on April 15, 2000
I had no idea what to expect in this, my first encounter with Anne Lamott. The wide assortment of reviews convinced me to purchase the book--plus, the idea of reverence paired with irreverence, since we can all use a little humor to season the subjects that matter most...that therefore become so stinkin' divisive! Wow! When I'm not laughing at Anne's great writing and gritty insights, I'm pushing down that lump in my throat. Anne plants and waters the flowers of faith and grace, but pats down their seeds beneath the coarse dirt and smelly manure of life. I'm not trying to match her metaphors, I'm merely responding to the fresh light she's shone on my own recent experiences. This woman can write and, boy, does she have something to say. If she steps on your toes to get to the podium, so be it. Hear her out. She writes of a heartfelt belief in Jesus that I share. But she also drags out the skeletons that we born-again Christians are so afraid to let out. Ironic, isn't it, that those who follow Christ--the most amazing example of love and acceptance and forgiveness to the "unlovely"--are the very ones who insecurely point their fingers at those outside their box. I grew up in that box. I still love Jesus, still consider myself "born-again," but I, along with Anne Lamott, refuse to live in that box anymore. Jesus, speaking to the religious leaders of his day, called them "white-washed tombs full of dead man's bones." Anne, in her gracious, irreverent way, says the same. Mercy me! What a breath of fresh air!
on April 19, 1999
If you're experiencing a lot of spiritual "static" as I am right now, this book will immediately make you feel better. It will assure you that you're not the only one to feel doubt and need and grief, and yet it will give you countless opportunities to release those emotions through laughter.
I have highlighted much of the book so that I can reread the great ways that Anne Lamott captures these experiences. She talks about grieving over her late best friend, saying she was, "thinking of how much we lose, yet how much remains." Then she says, "I thought maybe I wouldn't feel so bad if I didn't have such big pieces of [her friend} still inside me, but then I thought, I want those pieces in me for the rest of my life, whatever it costs me."
Lamott writes about trying hard to translate her spiritual beliefs into everyday treatment of others, and she's particularly funny when she writes about the mother of her son's friend. She berates the woman first for wearing bicycle shorts ("because she can"). Lamott says, "...she does not have an ounce of fat on her body. I completely hate that in a person. I consider it an act of aggression against the rest of us mothers who forgot to start working out after we had our kids." Lamott tries to be better, saying, "I tried to will myself into forgiving various people who had harmed me directly or indirectly over the years--four former Republican presidents, three relatives, two old boyfriends, and one teacher in a pear tree--it was "The Twelve Days of Christmas" meets "Taxi Driver."
I loved this book. I didn't want it to end. It made me laugh. It made me think. These are qualities I seek in my friends and my books.
In "Travelling Mercies", Anne Lamott chronicles her journey of faith. From drug addiction, to alcoholism: through the deaths of her father and best friend, and the birth of her son, Ms. Lamott traces her spiritual journey in a series of moving, funny, and deeply personal anecdotes. One warning: this book is probably not for those seeking a traditionally-minded, conservative Christian memoir, as it is definitely not either traditional or conservative!
For those whose faith is less structured, this book is an incredibly funny, searingly personal and deeply moving account of one woman's transformation through faith. Ms. Lamott possesses the rare gift of translating her faith into day-to-day experiences and sharing her innermost, most difficult or stressful thoughts in a very funny, realistic, human way.
Other readers have mentioned the story of the woman in bicycle shorts (Ms. Lamott's "Enemy Lite."), which is truly hilarious. Other highlights included the"celebration" of Ash Wednesday, and her encounter with another Christian whose faith seemed to be quite a different order from her own. Ms. Lamott is also wonderful when she writes about children: whether about her own son or her friends' children.
