Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

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by Anne Lamott

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Plan B offers hope through the panic and despair. With her trademark humor, wisdom, and honesty, Lamott tells us stories of daily life - shopping at the supermarket on her birthday and winning a free ham she doesn't want; skiing with a dying friend who teaches her to fall; celebrating Thanksgiving with Sam and his dad; attending protest rallies. She watches the…  See more details below


Plan B offers hope through the panic and despair. With her trademark humor, wisdom, and honesty, Lamott tells us stories of daily life - shopping at the supermarket on her birthday and winning a free ham she doesn't want; skiing with a dying friend who teaches her to fall; celebrating Thanksgiving with Sam and his dad; attending protest rallies. She watches the seasons come and go, and shares with us the comfort and insights that she draws from life around her even as she continues to panic and despair - and also to struggle, as all of us must, to make the world a safer, and more loving, place to live.

Editorial Reviews

In 2001, Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies established its author as a popular, idiosyncratic commentator on matters of faith. In this collection of essays, Lamott writes about scary times in a post-9/11 world, where terrorism, environmental disaster, and personal tragedy seem close at hand. Plan B offers hope in the midst of despair, mixing Lamott's crazy wisdom ("I think we are diamond hearts, wrapped in meatballs") with starkly honest insights about aging, Alzheimer's, and death.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.93(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Plan B

further thoughts on faith
By anne lamott

riverhead books

Copyright © 2005 Anne Lamott
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-57322-299-2

Chapter One

On my forty-ninth birthday, I decided that all of life was hopeless, and I would eat myself to death. These are desert days. Better to go out by our own hands than to endure slow death by scolding at the hands of the Bush administration. However, after a second cup of coffee, I realized that I couldn't kill myself that morning-not because it was my birthday but because I'd promised to get arrested the next day. I had been arrested three weeks earlier with an ecumenical bunch of religious peaceniks, people who still believe in Dr. King and Gandhi. Also, my back was out. I didn't want to die in crone mode. Plus, there was no food in the house. So I took a long, hot shower instead and began another day of being gloated to death.

Everyone I know has been devastated by Bush's presidency and, in particular, our country's heroic military activities overseas. I can usually manage a crabby hope that there is meaning in mess and pain, that more will be revealed, and that truth and beauty will somehow win out in the end. But I'd been struggling as my birthday approached. So much had been stolen from us by Bush, from the very beginning of his reign, and especially since he went to war in Iraq. I wake up some mornings pinned to the bed by centrifugal sadness and frustration. A friend called to wish me Happy Birthday, and I remembered something she'd said many years ago, while reading a Vanity Fair article about Hitler's affair with his niece. "I have had it with Hitler," Peggy said vehemently, throwing the magazine to the floor. And I'd had it with Bush.

Hadn't the men in the White House ever heard of the word karma? They lied their way into taking our country to war, crossing another country's borders with ferocious military might, trying to impose our form of government on a sovereign nation, without any international agreement or legal justification, and set about killing the desperately poor on behalf of the obscenely, rich. Then we're instructed, like naughty teenagers, to refrain from saying that it was an immoral war that set a disastrous precedent-because to do so is to offer aid and comfort to the enemy.

While I was thinking about all this, my Jesuit friend Father Tom called. He is one of my closest friends, a few years older than I, a scruffy aging Birkenstock type, like me, who gives lectures and leads retreats on spirituality. Usually he calls to report on the latest rumors of my mental deterioration, drunkenness, or promiscuity, how sick it makes everyone to know that I am showing all my lady parts to the neighbors. But this time he called to wish me Happy Birthday.

"How are we going to get through this craziness?" I asked. There was silence for a moment.

"Left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe," he said.

Father Tom loves the desert. A number of my friends do. They love the skies that pull you into infinity, like the ocean. They love the silence, and how, if you listen long enough, the pulse of the desert begins to sound like the noise your finger makes when you run it around the rim of a crystal glass. They love the scary beauty-snakes, lizards, scorpions, the kestrels and hawks. They love the mosaics of water-washed pebbles on the desert floor, small rocks that cast huge shadows, a shoot of vegetation here, a wildflower there.

I like the desert for short periods of time, from inside a car, with the windows rolled up and the doors locked. I prefer beach resorts with room service. But liberals have been in the desert for several years now, and I'm worn out. Some days I hardly know what to pray for. Peace? Well, whatever.

