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Crooked Little Heart [NOOK Book]


With the same brilliant combination of humor and warmth that marked Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird, her two bestselling works of nonfiction, Anne Lamott now gives us an exuberant richly absorbing portrait of a family for whom the joys and sorrows of everyday life are magnified under the glare of the unexpected.

The Fergusons make their home in a small California town where life is supposed to resemble paradise, but for ...
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Crooked Little Heart

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With the same brilliant combination of humor and warmth that marked Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird, her two bestselling works of nonfiction, Anne Lamott now gives us an exuberant richly absorbing portrait of a family for whom the joys and sorrows of everyday life are magnified under the glare of the unexpected.

The Fergusons make their home in a small California town where life is supposed to resemble paradise, but for thirteen-year-old Rosie (last seen in Lamott's beloved novel Rosie), reality is a bit harsher.  Her mother, a recovering alcoholic, is still beset by grief over the early death of her first husband.  Rosie's stepfather is a struggling writer plagued by doubts and hilarious paranoia. And Rosie, aching in the bloom of young womanhood and obsessed with tournament tennis, finds that her athletic gifts, initially a source of triumph, now place her in peril, as a shadowy man who stalks her from the bleachers seems to be developing an obsession of his own.

Written with enormous emotional honesty, inhabited by superbly realized characters, riotously funny and wonderfully suspenseful, Crooked Little Heart is Anne Lamott writing at the height of her considerable powers.

From the Hardcover edition.

With the same brilliant combination of humor and warmth that marked Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott now gives readers an exuberant, richly absorbing portrait of a family for whom the joys and sorrows of everyday life are magnified under the glare of the unexpected. 352 pp. National ads, publicity. Author tour. Online promos. 60,000 print.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Before she won deserved acclaim for her two recent nonfiction books, Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird, Lamott wrote Rosie, an enchanting novel whose eponymous protagonist is a nine-year-old girl whose father dies suddenly and whose mother becomes an alcoholic. In revisiting the characters and idyllic Northern California setting of that book, Lamott again demonstrates her irrepressible, edgy humor and a new, deeper understanding of psychological nuance. Rosie Ferguson is now 13 and a rising star in the teenage tennis circuit, playing doubles with her best friend, Simone. Her mother, Elizabeth, who loves Rosie fiercely but who often can't cope, has married writer James. and a warm extended family of friends-Rae and Lank and the elderly Adderlys-cherish Rosie. But wrapped up in their own problems, the adults in her life unwittingly fail Rosie at a critical time in her adolescence. Remote and neurotic Elizabeth, takes to her bed in depression; Jack is absorbed in his new book; Charles Adderly is dying. Skinny, undeveloped Rosie has the familiar self-conscious adolescent insecurities and yearnings to be part of the in-crowd. Her tensions mount when Simone is seduced and becomes pregnant, with Rosie her sole confidante. Suddenly, the only constant person in Rosie's life is Luther, a menacing drifter who follows her from tournament to tournament. Thus, he is the only one who knows Rosie's most dreadful secret: that she has become a compulsive cheater on the tennis court. With a sureness of narrative control and a maturity of vision, Lamott underplays the drama here by maintaining a leisurely pace with numerous scenes of domestic minutiae. But her restraint pays off in credibility: she writes with integrity and tenderness of the failure of parental love to protect children, and of the resilience that helps children step over the threshold to maturity.Simultaneous audio; author tour. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Those who have read Lamott's Bird by Bird LJ 8/94 will not be surprised to see that here her sentences are crafted with lapidary precision and humor. She is generous to her characters, more than balancing their fears and flaws with courage and virtues. Championship tennis player Rosie is 13, struggling with her ambition, impending womanhood, and a completely normal, complex relationship with her mother, Elizabeth. Simone, Rosie's doubles partner, has her own difficult issues to address. Though Elizabeth's second marriage to a kind and loving man is happy, neither she nor Rosie have completely worked through their grief at the sudden death of Rosie's father. Issues of character and sportsmanship, teenage sexuality and responsibility, and the importance of love and friendship are gently explored. Very little happens in terms of external events although one pregnant teen might disagree, but internally, Rosie, her family, and Simone all change, pretty much for the better. Recommended.Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib, Bronxville, N.Y.
School Library Journal
YASome girls, like Rosie's friend and doubles partner on the Northern California tennis circuit, enter adolescence with young womanly grace and appeal; otherslike Rosiefind the onset of metamorphosing body and questionable social status fraught with a seemingly endless string of bad days. Lamott has a keen ear and reportorial skill for this sort of age-and-gender-driven angst. She embues Rosie's mother and adult friends with that same understanding. Although they have problems of their own, but they provide Rosie with admirable support that encourages her maturation rather than suffocating her with overwhelming concern. Interestingly, this novel features a great female tennis player who deals with her own cheating, a similar situation to that found in Marcia Byalick's YA novel, It's a Matter of Trust Browndeer, 1995. Both well-written books speak to readers who have little interest in tennis while providing those who love the game with some lively scenes of the sport. Older girls will enjoy Lamott's newest offering, and may well wax envious at Rosie's family's understanding. That her 14-year-old friend is less lucky in the end, while seemingly having the better draw at the outset, lends a fairy-tale moral quality that embellishes the whole, rather than detracting from its power.Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Chicago Tribune
Wry and elegiac...a bittersweet testament to the family, wherever we might find it, and to finding grace in the commonplace.
Eloquent, detailed, emotionally honest...Lamott deserves praise for telling it like it is.
Boston Globe
Lamott's desctiptive powers are considerable and consistently evocative.
From the Publisher
"Pulses with an emotional generosity that is rare."- San Francisco Chronicle

