Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son

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Overview

In Some Assembly Required, Anne Lamott enters a new and unexpected chapter of her own life: grandmotherhood.

Stunned to learn that her son, Sam, is about to become a father at nineteen, Lamott begins a journal about the first year of her grandson Jax's life.

In careful and often hilarious detail, Lamott and Sam-about whom she first wrote so movingly in Operating Instructions-struggle to balance their changing roles with the demands of college ...

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Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son

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Overview

In Some Assembly Required, Anne Lamott enters a new and unexpected chapter of her own life: grandmotherhood.

Stunned to learn that her son, Sam, is about to become a father at nineteen, Lamott begins a journal about the first year of her grandson Jax's life.

In careful and often hilarious detail, Lamott and Sam-about whom she first wrote so movingly in Operating Instructions-struggle to balance their changing roles with the demands of college and work, as they both forge new relationships with Jax's mother, who has her own ideas about how to raise a child. Lamott writes about the complex feelings that Jax fosters in her, recalling her own experiences with Sam when she was a single mother. Over the course of the year, the rhythms of life, death, family, and friends unfold in surprising and joyful ways.

By turns poignant and funny, honest and touching, Some Assembly Required is the true story of how the birth of a baby changes a family-as this book will change everyone who reads it.

                    How My Mother Taught Me to Grandmother
                           by Anne Lamott

My son adored my mother, who was a handful, believe me. She was from Liverpool, which I believe explains all of her most annoying, argumentative tendencies. (I attend twelve-step meetings for the children of the English.) Her real name was Dorothy, which she hated, and when her father died when she was ten, she reinvented herself as Nikki, the name of a popular girl on 1930s English radio.
 My brothers and I called her Dot to tease her. She was at her best when being teased, swatting at us and squawking like an injured but good-natured crow. She actually loved being teased: it meant you were loved, in spite of it all.
 She was always quite plump and wore any old, odd clothes and-sorry, Mom-slapped on loud makeup every morning. Other mothers kept their weight down and dressed with 1960s style and youthful makeup. To us, compared with our
 mother, all the other mothers looked like Jean Shrimpton.

And she could be simultaneously pleased with herself and angry, in that English way, like a Monty Python character who might suddenly stab you with a passion fruit.
 My son was the first grandchild in our family. Mom chose her grandma name, Nana, when I was a few months pregnant. I started calling her Nana most of the time, unless I was trying to show my love by calling her Dot-caw, caw.
 She and Sam both had huge brown eyes and shiny dark hair. They played together often at her studio apartment and at a postage-stamp-sized beach nearby. He did not find it annoying when she insisted on wearing sweaters
 during heat waves or asking for a bite of his bacon. He didn't mind that she would argue with me when we were all together. A typical opening salvo from her might be, "But Jack and Bobby Kennedy were great," as if I didn't also
 feel this way. It made me want to choke her to death. Sam just thought she was funny.

She became sick with Alzheimer's in her last few years and died in 2001, when Sam was twelve, really still a boy, bashing branches against riverbeds and trapping spiders. He was matter-of-fact about her death: she'd gotten to stay in her apartment with her cat until the end, she hadn't appeared to know she was dying, and she'd had us. Sam seemed to be saying, "We should all be so lucky."

I was sad for her, and for Sam, her friends, and me, but to be honest, my life was much easier after her passing, as I no longer had to be a mother to both a prepubescent and a seventy-seven-year-old Englishwoman. And a brand-new relationship with her began to blossom. Her absence provided the breathing space for us to connect beyond our aggravating, codependent history together. I fell in love.

I saw past her faults to her stunning intelligence, saw past her annoying insisted-upon habits to her beautiful bleeding-heart character and lifelong activism on behalf of the underdog, saw past the strange clothes and bad makeup to the immigrant heart of a girl from Liverpool whose father died so young.

