Despite--or because of--her irreverence, faith is a natural subject for Anne Lamott. Since Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird, her fans have been waiting for her to write the book that explained how she came to the big-hearted, grateful, generous faith that she so often alluded to in her two earlier nonfiction books. The people in Anne Lamott's real life are like beloved characters in a favorite series for her readers--her friend Pammy, her son, Sam, and the many funny and wise folks who attend her church are all familiar. And Traveling Mercies is a welcome return to those lives, as well as an introduction to new companions Lamott treats with the same candor, insight, and tenderness.
Lamott's faith isn't about easy answers, which is part of what endears her to believers as well as nonbelievers. Against all odds, she came to believe in God and then, even more miraculously, in herself. As she puts it, "My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers." At once tough, personal, affectionate, wise, and very funny, Traveling Mercies tells in exuberant detail how Anne Lamott learned to shine the light of faith on the darkest part of ordinary life, exposing surprising pockets of meaning and hope.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Edition description:||First Anchor Books Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Date of Birth:1954
Place of Birth:San Francisco, California
Education:Attended Goucher College in Maryland before dropping out to write
Read an Excerpt
My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another. Like lily pads, round and green, these places summoned and then held me up while I grew. Each prepared me for the next leaf on which I would land, and in this way I moved across the swamp of doubt and fear. When I look back at some of these early resting places--the boisterous home of the Catholics, the soft armchair of the Christian Science mom, adoption by ardent Jews--I can see how flimsy and indirect a path they made. Yet each step brought me closer to the verdant pad of faith on which I somehow stay afloat today.
That One Ridiculous Palm
The railroad yard below our house was ringed in green, in grass and weeds and blackberry bushes and shoulder-high anise plants that smelled and tasted of licorice; this wreath of green, like a cell membrane, contained the tracks and the trains and the roundhouse, where engines were repaired. The buildings rose up out of the water on the other side of the bay, past Angel Island, past Alcatraz. You could see the Golden Gate Bridge over to the right behind Belvedere, where the richer people lived; the anise was said to have been brought over at the turn of the century by the Italians who gardened for the people of Belvedere.
Tiburon, where I grew up, used to be a working-class town where the trains still ran. Now mostly wealthy people live here. It means shark in Spanish, and there are small sharks in these parts. My father and shy Japanese fishermen used to catch leopard sharks in the cold green waters of the bay.
There was one palm tree at the western edge of the railroad yard, next to the stucco building of the superintendent--one tall incongruous palm tree that we kids thought was very glamorous but that the grown-ups referred to as "that ridiculous palm tree." It did not belong, was not in relationship to anything else in town. It was silent and comical, like Harpo Marx with a crazy hat of fronds.
We took our underpants off for older boys behind the blackberry bushes. They'd give us things--baseball cards, Sugar Babies. We chewed the stems off the anise plants and sucked on them, bit the ends off nasturtiums and drank the nectar.
When I was five and six, my best friend was a Catholic girl who lived about fifteen minutes away, on foot, from our house--kids walked alone all over town back then. I loved the Catholic family desperately. There were dozens of children in that family, or maybe it just felt that way, babies everywhere, babies crawling out from under sofas like dust bunnies. We only had three kids in our family; my brother John, who is two years older than me and didn't like me very much back then, and my brother Stevo, who is five years younger than me, whom I always adored, and who always loved me. My mother nursed him discreetly, while the Catholic mother wore each new baby on her breasts like a brooch. The Catholic mama was tall and gorgeous and wore heels to church and lots of makeup, like Sophia Loren, and she had big bosoms that she showed off in stylish V-necked dresses from the Sears catalog. My mother was not much of a dresser. Also, she was short, and did not believe in God. She was very political, though; both she and Dad were active early on in the civil rights movement. My parents and all their friends were yellow-dog Democrats, which is to say that they would have voted for an old yellow dog before they would have voted for a Republican.
I was raised by my parents to believe that you had a moral obligation to try to save the world. You sent money to the Red Cross, you registered people to vote, you marched in rallies, stood in vigils, picked up litter. My mother used to take the Greyhound out to Marin City, which was a terrible ghetto then, and volunteer in an after-school program for boys and girls from impoverished families. She tutored kids in reading while other grown-ups worked with them in sports. My mother majored in the classics in college. She always brought along little paper candy cups filled with the fanciest candies from Blum's or the City of Paris to give to the children after their lessons. It used to make my father mad that she'd buy such expensive candies, but this didn't stop her.