"Eloquent, detailed, emotionally honest... Lamott deserves praise for telling it like it is."- People

"Crooked Little Heart... incapacitated me for several days.  I could do little else but move from one reading post to another throughout my house and yard, and follow the continuing story of Rosie Ferguson in the summer of her 13th year.... The writing is threaded with precise imagery, tenderness, and high humor."- L.A. Weekly

"Lamott's descriptive talents are considerable and... consistently evocative.  Crooked Little Heart is likely to win [her] the huge and appreciative audience her masterful fiction demands." - Boston Globe

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307806734
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/16/2011
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 170,585
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Anne Lamott
Anne Lamott is the author of four previous novels, as well as Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird.  She lives in Northern California with her son, Sam.

From the Hardcover edition.


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

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2008

    Lamott allows us to see deeply into the souls of her characters.

    I have recently come to Anne Lamott, and in reading 'Crooked Little Heart,' became completely engrossed in and in love with her characters. Yes, they are 'messy' but then life is messy. Her characters are real, fully developed, and I could totally relate to how and why they behaved as they did. The 'From the Publisher' and 'Publisher's Review' descriptions of the book are right on. The two young readers who reviewed the book lacked the maturity to understand what drove the book. Also the other reviewers seemed to miss what an important, totally non-sexual part Luthor played in the coming of age of Rosie. All the characters in this 'yard sale' family were important in the growth of each other. I loved the book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 16, 2011

    this is a wonder novel

    This was a excellently written book with memorable characters. I've loved everything I've ever read from Anne Lamott.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2007


    Crooked little heart was a okay book, i found it interesting that she goes through some of the same things as i do, but i wish the sport she was in was softball, not tennis.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2002

    A Great Summer Read!

    I recently finished reading 'Crooked Little Heart' by Anne Lamott. This is the second book I have read by Ms. Lamott, the first being 'Rosie,' which is a great prequel and describes Rosie's life as a younger girl. 'Crooked Little Heart' uses great sensory details in describing the emotions of a young teenage girl. You are able to really get to understand the characters' feelings and personalities, making the book one that you can truly get engrossed in. Anne Lamott has a different style than many other fiction writers, and it is apparent from the very beginning of her novel. I loved this book and hope you will read it and enjoy it too. I particulary recommend it to people who are fans and/or players of tennis, as the book does have much of the action centered around tournament tennis. I can't wait to read more from Anne Lamott!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 21, 2014

    I enjoyed this story because the thoughts of the various charact

    I enjoyed this story because the thoughts of the various characters seemed very real to me--particularly the guilty feelings that so many of the characters seemed to have with regard to their thoughts and behaviors. It was also realistic in the way that someone might do something wrong once, but it doesn't automatically mean a pattern is established--such as when Rosie injures herself for attention. Or how she came  understand that while she did some wrong things when playing tennis, it did not mean that she needed to see herself as always bad as a result of it. My only criticism of the story is that I didn't understand how the family could keep a roof over their head and eat, let alone finance Rosie's expensive sport on so little income. It made no sense to me. I will look for more books by this author. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2012

    Not so good

    This book was a disappointment and I usually like Anne Lamott. Lamott doesn't fill out her characters enough to explain their disappointments, depression, fears etc. They're all kind of wierd in a not so good way. The main character, an adolescent tennis star, is disjointed and unlikeable. A lot of Lamott's metaphors are so stupid, I had to stop and reread to see if she really wrote what I read. She writes great about tennis but I was really disappointed.

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  • Posted October 11, 2011

    Best book i've read in a long time

    Thirteen year old Rosie Ferguson is obsessed with tennis. Rosie doesn't have many people to talk to. Her father died when she was just a little girl, her mother is a recovering alcoholic, and her step dad is a struggling writer. Not to mention a mysterious man who watches all of her tournaments, and her pregnant best friend. Rosie must learn how to deal with the stress of tennis on her own, what she chooses to do though in the end, is unthinkable. Something that I did not like about the book was that I found myself bored when the author talked about the mother and not Rosie, but perhaps that's because I've not yet come across the hardships that Rosie's Mother is going through. I loved the writing style, it was intelligent and detailed. This book very nicely conveys the problems that both teenage girls and athletes go through, like the pressure to be perfect. It shows how some girls might deal with it. This book related to me because I am also an athlete, so I know what it's like to feel like one has to never make any mistakes so, I could easily relate to a lot of what Rosie was going through. October 11th 2011 Clara Duman

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    Posted February 22, 2011

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    Posted April 18, 2009

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    Posted April 3, 2011

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    Posted May 1, 2011

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    Posted January 28, 2013

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