So the morning of my birthday, because I couldn't pray, I did what Matisse once said to do: "I don't know if I believe in God or not.... But the essential thing is to put oneself in a frame of mind which is close to that of prayer." I closed my eyes, and got quiet. I tried to look like Mother Mary, with dreadlocks and a bad back.

But within seconds, I was frantic to turn on the TV. I was in withdrawal-I needed more scolding from Donald Rumsfeld, and more malignant celebration of what everyone agreed, in April 2003, was a great victory for George W. Bush. So we couldn't find those stupid weapons of mass destruction-pick, pick, pick. I didn't turn on the TV. I kept my eyes closed, and breathed. I started to feel crazy, and knew that all I needed was five minutes of CNN. I listened to the birds sing outside, and it was like Chinese water torture, which I am sure we don't say anymore. Then I remembered the weekend when 11 million people in the world marched for peace, how joyful it was to be part of the stirrings of a great movement. My pastor, Veronica, says that peace is joy at rest, and joy is peace on its feet, and I felt both that weekend.

I lay on the floor with my eyes closed for so long that my dog, Lily, came over and worriedly licked me back to life. That cheered me up. "What did you get me for my birthday?" I asked. She started to chew on my head. That helped. Maybe the old left is dead, but after we've rested awhile we can prepare for something new. I don't know who on the left can lead us away from the craziness and barbarity: I'm very confused now. But I know that in the desert, you stay out of the blistering sun. You go out during the early morning, and in the cool of the evening. You seek oasis, shade, safety, refreshment. There's every hue of green, and of gold. But I'm only pretending to think it's beautiful; I find it terribly scary. I walk on eggshells, and hold my breath.

I called Tom back.

He listened quietly. I asked him for some good news.

He thought. "Well," he said finally, "My cactuses are blooming. Last week they were ugly and reptilian, and now they are bursting with red and pink blossoms. They don't bloom every year, so you have to love them while they're here."

"I hate cactuses," I said. "I want to know what to do. Where we even start."

"We start by being kind to ourselves. We breathe, we eat. We remember that God is present wherever people stiffer. God's here with us when we're miserable, and God is there in Iraq. The suffering of innocent people draws God close to them. Kids hit by U.S. bombs are not abandoned by God."

"Well, it sure looks like they were," I said. "It sure looks that way to their parents."

"It also looked like Christ had been abandoned on the cross. It looked like a win for the Romans."

"How do we help? How do we not lose our minds?"

"You take care of the suffering."

"I can't get to Iraq."

"There are folks who are miserable here."

After we got off the phone, I ate a few birthday chocolates. Then I asked God to help me be helpful. It was the first time that day that I felt my prayers were sent, and then received-like e-mail. I tried to cooperate with grace, which is to say, I did not turn on the TV. I asked God to help me again. The problem with God-or at any rate, one of the top five most annoying things about God-is that fie or She rarely answers right away. It can take days, weeks. Some people seem to understand this-that life and change take time. Chou En-lai, when asked, "What do you think of the French Revolution?" paused for a minute-smoking incessantly-then replied, "Too soon to tell." I, on the other hand, am an instant-message type. It took decades for Bush to destroy, the Iraqi army in three weeks.

But I prayed: Help me. And then I drove to the market in silence, to buy my birthday dinner.

I flirted with everyone in the store, especially the old people, and I lightened up. When the checker finished ringing up my items, she looked at my receipt and cried, "Hey! You've won a ham."

I felt blindsided by the news. I had asked for help, not a ham. This was very disturbing. What on earth was I going to do with ten pounds of salty pink eraser? I rarely eat it. It makes you bloat.

"Wow," I said. The checker was so excited about giving it to me that I pretended I was, too.

How great!

A bagger was dispatched to the back of the store to fetch my ham. I stood waiting anxiously. I wanted to go home, so I could start caring for suffering people, or turn on CNN. I almost suggested that the checker award the ham to the next family who paid with food stamps. But for some reason, I waited. If God was giving me a ham, I'd be crazy not to receive it. Maybe it was the ham of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

I waited ten minutes for what I began to think of as "that fucking ham." Finally the bag boy handed me a parcel the size of a cat. I put it with feigned cheer into my grocery cart, and walked to the car, trying to figure out who might need it. I thought about chucking the parcel out the window near a field. I was so distracted that I crashed my cart smack into a slow-moving car in the parking lot.

I started to apologize, when I noticed that the car was a rusty wreck, and that an old friend was at the wheel. We got sober together a long time ago, and each of us had a son at the same time. She has dark black skin and processed hair the color of cooled tar.