My Catholic friend and I used to spend hours sitting on the couch with the latest Sears catalog spread across our knees, pretending that we got whatever was on our side of the page. I played this game with anxiety and grief, always thinking that the better dresses and shoes were on my friend's pages and that I would have been OK if they had just been on mine--and if I'd had her tall stylish mother, with the wonderful cleavage showing like the bottom of a baby in her low necklines. I knew I was not pretty because people were always making jokes about my looks. (Once, at a pizza joint, a stranger had included me in a collective reference to the Catholic children, and you would have thought from the parents' outrage that he had included a chimpanzee.) And I knew I was not OK because I got teased a lot by strangers or by big boys for having hair that was fuzzy and white. Also, I got migraines. I got my first one midway through kindergarten and had to lie down with my face on the cool linoleum in the back of the room until my father could come get me.
My friend and I gathered blackberries from the bushes in the train yard, and her mother made pies. She made apple pies too. We peeled each apple with precision, aiming for one long green spiral of peel, and my first memory of watching someone be beaten was on a night after we'd prepared apples for pie. My Catholic friend and I had been left with a baby-sitter and all those babies, and after we had sliced up and spiced the apples, we'd gone to bed without throwing out all those green snakes of peel, and I awoke with a start in the middle of the night because my friend's father was smacking her on the face and shoulders, fuming alcohol breath on the two of us in our one twin bed, raging that we were slobs, and I don't know how he knew to beat her instead of me because I don't remember there being any light on. We both cried in the dark, but then somehow we slept and in the morning when we woke the mother was frying up bacon, a baby slung over her shoulder, and the dad was happy and buoyant, thunderous in his praise of the pie now in the oven.
It was Sunday morning and I got to go to church with them. All the children got dressed up. The parents looked like movie stars, so handsome and young, carrying babies, shepherding the bigger kids, smooching in the car.
I loved every second of Catholic church. I loved the sickly sweet rotting-pomegranate smells of the incense. I loved the overwrought altar, the birdbath of holy water, the votive candles; I loved that there was a poor box, and the stations of the cross rendered in stained glass on the windows. I loved the curlicue angels in gold paint on the ceiling; I loved the woman selling holy cards. I loved the slutty older Catholic girls with their mean names, the ones with white lipstick and ratted hair that reeked of Aqua Net. I loved the drone of the priest intoning Latin. All that life surrounding you on all four sides plus the ceiling--it was like a religious bus station. They had all that stuff holding them together, and they got to be so conceited because they were Catholics.
Looking back on the God my friend believed in, he seems a little erratic, not entirely unlike her father--God as borderline personality. It was like believing in the guy who ran the dime store, someone with a kind face but who was always running behind and had already heard every one of your lame excuses a dozen times before--why you didn't have a receipt, why you hadn't noticed the product's flaw before you bought it. This God could be loving and reassuring one minute, sure that you had potential, and then fiercely disappointed the next, noticing every little mistake and just in general what a fraud you really were. He was a God whom his children could talk to, confide in, and trust, unless his mood shifted suddenly and he decided instead to blow up Sodom and Gomorrah.
My father's folks had been Presbyterian missionaries who raised their kids in Tokyo, and my father despised Christianity. He called Presbyterians "God's frozen people." My mother went to midnight mass on Christmas Eve at the Episcopal church in town, but no one in our family believed in God--it was like we'd all signed some sort of loyalty oath early on, agreeing not to believe in God in deference to the pain of my father's cold Christian childhood. I went to church with my grandparents sometimes and I loved it. It slaked my thirst. But I pretended to think it was foolish, because that pleased my father. I lived for him. He was my first god.
