried out, carrying Ella, and went to call her mother.

Isa answered right away, but as usual she was running out the door. "I'll call you later, darling," she said.

"No, Mom. We've waited long enough. The rats are getting worse and worse, and I really need you to pay for an exterminator."

"Oh, for Chrissakes, this can't wait till I get home? Two hours?"

Mattie sighed. Of course it could wait two hours, but with Isa, two hours could turn into two months or two years. "Call me later," Mattie said, and hung up. "Ees go?" Ella asked. Mattie nodded: Isa go, always go, going, going, gone. She was in her prime at seventy-one, an inspiration to everyone in town, beautiful like an aging model in a vitamin commercial, elegant, lively, opinionated. Mattie was in awe of her energy and drive. Her sharp corners had been sanded over the years, and she'd mellowed slightly along the way, was gentler now, sometimes even able to listen.

Mattie wondered, looking at Ella, how different she herself would have been if Isa had been this way thirty years before, instead of so anxious and critical. Mattie could see that Angela's best qualities-her spiritual thirst, her soulfulness, her equal capacity for playfulness and grief-were the direct result of having had a tense and neglectful mother like Isa. Angela had suggested that Isa's gift had been as a foil: looking at her charming unhappiness all those years, Mattie could see exactly who she didn't want to be when she grew up. Either you became like that, as Mattie and Angela hadn't, or you became the antidote for the mother's poison. What you needed you invented, and then gave away, so there would be some of it in your world. What would Ella decide to become-or not? Mattie saw herself and Angela as the trees that grew out of cliffs and boulders above the ocean near Monterey-evergreen creatures, windswept, magnificent, twisty, gnarled pines growing out of the layers of rock, where maybe there had once been some nutrition, maybe there had once been soil from which the trees had sprung, but then the soil had blown away, and they still grew.

Mattie and Ella sat on the floor in front of the fireplace, eating crackers, building a castle, still waiting for Harry. Their aging Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Marjorie, lay beside them. She had soulful brown eyes and a creamy white coat dappled with reddish-brown. She was old and sick. "Marjorie," Mattie said, "will you pay for an exterminator?" Like the Little Red Hen trying to get someone to help her with the wheat.

—from Blue Shoe by Anne Lamott, Copyright © October 2002, Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.

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Reading Group Guide

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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 22 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 18, 2013

    Whiny, pointless story

    This is the first Anne Lamott book I have read. My niece loves her and was thrilled to get the book after I read it, but I really didn't identify with any of the characters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2008

    I Love Annie

    I am at least a decade behind most readers in discovering Anne Lamott, but she has fast become one of my all-time favorite writers. I admire her brutal honesty about herself (as in the nonfiction Operating Instructions). Reading her has empowered me to be more honest about myself. I also am taken with her casual buddy-buddy approach to her relationship with God. Blue Shoes was the first fiction book I've read by her and I deeply enjoyed it, with just a few reservations. She does write with poetic flair but occasionally seems to be straining to form her images or metaphors. E.g., 'the choir's notes hung in the air above them like fluttering moths.' Eeeew! Also, the pacing was a little off--way too much detail on some things, like the iguana Otis, and then too much was hurried over as the end approached. But her strongest suit is her ability to make people come to life for the reader, including herself, whether it be in her fiction or nonfiction. Her voice is extremely strong--Lamott is in the same room with me when I read her. I think she would be too high-maintenance to have as a friend but I love her as an author!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2007

    Character driven... but the plot dissapears.