I looked forward to funny little moments of contact, through the smells of beaches and yeasty Danish pastries.
 Seven years later Sam had a child, my grandson, Jax, who also has huge brown eyes and dark hair, like his daddy and his great-grandmother.
My mother had not cared that I was single and broke when I had my child at thirty-five, because she just wanted to get her mitts on that kid, and she would not have cared about Sam's being so young when he became a father, for the same reason.
So I tried not to, either. Okay, maybe I had a tiny position with Sam's age-nineteen-but mostly I just wanted to get my mitts on that kid, too.
 The only important question was: What did I want Jax to call me one day? My rather cold paternal grandmother had been "Grandma," which is what conservative politicians call all older women. And my senile mother's mother had
 been "Nanny," which is a great name, but for a while I wondered if maybe I should meet the little guy first. Instead I picked my grandma nomenclature when Jax's mother was about four months along, maybe three. Never mind, it's
 all coming back: it was a month and a half. I chose "Nana."
 I wanted to honor my mother, even though she had driven me crazy for most of the forty-seven years we spent together on this earth. I wanted to honor how much Sam and she had loved each other, how ecstatic she'd been
 about his arrival, although circumstances had not been ideal. But more than anything, I wanted to think about her many times a day, because she was my mother. She put calamine lotion on my stings and rashes when I was little,
 and blew on my skin gently to cool me off. She read Little Women to me and taught me to make meringues dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with slivered almonds. She went to law school when I turned fourteen. She loved
 the first stories I began to write. She lived to play with my son.

Sam's love for my mother gave her to me, and Jax's love for my son gave Sam to all of us. So I'll hear a piece of music my mother and I loved together-Mozart, or a union song, or Judy Collins, or Ella Fitzgerald-and my heart shimmies for a few seconds as I think, "Mom, listen!" And we smile.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year (1993), Lamott humorously and poignantly chronicled the sometimes painful, often joyful ups and downs of raising her son, Sam, as a single mother. Twenty years later, when Sam announces that he is going to become a father, Lamott is stunned, disappointed, overjoyed, and hopeful. Much as she did in her reflections on Sam’s first year, she and Sam chronicle her grandson Jax’s birth and all of the tremendous anxieties and life-altering events that it brings. Throughout this first year of being a grandmother, Lamott lives by two slogans: “‘Figure it out’ is not a good option,” and “Ask and allow—ask God, and allow grace in.” Through e-mails, interviews, and letters, Lamott and Sam sort out the difficulties and pleasures of raising a child, but Lamott devotes the bulk of the journal to sorting out her own feelings of love, anger, bewilderment, and happiness. She observes that her son and his son share deep powers of observation and focus, though as a baby Sam was more edgy in his watchfulness and Jax has a sturdy, calm quality. She learns that her job is simply to help keep Jax safe, support his explorations, and not have a complete collapse all the time from loving someone so deeply. Lamott’s insights into grandmotherhood are hardly profound or startling, but her canny ability to see the extraordinary in the ordinary with wit and irreverence makes for an entertaining ride through Jax’s first year. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
“[Lamott’s] crisp writing and self-deprecating honesty ring charmingly true.”

People

“[Some Assembly Required is] full of Lamott’s trademark neurotic spirituality, and it’s one Lamott’s fans will want.”

The Washington Post

“Wonderful . . . [with] Lamott’s trademark sharp wit and self-deprecating humor . . . Like so many of Lamott’s books, [Some Assembly Required] leaves readers with new insights.”

—The Associated Press

“[Lamott’s] typical combination of astuteness and wit . . . As always, Lamott’s ‘raggedy faith’ is central to her, and whether you share her concerns or not, you appreciate her candor.”

—NPR

“The story of one year in a woman’s life, a year that happens to include the arrival of a blanket-bundled gift for Lamott and her longtime readers.”

San Francisco Chronicle

“[Some Assembly Required] highlights the trademark humor we've come to expect from Lamott, with laugh-out-loud one-liners that are both self-deprecating and wise … a welcome addition in the larger Gospel of Lamott.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Funny, insightful, irreverent…filled with humor and the author's quirky faith…Bound to do for grandmothers what the earlier book did for mothers — bring them insight and sanity in the midst of chaos.”
The Denver Post

“Anne Lamott’s singular gift for bringing readers into the intimate circle of her life flows effortlessly in this new memoir, mixing the absurd and sublime with her usual alchemical genius…you’ll be seduced by the darkly comic tone, self-deprecating wit, and relentless honesty; she somehow makes the bumps and joys of her life intensely relatable. She can capture the bliss and beauty of tiny emotional events in a few perfect words, then skewer her own worst impulses with brutal hilarity.”
Bust Magazine   