My mother and her twin sister had come over from Liverpool with their mother after their father died, when they were twelve. My mother had a lifelong compassion for immigrants; she used to find people waiting for boats to their homeland or waiting for money to be wired from the East so that they could catch a bus home, and she'd bring them to stay with us until everything was straightened out. She and my aunt Pat had been confirmed as Episcopalians in England--I have their confirmation picture on my mantel, two dark-haired beauties of twelve or so in long white baptismal-style dresses. But that was the last of their religious affiliation. My aunt Pat married a Jew, with a large Jewish family in tow, but they were not really into Moses Jews; they were bagelly Jews. My closest cousin was bar mitzvahed, but other than accusing you of anti-Semitism if you refused second helpings of my uncle Millard's food, they might as well have been Canadians.
None of the adults in our circle believed. Believing meant that you were stupid. Ignorant people believed, uncouth people believed, and we were heavily couth. My dad was a writer, and my parents were intellectuals who went to the Newport Jazz festival every year for their vacation and listened to Monk and Mozart and the Modern Jazz Quartet. Everyone read all the time. Mt. Tamalpais loomed above us, and we hiked her windy trails many weekends, my dad with binoculars hanging around his neck because he was a serious bird-watcher. He worshiped in the church of Allen Ginsberg, at the Roger Tory Peterson Holiness Temple, the Tabernacle of Miles Davis.
We were raised to believe in books and music and nature. My mother played the piano most weekend nights, and all of us kids knew the words to almost every song in the Fireside Book of Folk Songs. When my parents' friends came over on the weekends and everyone had a lot to drink, my mother played piano and everyone sang: English ballads, spirituals, union songs, "The Golden Vanity," "Joe Hill," "Bread and Roses."
Table of Contents
|Overture: Lily Pads||3|
|1||Mountain, Valley, Sky|
|Knocking on Heaven's Door||59|
|2||Church, People, Steeple|
|Why I Make Sam Go to Church||99|
|4||Kids, Some Sick|
|5||Body and Soul|
|7||Shore and Ground|
|A Man Who Was Mean to His Dog||247|
|Into Thin Mud||257|
Reading Group Guide
The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your reading of Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies. We hope that they will suggest a variety of ways to talk about this delightful and moving story of one woman's journey in faith.
1. Lamott explains, "My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another....Yet each step brought me closer to the ample verdant pad of faith on which I somehow stay afloat today" (3). Yet on page 51 she notes that there was a actually a moment of "conversion." How would you describe the process by which she came to religion? Is there necessarily a spiritual component to emerging from an addiction?
2. Lamott writes of her parents and their friends, "they were fifties Cheever people, with their cocktails and affairs" (10). Is this the reason for Anne's powerful girlhood desire to escape her family and to be "adopted" by the mothers of her friends? Judging from the evidence she offers in the section called "Lily Pads," what was lacking in her own home that she needed?
3. In her earlier book Operating Instructions, Lamott explored the enormous changes that the birth of a child brings to a woman's life. What do you think of her decision, after terminating an earlier pregnancy, to have this baby on her own, and what do you think of the response of the people at St. Andrew's? What does Traveling Mercies tell us about the role of of community in raising children? How does it expand our notions of what a family is?
4. What particular challenges does raising a child bring to Lamott's life as a Christian? How does she handle some of the crises of maternal decision-making, such as the episode of Sam's desire to go paragliding on his seventh birthday?
5. Lamott writes, "Families are definitely the training ground for forgiveness--when you can forgive your family, you can learn to pardon anyone" (223), and "Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a different past" (217). Do you agree with these two statements? Why is forgiveness so important in spiritual life?
6. If Lamott had not been an alcoholic, do you think she would eventually have found faith anyway? Is coming to faith a matter of fate for certain people, or is there a large element of chance involved?
7. At several moments in this story Anne Lamott speaks of the events she is describing as miraculous. What is a miracle? How does she take the miraculous out of the realm of the extraordinary and return it to common life? What is the effect, for you, of her doing so?
8. Of her spirituality before becoming a Christian, Lamott writes, "Mine was a patchwork God, sewn together from bits of rag and ribbon, Eastern and Western, pagan and Hebrew, everything but the kitchen sink and Jesus" (42). Do you find that, even after her conversion and formal baptism, her approach to Christianity is unorthodox? What do you think of her continued unwillingness to exclude the wisdom of other religions?
9. What rituals, celebrations, and memorial occasions are most significant in this story? Why are such occasions necessary in our lives?