She opened her window. "Hey," I said. "How are you-it's my birthday!"

"Happy Birthday," she said, and started crying. She looked drained and pinched, and after a moment, she pointed to her gas gauge. "I don't have money for gas, or food. I've never asked for help from a friend since I got sober, but I'm asking you to help me."

"I've got money," I said.

"No, no, I just need gas," she said. "I've never asked someone for a handout."

"It's not a handout," I told her. "It's my birthday present." I thrust a bunch of money into her hand, everything I had. Then I reached into my shopping cart and held out the ham to her like a clown offering flowers. "Hey!" I said. "Do you and your kids like ham?"

"We love it," she said. "We love it for every meal."

She put it in the seat beside her, firmly, lovingly, as if she were about to strap it in. And she cried some more.

Later, thinking about her, I remembered the seasonal showers in the desert, how potholes in the rocks fill up with rain. When you look later, there are already flogs in the water, and brine shrimp reproducing, like commas doing the macarena; and it seems, but only seems, that you went from parched to overflow in the blink of an eye.


Excerpted from Plan B by anne lamott Copyright © 2005 by Anne Lamott. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely LOVE Anne Lamott. I did NOT love this book. Ususally funny and insightful, this attempt was a departure from her usual writing - whiny, complaining left-wing rhetoric. Unless you hate (her words, not mine) President George Bush and love to hear him slammed repeatedly - and I do mean repeatedly - ad nauseum, in fact, you may find this book shallow and downright boring. I got the fact that she hates the president after about the 100th reference to it - enough already!!! Even the stories, few though they may be, that didn't deal directly with hating the president, were woven with her distaste for the man. Isn't there anything else going on in the world, in life, to comment on? While I appreciate freedom of expression, this would have been infinitely more interesting had she expressed something beyond political opinion - over and over.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a fan of this author,loved Traveling Mercies and Blue Shoe, did not find this book as good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As I read the previous reviews, I thought it important that you hear from 'the other side.' I am a hard-core conservative, evangelical Christian pastor. I love reading Anne Lamott's personal journey books. She is funny, charming, thought-provoking, and sometimes downright irritating. But she makes me wonder if maybe what endears us to God is not our perfection, but rather our imperfection. Perhaps God loves me because of, not in spite of, my warts and blemishes. I don't often agree with her politics, but I adore her heart.
Willa-Wannabee More than 1 year ago
Shane22 More than 1 year ago
No good writing, no interesting stories, nothing to be learned about Jesus. Anne alternates between a few basic story lines: "I hate Bush and that's bad because Christians are supposed to love everyone", "raising a teenager by yourself is really hard", and "hey look at all the interesting and different friends I have (even a Buddhist teaches me about Jesus!)". And to make sure you remember it's a Christian book, she adds a cameo Jesus mention at the end of each story, tries to wrap it up in a little bow while shifting her tone for the take-home part of the story, like the cheesy music at the end of a romantic comedy that makes you think everything will end up swell again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My daughter (22) and I listened to this book on tape while driving 2,000 miles cross-country. We both loved it -- laughed and cried -- I am a very politically liberal Christian and she is not religious, but a writer who appreciates great writing. I LOVED reading reviews from other readers who are very conservative but also loved this book: we can join together in valuing Lamott's wise and funny appreciation of God, her fellow humans (she tries hard to love & forgive Bush in spite of everything), and the strangeness & unpredictablility of our existence.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the only Anne Lamott book I have read and I won't buy another. There were amusing moments but though I am not a Bush fan I am disappointed by the hatred she expresses over and over. How can a professed Christian be so mean spirited?
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book in one day because I couldn't put it down. Each chapter spoke to my heart, mind and soul in a way that's completely Anne Lamott. If you're ever questioning the sanity of life, this book is for you too. A real winner!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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fishgirl More than 1 year ago