    Anne Lamont is one of my favorite writers. A `slice of life¿ type of writer. `Traveling Mercies¿ was just that ¿ like journal entries pieced together. It was a good book. It took a while for this book, ¿Blue Shoe¿, to keep me engaged, and it was the point where I looked at the pages and said, I have to finish this book so I can move on to another. The plot was not much of a plot. But that was okay ¿ the only problem was when it climaxed with how Mattie finds out about the ¿Blue Shoe.¿ It felt forced and totally unrealistic. Like, come-on, get over with it. Why be so¿ `emo?¿ Or so¿ drama!?! Big deal! But¿ other than that, the cast of characters kept me reading although I had a hard time at first remembering the names of the characters. They weren¿t all visual like they usually are - and Anne usually writes vivid, well developed characters. But to me, I had a hard time keeping them in my head. So I cast the main ones. Mattie Ryder - Michelle Pfeiffer (although I doubt she¿s a size 12 which Mattie is in the book) Isa, Mattie¿s mother ¿ Anne Lamott herself (I don¿t know, she just looks the part) Mattie¿s brother ¿ Mark Rufallo (although he¿s too young) Harry, Mattie¿s son ¿ Angus T. Jones (from Two and Half Men but he¿s too old) Ella, Mattie¿s 2 year old daughter ¿ any cute little girl that bites her nails. Daniel, Mattie¿s love interest ¿ Doug Savant (from Desperate Housewives) Lewis (Isa¿s boyfriend) ¿ Morgan Freeman Yep, that¿s my cast. Anne, call me, lets do the movie! The book, like most of her books, had religious overtones ¿ although this one didn¿t pound you over the head with it. It was just enough to give characters character, and why they make some choices that they make ¿ guilt and all! It was enjoyable to read. It was easy to read. But it was long. It could have been cut by 100 pages. The end was sudden and it makes me wonder, did Anne Lamott just finish the book just to finish it? Or was it purposeful, as if to say, the characters still have a life to live and it doesn¿t just end here. I¿m not so inclined to recommend it as a great book, but it¿s a book you can read in bed while it rains. It¿s soothing, and every once in a while you¿ll pick it up, start where you left off, and follow Mattie like she¿s a friend of yours. If you haven¿t read any Anne Lamott books, then read Bird by Bird above all. It¿s her best!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2006

    Where is the rest of the story?

    I listened to this on audio which was the first book I have read/listened to by Anne Lamott. As others have mentioned, there was great development of the characters, with the exception of a bit much with the pets. I did often feel as if some areas were too long. I feel guilty when not finishing a book, so I did complete it (what else to do in the car on the way to/from work?). Maybe I did not enjoy it as much because I have not yet encountered some of the life experiences that Mattie was going through. I was so confused and frustrated at the end as I felt there were so many things unresolved. What happens with Mattie's mother? Her newly-discovered brother? Her mother's wedding to her deceased husband's lover? I found myself on this website looking for the sequel and found there is not one, right?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2006

    a snoozer

    i loved lamott's traveling mercies and was looking forward to this novel. i find her writing compellingly beautiful and accurate (as it was here). but i found this novel boring, with a severe paucity of plot and over-abundance of characters. i'm all for character development, but i was annoyed by the paragraphs and pages devoted to discussion of mattie's cats, dog, and especially otis, the lizard. i disliked the sometimes sanctimonious religious discussions. i tired of mattie asking god for help and then sleeping with her ex-husband--a married man. i couldn't wait to finish this book--but for all the wrong reasons. it is easily 100 pages too long.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2006

    Loved It!

    This is the first book I've read by Anne Lamott and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I listened to it on audio and it was hilarious. I was laughing out loud driving back & forth to work. I liked it very much and highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates women and humor.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2006

    Satisfying

    Anne has given us a realistic portrayal of a middle aged white woman going through some drama. Mattie is likeable and the other characters are actively interesting. I didn't like the behavior of her son, but that's just my being a black mother. The story had a calming effect on me, but I was also excited about finding out the situation with her parents. Bottom Line: One to have in your collection.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2006

    Plot Isn't the Point

    Readers who complain that Blue Shoe isn't tightly plotted are right. However, Lamott's strength is in revealing characters and illuminating the little epiphanies of life. The kids in this book are wonderful - little persons with a wholeness that few writers manage to capture. The decline of Mattie's mother and her swings from heartbreak to impatience to loving acceptance are poignantly expressed. Anyone who has endured this painful progression into parenting a parent will be comforted by Lamott's honesty. Her theme, I think, is love and forgiveness, that no matter how weak and flawed, we are loved and lovable. I, too, found her sexual relationships too casual. But maybe her point is that we put too much emphasis on sexual morality, which is only one tiny part of human love.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2005

    It was like reading about me...

    This author was recommended to me and I am thrilled that I chose Blue Shoe as my first book of hers to read. I could totally realate with some of Mattie's hardships and how the blue shoe became her focus to get things straight.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2005

    Mid Life Ramblings... that make sense

    The Blue Shoe is far fetched at times, but interesting, colorfully written and human. The main characters are all flawed and struggling with mid-life changes and the stresses of taking care of the young and the aging while trying to find some time for their own lives. The setting in Northern California is lush and adds to the flavor of how the earth and our homes are connected to our growth or our decay.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2004

    NOPE!