10. Consider the structure of this memoir. What decisions has Lamott made in consciously shaping the story of her own life? What does she leave out? Are the choices a writer makes in writing autobiography different from those in writing fiction?
11. Anne Lamott gives the work of other writers an important role in Traveling Mercies. Verses of poetry or excerpts of prose are placed at the beginning of each of the book's seven parts, and the book as a whole opens with a poem by W. S. Merwin. How do these other voices contribute to what Lamott is trying to share with her readers? Which of these additional voices did you find most moving, most resonant?
12. Anne Lamott gives the work of other writers an important role in Traveling Mercies. Lamott is often preoccupied with her aging body and the cultural expectations of beauty. When she is worrying about whether a certain dress makes her hips look too big, her dying friend Pammy remarks, "Annie, you really don't have that kind of time" (239). Why is this such an important insight for Lamott? What sort of resolve is necessary to step away from the desire to be physically beautiful in contemporary American culture?
13. What role does Pammy play in Lamott's life? How does one adjust to losing a friend to cancer? How does Lamott arrive at the crucial insight that we should live joyfully in the face of death?
14. What is amusing about Lamott's efforts to impress upon her son Sam the importance of Ash Wednesday? Do you think that she was right in taking Sam to the ceremony upon the death of their friends' baby? How and when we should try to initiate children into the painful issue of our mortality?
15. What do you find most appealing about Anne Lamott's voice as a writer? Which aspects of her character do you most and least identify with?
16. What is the relationship between humor and faith in Anne Lamott's life? Is humor a necessary component of faith?
17. Why is community so important in Anne Lamott's life as a Christian? Is there a qualitative difference in a spirituality that is primarily private, and one that is part of an ongoing commitment to a group of fellow believers?
Talking with Anne Lamott
Q: In Traveling Mercies you are extremely successful at communicating the everyday occurrences of spirituality. But you write the book as a Christian. Did you write it for Christians? How universal is your God?
A: My God is so universal that it's mind-blowing. I just wrote it for everybody. I mean, I happen to be a Christian, but I know that there is one God. People worshipping goodness and love and kindness and truth are worshipping the same God. I didn't write it as a Christian treatise. God knows, I have never had an interesting theological thought or position, so there aren't any in the book. It's really about God, you know, goodness, kindness, a power greater than ourselves. I happen to be a devout, born-again Christian, so what are you going to do?
Q: You're talking about the goodness of God. There are times in the book where miracles occur. You talk about your recovery from bulimia as a miracle, and there's an incredible scene where you and your son Sam are in the sea surrounded by hundreds of dolphins, which also seems like a miracle. Do you remember having moments like that, great, good moments, before you found God? Once you found God, how did the meaning of those moments change?
A: First of all, I always believed in God. As a young child I believed in God. I wasn't a Christian until I was 31. I'm going to be 45 soon. I always believed that there was more here than met the eye, and that there was something bigger and more tender behind the scenes, which even as a young child I experienced as not being very tender or very coherent, or certainly not very touching.
I became a Christian before I got sober, so I certainly had a lot of druggie times, times on psychedelics and in the morning after a long cocaine or methedrine binge, where the world shimmered with a kind of light. But it was not always there for very long, and it didn't really hold up to much scrutiny, because it was probably chemical in nature, or else I was tapping into another world or another plane of existence or something. But because I converted before I stopped taking drugs, I had this wonderful year or so of believing in God, in really having a personal connection with God, and at the same time being stoned a lot. It was wonderful, because I sort of tripped out a lot on me and God, like it was Casper the Friendly Ghost, and we were kind of together at dawn taking cocaine or whatever I happened to be using that day.
But since I got sober and clean, which was 1986, I have seen what I would call miracles, not in the Medujigore sense or Lourdes sense but in the sense of things happening that really simply couldn't, that were just too good to imagine happening. I was so stuck in my bulimia. I was so locked into the obsessive madness and grip of an eating disorder and distorted body image that I believed I could never get free, and I had tried everything. Then, all of a sudden, it was lifted. I eat like a pretty normal person; I stay about the same, and I don't binge and I don't purge. I know I couldn't get to there from where I was, so I feel like something lifted me up and carried me.
Q:Where is religion when there is no hardship? What role does it play in a life where trouble isn't looming or knocking on the door?