Library Journal
A best-selling author of fiction and nonfiction, Lamott again touches affectingly on personal issues, here recounting learning that her 19-year-old son, Sam, would soon become a father and then detailing the first year of grandson Jax. Great for Lamott fans and other gentle souls.
Kirkus Reviews
Being a grandparent is harder than it looks. Such is Lamott's (Imperfect Birds, 2010, etc.) message in this angst-ridden, occasionally neurotic diary of her grandson's first year. After gaining a large audience for Operating Instructions (1993), which chronicled her son Sam's first year of life, the author sets out to do the same after Sam became a father at age 19. Sam and erstwhile girlfriend Amy are parents to a healthy baby boy named Jax. In nearly daily entries, Lamott shares details of her life beginning with Jax's first full day after birth. Filled with a variety of characters--Sam, the young father in over his head; Amy, the beautiful mother whose strength Lamott seems to envy; Jax, the almost-perfect baby; various friends and family--the book is mostly about the author and her seething river of insecurities and anxieties. At nearly every turn, Lamott comes up with some new thing to worry about, a new facet of herself to loathe or a new characteristic of those close to her to deride and belittle. She struggles constantly with boundaries as a grandmother, and she bemoans her lack of control over situations. Another source of near-constant anxiety is the prospect of Amy moving away with Jax. Other fears are less grounded in reality: "I have these morbid, terrifying fantasies--but I had the same ones before Jax was born, that the baby would die and Sam would commit suicide." Eventually readers will grow tired of the author's angst, self-doubt and general negativity. A pale companion piece to Operation Instructions.
Yvonne Zipp
This is a kindly book, full of Lamott's trademark neurotic spirituality, and it's one Lamott's fans will want, because they've watched Sam grow up through her memoirs and her column in Salon.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594488412
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/20/2012
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,393,284
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 0.95 (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; Traveling Mercies; and Operating Instructions, as well as several novels, including Imperfect Birds, Rosie and Crooked Little Heart. A past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an inductee to the California Hall of Fame, she lives in northern California.

Sam Lamott is an inventor, designer, entrepreneur, and artist who lives in San Francisco.

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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
( 21 )
Rating Distribution

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(12)

4 Star

(2)

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(4)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 21 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2012

    Not a guide

    Some parts quite interesting grandma stuff. Then a very long drawn out story about her trip to India. I am bored to tears by page 90! I was intigued to pay $12.99 after hearing great interview with author! I will borrow from library before purchasing her other books. Dissapointed.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2012

    Sweet Book

    - What drew me to this book was the photo of the small baby foot. This book is as sweet as it’s covers and follows the year adventure of author Anne Lamott as she prepares for her first grandson.
    This book is a joy to read, Lamott shares the highs and lows as a new grandmother as she navigates a fine balance between being close to her grandson and not interfering into her son’s life.
    Lamott also shares her own odyssey of self discover as she travels to India to find inner peace and divine inspiration. The book is written in a diary form, so the reader feels like it is gaining direct access to the personal thoughts of the writer.
    I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to gain hope and inspiration of the beauty of life and reaffirm the maxim “that children are living messengers to a world we will never see.”

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 19, 2012

    a lovely story

    After reading snippets of this story in various magazines, I read the whole book. While not altogether a happy saga, it is very satisfying, and almost painfully revealing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2012

    Another Anne Lamott Favorite!

    Some Assembly Required bring out more of the Anne Lamott that you love. Her insecurities and thoughts - those we may all have but not put into writing. Enjoyable because it is so real and rings so true.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2012

    Sweet, beautifully written with humor and love. Ms Lamott writes

    Sweet, beautifully written with humor and love. Ms Lamott writes with such a human touch, I feel like she is talking to me and understanding what my heart is saying. A great instruction manual for grandmothers!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2012

    A good read

    Another good story. Grandmotherhood is an interesting role and Anne has captured some of the complexities.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2013

    Just as great as operating instructions!

    Loved this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2013

    Magik

    Thanks."

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2013

    Hawkeye

    Looks at Darcy. "Ello."

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2013

    Stark

    Sure. Go ahead. Not that there's many others here.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2012

    Okay

    I've only skimmed the book.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 9, 2012

    Simply Anne

    If you like Lamott you will enjoy this on going foray into her life as a grandmother. It has tidbits of wisdom, reminders for those already grandparents to let it go, and a warning to those yet to reach grandparenthood, it is grand but there are heart wrenches along the way. A nice read.

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    Posted January 18, 2013

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