I love Anne Lamott and have enjoyed all of her books. This one is no exception. She's witty, honest, and candid.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I though your book was right at the point, but, how can you be a christian and hate at the same time? there is a conflict there. Bush is no fan of minds. I enjoyed the book. keep up the wook.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The fact that Anne Lamott hates Bush as much as she does makes me love her all the more. I am a patriot, a Christian, and a mother, and I think this country has gone far off course with this president. We need writers like Anne Lamott. We need writers who are Christians, and not war hawks and not blindly following anyone who says the 'right' things and then acts in a way that proves the true character. Lamott is one of the important writers of our day. She 'gets it.' I own all her books now, and will buy her next one, too. The only downside for me in reading her work is the awful feeling once I finish one of her books that I'm never going to find anything else that good to read. Keep writing, Anne!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like all Lamott's work this is absolutely gorgeous! Thought provoking, well written, laugh out loud funny and unbearably sad. I'm sorry I finished, I have this book on my bedside table to read again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anne Lamont is an interesting egg, and a tough one to crack. She has an extremely charismatic writing voice - as powerful and utterly captivating as ¿My Fractured Life¿ or ¿The Glass Castle¿. But how she uses that voice is decisively different. Singing to a left wing harmony she writes of a knotted up life, a life that is unpretty and filled with conflict. Subjects range from mid-life hormones to parenting her teenager, all coming full circle to her spiritual search. There is no balance to Lamont¿s writing. It jumps back and forth, up and down like a see-saw. That¿s what makes her odd assembly of essays so utterly captivating. If you enjoyed ¿My Fractured Life¿ and ¿The Glass Castle¿ this is a great compliment.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved Traveling Mercies so I was very excited about this new book. I was highly disappointed with her attitude and her bitterness. I could handle the fact that she is adamently against President Bush however her need to weave that hate into almost every single story she told went a little far. She was so whiny and so angry, I felt uncomfortable reading some of her stories. I felt like her views on what it means to be a Christian are also highly skewed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have found Anne's other books inspiring, heart-warning and very human. Therefore, this book was a tremendous let-down. Although she is still a good craftswoman, in this book she seems to come from a place of anger and bitterness. She doesn't like her weight or her age much, she is happy her mother is dead because her own life is better, she whines because her son is 'mean' to her and doesn't understand her (he is 13!), and she despises G. W. Bush to the extent that he is poisoning her life. This book is definitely not vintage Anne - wry, funny and warm. Too bitter, too petty, too self-obsessed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Annie Lamott is a rare gift to readers. I love her courage, intelligence, honest humor, depth of heart and fine writing talent. Buying her book, I know that I will be alternating between tears and laughter (and sometimes both). I know I will be touched, entertained AND inspired. I pause before the next chapter, knowing that I will be venturing into a different emotion or thought-line than the previous one. Will I read now or be surprised later? So interactive! But most of all, Annie is about heart and love and grace manuvering through this world in our lives and I appreciate sharing the path with her. Great follow-up book to Traveling Mercies (or intro to). P.S. If you are a believer in Bush and will bite off the head of anyone who isn't, you'll be eating this book. Personally, I appreciate her courage to put her truth into the world as a free American human being.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a terrific follow up to her last book, Traveling Mercies. She is just as spiritual, just as funny, and just as real! I laughed out loud throughout the book. A follower of her writing will welcome the updates on Sam and Father Tom. Reader beware..followers of the 'George Bush philosophy' will not find this book at all amusing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There are too many Anne Lamotts in the world, all of them trying hard to be profound while being cute. Perhaps if she ever read Tacitus and Suetonius, who recorded the truly ghastly last days of the Roman Empire, she would not be so defeated by the puerile follies and and stupidities of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and the rest.  Like the Roman Empire the American Empire is on its way out, and certain Roman senators simply went home and quietly opened their veins, so as to get it over with as quickly and quietly as possible. But they were mostly  Stoics.  Anne L and her clones are not Stoics; they are whiney, spoiled to death, middle-class children whose lives have not come up to the level of what they think they deserve, so they take refuge in alcohol, drugs, and self-pity. I hate to think that this woman thinks of herself as a Christian, but it does seem to me, following Kierkegaard's "Attack on Christendom," that the American church is now such a piece of hopeless fluff as not to deserve any commendations whatsoever.  Probably the last serious Christians were the members of the Confessing Church, like Bonhoeffer and Niemoller, who died for their faith in a distinctly non-whiny way under Hitler's regime. Speaking of Nazi Germany, it appears to me completely tragic that American 'Christians' like Lamott seem not to perceive the level of fascism America has now attained to, or the fact that as a totalitarian system, it is now the scourge of the world.  Iraq and Afghanistan are far from being our only victims, just the most recent.  And Goebbel's "Big Lie" is now firmly ensconsed in the American media in all its lying forms.    My advice to Ms. Lamott is to lay down her pen and do something useful in the world, like clean kitchens, scrub toilets, or teach second graders how to sound out words.  Maybe, when she can undo those unbelievably horrible dreadlocks and look around her more clearly, she'll get an idea of how she can be useful at last.