A: I think that trouble's looming in most lives. I don't think drugs and alcohol and bulimia are any tougher than what most people are dealing with who are not addict types. Life is really pretty tricky, and there's a lot of loss, and the longer you stay alive, the more people you lose whom you actually couldn't live without. I don't know a life that I would say is easy on the inside. I know lots of people who are not addicts who have lots of money and happy marriages or seemingly happy marriages. I would say these lives are very hard and very frightening. It's terrifying to be a human on the earth, to give your heart over so entirely to a few people, and to take the risk of losing them. So I don't know those lives that you describe. I think that when things are going very well, when you're on a roll, you know that it will pass and that there's another side coming, because that's the nature of life; but that it's really easy to believe in God, to feel very blessed, and to have a great deal of faith and confidence that one is safe and protected beyond all imagining, because I think that's our reality. That's another thing I hope to do in the book: to help people understand how really safe they are, how really protected and loved and chosen they are, as seen through this one woman's perspective.
Q: Sam is growing up with much more of a formal spiritual life than you did.
A: Or more of an at-home one, because I found it in other homes.
Q: Do you think that he won't find faith because it's been handed to him on a platter?
A: That life hasn't been handed to him on a platter, though, is the point. He's been raised in a religious house, and he assumes that the Jesus stuff is true the way he assumes that gravity is going to hold up over time. I believe that he will leave the church and leave Christianity for a time, and I don't know if he will come back. I assume that like most healthy kids, he will have to reject a lot of it, if not most of it. But he has had unbelievable challenges in his life. He has had unimaginable loss. He has had several people that he absolutely adores die already. That's what I mean: Nobody gets off easy here. We have a very tiny house, these ratty, used pets, and it's all kind of funky here. But you take a gorgeous child in a very affluent, privileged home, with parents and a healthy, committed marriage, and you can't make a case for the fact that this child is having an easy time of it. It's just hard.
Q: A funny line in the book comes when one of the mothers says that Sam doesn't seem to like schoolwork very much, and you write that you want to scream, "No, but he makes inventions, you dumb slut, out of garbage. While your kid is an obsequious little Type A suck." This isn't what people usually think of when they think of born-again Christians. Has anyone reacted negatively to the spirituality you represent?
A: The people at my church don't sound like that either, I want to make it clear. They're all really lovely and soft-spoken good people. I can only tell the truth in my own voice. I can only tell the truth as I understand the directive inside me to do that. Part of what I have to offer is that I can be funny, and I can take this stuff that there's usually a lot of hush and reverence around and do my take on it. For you to say that it doesn't sound like a born-again Christian -- we would all agree with that, because born-again Christians seem to be part of the Moral Majority. The right wing in America has appropriated the Bible and its teachings for its own political purposes, but it doesn't have to do with what's real.
Q: In the book you say that you're "probably about three months away from slapping an aluminum Jesus-fish" on the back of your car. Have you done it yet?
A: Oh, this is so awful, this is going to make no one ever buy my books again. It's going to show what a fly-by-night, watery faith I have, but I did put a Jesus fish on our very old, funky Volkswagen convertible. I put a fish on because someone sent me one. I didn't actually have to go buy it, which would have put me over the edge, to sneak into the Christian general store to buy one. Then, see, cheap slut that I am, when I was trying to sell the car, I took it off. I thought, Only Christians will want this car. Then I thought, I'm like Peter when the cock crows three times, and all three times he denies ever having heard of Jesus: "No, no, I don't think so.... No, never heard of the guy...." And the car didn't sell. I should probably go buy another one.
Hilary Liftin is the coauthor of Dear Exile, due out this spring.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'm a college freshman who was required to read this book for my freshman seminar class, and it absolutely blew me away. The writing style, humor, depth, and honesty hooked me early and held me until I finished. This book isn't pretty; but it makes you think, and it leaves you feeling good, and more importantly, thinking. I strongly recommend this book to anyone looking for a new perspective on faith.