This would make a wonderful gift for those who are "teetering on the edge" of Christianity, wondering, can this faith, this tradition possibly ever mean anything to me? Through these stories, Anne Lamott illustrates the miracle that is her faith, and leaves the door open for anyone who wants to follow. A wonderful, inspiring and very funny book.
on March 20, 2005
As a word of warning, this book is full of crass and offensive language and situations. You will not find someone pretending that everything is okay, but freely admitting the painful details of her life. Lamott has suffered through many trials in her past including early and frequent promiscuity and abortion, heavy drug use, financial problems, alcoholism, bulimia, and suicidal thoughts. Yet, because of this `hold nothing back' mentality, the book is very real, funny and sometimes insightful. We see a woman grasping for faith and hope in the midst of a crazy life full of heartache.
This book may help those who feel they are unacceptable to the church because of things they have done. Lamott reminds us that God's grace is for all people in all circumstances. It pushes us past the misunderstandings of Christians as people who have everything together. Here, we find a very non-typical `Christian' woman, who may help reach others with the Good News that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. I would recommend this book to friends and others who have been turned off by traditional Christianity, hoping that it may provide a door for them to reconsider what this Jesus stuff is all about.
Finally, the book serves as call for all of us in the church to live out the Gospel message through lives of love and service. Lammott says, "when I was at the end of my rope, the people at St. Andrew tied a knot in it for me and helped me hold on. The church had become my home" (100). I pray that her experience may describe all of our churches as we reach out and welcome in all types of people, so that they may know their true home in the unconditional love of Christ.
on December 26, 2000
"Traveling Mercies" is a book about both humanity and spirituality. It is also about accepting with grace the idea that we are all have an "E Ticket" on an unpredictable rollercoaster ride. Lamott finds that it is only faith that's gives her an anchor and a point of reference as "life happens".
Anne Lamott walks us through her own amazing story complete with pain, glory, revelation, heartache, serendipity, tragedy, self-loathing, tiny-but-profound personal victories and the eventual peace of self-acceptance (sort of.) Sound familiar? That's because we are seeing the reflection of our own lives in Annie's mirror.
What do I have in common with the author? We are both humans. Beyond that, not much. I am not female, liberal, a recovering addict, a former atheist or have I suffered from bad hair. But I'm betting most readers see glimpses of their own personal photo albums throughout this remarkable book. It's just that all of our pictures are a little different. The difference is perspective.
It's amusing to see some of the reviews in which readers are badly missing the point. Lamott writes willingly (and ironically) about her about her obsessions, self-destructiveness and compulsive/addictive behavior. She has achieved a truce with her shortcomings -- and, implicitly, is suggesting all of us accept our own imperfections (and those of others). If we wait for "perfect", we'll be waiting a long time. That's why it's ironic to read reviews in which a few readers complain that she exposes her faults on the pages of the book. And seems obsessive about it .... Hello, fellow reviewers? Anybody home?
By the way, the book is also laugh-out-loud hilarious from time to time. Read slowly, let it sink in and enjoy. Travelling mercies to you, too, Anne.
on March 14, 2005
Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott is a compelling story infused with acute and wonderful insights about life and faith. A collection of Lamott's personal experiences, this book shows how hard life can be, and how gracious God always is. Traveling Mercies is about, among other things: a troubled childhood, drinking, drugs, bulimia, death, empty relationships and fulfilling ones, a search for spirituality, parenting challenges, and bad hair days...but nonetheless, and most of all, it's about faith-miracles and blessings, forgiveness and grace. Lamott writes with the clarity and honesty of one who is self-aware, perhaps painfully so at times. Funny and frank, she uses her own struggles and joys to illustrate truths a reader can recognize, all the while demonstrating a faith tested and formed by the real world.
Let's be completely honest for a moment. Life is hard. Sometimes it can be incredibly hard. Bad things happen to good people and this happens quite often. We live in a fallen and sinful world. Contrary to the "Gospel of Prosperity" (aka greed) that seems popular in many places (and promoted by preachers such as Joel Osteen), you can sacrifice everything and still have nothing to show for it in this world. In fact, as followers of Jesus we have been promised "trials and tribulations". Yet, as followers of Jesus we have hope, joy, love, and peace. We have everything that the world (and what we ourselves) seek. It's not easy to not give into the despair and disillusions around us. We can get caught up in existing instead of living just as easily as anyone else. But, we can truly live and live a life abundant. It is a struggle, but it can be done.