    1. No discernible plotline. What are we building toward here? If I wanted something to go on and on with no point to it, I have real life. 2. Main character is completely unlikable. Her husband cheats on her, she forgives him. He cheats again, WITH A STUDENT, she forgives him. She finally leaves him, then finds out he's been cheating again. She then continues to sleep with him, even after he remarries and has another baby. She also goes after another woman's husband (successfully, unfortunately). She whines. She cries. She has zero redeeming qualities. How can I care? I was DISAPPOINTED when she got the guy. 3. Aren't 1 and 2 enough? Don't waste your time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2004

    Yikes!

    I couldn't get past Chapter 3. Maybe, I'm missing something here, however, the character annoyed me. The characters in this book reminds me of people who use their hardships as an excuse to be weak & whiney. I hope the author has written better books than this. I wish I could whine about wasting money on this book, then again, I'd be no different from the character.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2004

    A book you must read

    this book was very interesting. i enjoyed reading. I enjoyed reading this so much that my sister and i were fighting for it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2003

    A New Fan of Anne Lamont

    It was hard to get involved with the life of the main character at first, but the more I read the more 'human' she became. By the end of the book I felt like I had a new friend. It was a delightful book about life without the fairy-tale ending, it was just an outcome of the decisions she made during her journey. I can't wait to read another Anne Lamont book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2003

    Depressing and Dull

    I've read 71 pages and won't be reading further... the plot is thin and the pace unbearably slow. A depressing book, this is not one I would read as a pick me up. Perhaps it will get better towards the end, but the author has failed to get me that far.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2003

    A MUST READ

    I just read BLUE SHOE by Annie Lamott and let me tell you, it is a MUST READ. It was so very good. I would know Mattie on the street and for sure, Pauline. I would know the kids, Abby and her son, Mattie's father and certainly, Isa. I would know Mattie's new love and her old love, easily. I loved the story and I understand all of Mattie's struggles having been there so many times myself. I have always loved Ms. Lamott's books - all of them - but especially, BIRD BY BIRD. So if I see a book and it has her name on it, I know that I have to read it because her work is powerful and real.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2003

    Nice story but not Lamott's best

    I have been an Anne Lamott fan for a long time, and have read several of her books multiple times just because she's so funny and honest and real. This last work, however, was a disappointment. In my opinion, not her best work- it's a sweet story but no plot to speak of. Difficult at times to stay with the story simply because nothing much ever really happened. Some key characters' actions left unexplained. I recommend her other books of both fiction and non-fiction, which are all superb, over this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2003

    A book about change

    This is simply a book about life's journey and the events and experiences that change us. It's about the choices we make and the consequences we live with. It's about an extremely loveable character, Mattie Ryder, and her rather messed up, gloomy life, through-out which she always seems to maintain a wry sense of humor. Now all in all the story is extremely slow paced, but, it's well-written and there are countless hidden wisdoms for you to discover. A book I recommend to the patient and particular. And if you're looking for a few other great titles, look no further than these, Buckland's Hot List: most creative, The Butterfly: A Fable (Singh); most engaging, The Alchemist (Coelho); most interesting, Life of Pi (Martel); most enlightening, 9-11 (Chomsky); most thrilling, The Lovely Bones: A Novel (Sebold); and finally, the most creative, engaging, interesting, enlightening and thrilling book of all, The Little Prince (Saint-Exupery). These are the books I'd recommend to my family, friends, students, and wife. There are many more, trust me, but these are the first that come to mind (for having left an impact slight or proud as it may be). If you have any questions, queries, or comments, or maybe even a title you think I should add to my list, please feel free to e-mail me. I'm always open to a good recommendation. Thanks for reading my brief but hopefully helpful review. Happy reading. Donald S. Buckland.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2002

    Sorry it ended!

    I was hesitant to begin this book, due to the description on the book jacket. The story sounded trite. Once I began reading, it was difficult to stop. The writing was superb, and definitely a story I could relate to. Looking forward to reading her other works.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2002

    Good read

    I enjoyed this book and ANYONE who has ever been divorced or has cared for aging parents would totally appreciate the main character's situation. The end was a bit predictable, but it's nice to see some people's children and parents not be perfect. Book makes you see that you never really stop "growing up."

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