Although this is the second time reading this book, I do not get tired of it. It is the first of three books that seem to comprise a trilogy of sorts,regarding Ms. Lamott's life. This author uplifts without preaching. Although I am not a fiction fan, since reading her autobiographical books,I have been so entranced with her style of prose,that I bought all of her novels. They did not disappoint. Ann Lamott uses humor to get her through life's large and small tribulations,of which there are many,some self-inflicted,some merely everyday bumps in the road of life. I cannot say enough about Ann Lamott. I think everyone can identify with some part of this book. I highly recommend this as a must read. When you are done with "Traveling Mercies", read the second and third books in this quasi series, "Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith" and "Grace Eventually".
Anne opens up and lets you inside her life, the good, bad and ugly.
When talking about her books she wrote somewhere "I try to write the books I would love to come upon, that are honest, concerned with real lives, human hearts, spiritual transformation, families, secrets, wonder, craziness - and that can make me laugh. When I am reading a book like this, I feel rich and profoundly relieved to be in the presence of someone who will share the truth with me, and throw the lights on a little, and I try to write these kinds of books. Books, for me, are medicine." She accomplished her goal. Great Medicine! cured me of several maladies ;-)
As usual, Anne Lamott never seems to disappoint. This is the third of her books that I have read, and I still can't get over the way she writes -- as so many people have said already, reading her work is akin to having a deep conversation with an old friend (or a new friend who instantly feels as though she's always been a part of your life). If you're anything like me, you won't be able to help yourself from laughing out loud, as well as shedding a few tears of empathy, because all of us can relate in some way to her tales of both triumph and woe. I would, however, like to point out to Christian believers that her understanding of spirituality is a bit off at times and she has a tendency to use strong language. Nevertheless, you will find many positive insights in her writing as long as you keep an open mind (just remember to keep the ol' filter turned on). And if you enjoy Lamott's style of open, honest writing, check out Donald Miller's book, 'Blue Like Jazz.' He is also an excellent author and, like Lamott, has a way of slipping into your unconsciousness until you are sure that you and he would be instant best friends should you ever meet.
Anne Lamott is an amusing writer with insightful appreciation of everyday occurrences. If not for the extended description of an early life spent on drugs, alcohol, and multiple sexual partners, I could have read this book like an Erma Bombeck or Dave Barry book. But if you are looking for strong reasons to affirm your faith in God, you need to look elsewhere.
Substance: Lamott's account of her childhood and adult life exemplify the gospel accounts of Jesus's interactions with people greatly in need of his succor. As with C. S. Lewis, despite great differences in their personalities and circumstances, she was truly "surprised by joy" and invited Christ into her life with some reluctance, thereafter struggling to make sense of salvation and grace, as a work in progress. Full of insightful ruminations on living with Christ in your face, as it were. Traditional Christians will cringe at the doctrine, but I imagine the followers of the mortal Christ also concerned themselves more with the practical aspects of his teachings than with the theological niceties. As he often said, no one ever really understood what he was telling them. The phrase "Traveling mercies" is used by members of her church as a blessing on each other.Style: Engaging, personal narrative; frank and intimate. Excellent descriptive passages and honed rhetoric.
This is one of my favorite books, and I'm always a little disappointed when I've passed it on to a friend and she doesn't like it as much. Anne Lamott is an unconventional Christian, but considering the unconventional background, it fits her. I always felt like she was honest in her writing, and I loved her humor. I could relate to the ups and downs of her search for a faith.
I absolutely loved this book. I felt that Anne Lamott had invited me into her home for a cup of tea and while she wrapped me around a quilt that she had knit herself, shared her thoughts and stories on spirituality, life, her son, and herself. It's a warm account of her life, her faith, her friends and everything that matters to her. She did a brilliant job capturing the magic that makes her spiritual and how it is infused in her everyday life. The writing is superb, top-notch, and her book is elegantly structured with essays beautifully tied together like the quilt I had mentioned before. Once in a while, one gets quite saddened that a book is about to end, that a voice is about to close, and that is how I felt when I read the last page. I¿ve been reading many spiritual memoirs lately, and this is one of the best thus far.
I loved this book, and the Author Anne Lamott. Her tender kindness, her anger & jealousy, the total package that is herand very real, but always striving to be a better person. Very helpful book for me this past week.
I love this book and read it several times. Twoghies didn't. What the hell is wrong with these people? Hippy alcoholic drug addicted single-mother finds Jesus - what's not to love?
this is the first book i've read by Anne Lamott and i really liked it. she writes with great faith, spirit and humor, of life and death, forgiveness and hope. i really enjoyed this. give it a shot if you like Christian/faith books or just want a good laugh as well.