This struggle is a lifelong one and in TRAVELING MERCIES Anne Lamott examines how it has affected and changed her life. From her childhood growing up with free-spirited liberal parents, to her drinking problems, an abortion, the death of her best friend, and the birth of her son, Lamott explores how Jesus has intervened in her life and taught her about grace and helped her overcome her feelings of inadequacy and despair.
Lamott writes in a very simple, yet eloquent personal style. Her writing is filled with beautiful metaphors that make her writing quite vivid. She can capture a complex thought or emotion in one paragraph or sometimes even in a sentence. Her writing flows like water from the heavens on a rainy day in May.
I enjoyed TRAVELING MERCIES immensely. There were times that some of the passages moved me. I am already a Christian, so the book did not cause me to convert or change my faith. However, it did reinforce many of my beliefs and provided me encouragement in my own struggles. I also learned a great deal about writing from reading this book. I love the style that Lamott writes in; it reminds me of an older, female (and slightly paranoid) version of Donald Miller's writings and reminds me of my own writing style. Much of it is pose written through poetry.
Though TRAVELING MERICES is a book I highly recommend for anyone who likes to read, it isn't for everyone. There were statements that Lamott made (such as when she refers to God as "she") that struck a nerve within me. I also know that there are probably many things Lamott and myself would disagree with politically. This did not dissuade me from enjoying TRAVELING MERCIES. In reading the book I felt like I was traveling with an old friend, one whom I would disagree with sometimes, but a person who was a dear friend and companion. We don't exactly have to agree on everything to follow Jesus. He's the one who will judge, not us. Nevertheless, I know that there are readers who will read this book and will hate it because of some of Lamott's ideas and leanings. Should you read it, try not to do that. TRAVELING MERCIES is simply one woman's honest (and sometimes raw) account of her journey so far and how grace found her when she wasn't looking.
If you're a writer and read this book, you should also check out Anne Lamott's book on writing, BIRD BY BIRD. It's just as honest and raw as TRAVELING MERCIES, but it's all about writing.
on August 23, 2001
I picked this book up in an airport as a present for an Episcopal friend, expecting not to be interested myself---and promptly read the whole book before the plane had landed. I've been familiar with Anne Lamott from fiction, other books of essays, and local radio programs for a while now, but only with this book did I realize that she has a strong religious identity. To be honest, I expected that to put me off---like so many, I feel plenty "spiritual" but get a little antsy when anyone else talks about their specific belief set, especially one so dogmatic as Christianity. This book, however, is more about the spiritual questions that consume us all (yes, even us non-Christians) and the joy and pain of our attempts to answer them. Anne is completely readable, funny, and (unlike many writers who tackle the topic of spirituality), NOT HOKEY. Well worth reading, and, for me, re-reading in sections pretty often.
on November 9, 1999
Almost funnier than this wonderful book by Anne Lamott are the people who claim to be "true" Christians and prove it by picking up a handful of sharp stones to throw (anonymously, of course) TRAVELING MERCIES is powerfully poignant and hilarious - self-deprecating and adroitly drawn stories of a faith that I for one can definitely believe in. Pay no attention to the people who would have been first in line to string up you-know-who a few centuries back. Jealousy is so sad, some people really need to take a few cleansing breaths and perhaps some Sam-e. It's funny, but don't let it get in the way of enjoying this great and pure-hearted book. Annie, I hope you are laughing your head off.
on November 9, 1999
This is the sort of book that one nibbles at, instead of devouring in great gulps, because there is so much on every page - indeed, in every paragraph. I'm on my second go-round and have moved from yellow hilighter to red pen to mark favorite passages. This will be a colorful read if I can part with it to pass it on to someone else. These "essays" are little glimpses into a very human life and one comes away with - among other mantras - "Thank you, thank you, thank you" for the gift of life and faith.