Her honesty was startling and comforting at the same time. She really made me think, and I like that in a book.
The book is not about your conventional spiritual journey because Anne Lamott is anything but conventional. She writes with a directness and honesty that makes this book intense and involving but also very funny. She grew up in an unconventional family and struggled with drugs, alcohol, and eating disorders before realizing that she might not live much longer if she continued on that path. In addition, she found herself pregnant and single. If there is ever a time when you need a spiritual awakening, it would be then. And Lamott found her spiritual home in a Christian church where she was "adopted" by the old African-American women of the congregation. Her stumbling toward a faith that works for her is the heart of this book, and I think it is all the more relatable because she puts herself out there -- warts and all. She has written several other books on faith that I haven't' read yet (Grace Eventually: Thoughts on Faith and Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith) but they are on the "to read" list.
I devour everything Lamott writes, but I do it slowly, to savor the language. It's listed as Christian, but it's a kinder Christianity, more spiritual than specific.
Lamott is such a soul-baring writer! This book of essays covers so much including angst, fear, grace, thankfulness, wisdom, our continual struggle to wrestle control of the universe from God and the beautiful relief when we finally give that up.
I love Ann Lamott's writing style and her wonderful imagery, but her narcissism got in the way of my really enjoying the book as much as I was hoping to. In the beginning, her egocentricity and narcissism were acceptable because of the humor with which they were depicted, but after a while, I found myself becoming somewhat disenchanted and hoping that by the end of the book she would "grow up" a little and communicate on a deeper level with her reader. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. Disappointed Reader!
I just love a Christian who can cuss like a sailor and write like nobody's business. Her writing makes me smile. Her faith inspires me.
"With an exuberant mix of passion, insight, and humor, in Traveling Mercies she takes us on a journey through her often troubled past to illuminate her devout but quirky walk of faith." (from the back cover)
Something in the last book I read (The Magician's Book) spurred me on to Deep Thoughts. I've been mulling over faith a lot. I have tons of books on paganism and texts that compare faiths, but I wanted something chewier. So I dug out my copy of Traveling Mercies, since I remembered Anne Lamott being recommended as a spiritual writer.I didn't realize this was a collection of essays until I was two essays deep. I don't know why I didn't realize it, but no point in worrying about that now. So it wasn't quite what I was looking for in that respect -- I wanted something less disjointed -- but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Lamott is an interesting writer, although (since she has no qualms about sharing the bad as well as the good) she can come off as kind of irritating at times. In the end that makes her writing seem more honest, to me. A few times it did feel like she was trying TOO HARD to be honest, if that makes sense, but overall I liked her style. There were turns of phrase that I greatly enjoyed and shared realizations that were lovely and, for me, made the book worthwhile.Ultimately, Traveling Mercies wasn't life-changing but it was a solid read. It only half-gave me what I was looking for at the time, but that's not the book's fault, so I can't judge it by that. There were times when the "bruises and all" writing seemed one-note and I started reading more slowly, but it was worth digging through those parts for the beautiful shiny bits.
Traveling Mercies doesn't reflect a "traditional" Christian viewpoint, but a very vibrant and personal faith journey. God moves in many ways. I read this several years ago and still remember and comtemplate some of the anecdotes she shared. I guess that's what you call inspiring...
I loved this book. Anne is a Christian like me. I so related to how she felt raising her child and the feelings mothers cope with and then feel guilty about. Anne was not always a Christian and she approaches Christianity with a unique spin - or rather, different than the Christian faith has been presented to us lately. You do not have to be a Christian to appreciate her writing either. Her writing is very relevant today and they are really fun to read.
Anne Lamott is at her best when telling her stories of faith. She should stick to non-fiction.
A wonderful affirmation of faith and friendship; written with warmth and self-deprecating humor
This book. When I read it in college it made me realize that my faith was okay. I went to this conservative school, and the fact that I was a little liberal, and had had some rough times made me some times think my faith was "off" some how. This book changed all that. I realized through her struggles that it is okay to sit in a bathroom and weep and tell God that you were really having a hard time right now. It was truly life changing.