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Blue Shoe Paperback – September 2, 2003

2.9 out of 5 stars 116 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

One of the few progressive Christian writers with a national voice, Anne Lamott's work (Bird by Bird, Operating Instructions) ranges from the meditative to the hilarious. Blue Shoe falls somewhere in the middle of that range. A slow, thoughtful novel, rooted in the domestic routines of child-raising, Blue Shoe follows the newly separated Mattie Ryder as she moves back into her childhood home, recently vacated by her elderly mother, and undertakes the renovation of her entire life. Her best friend Angela has left the San Francisco Bay area to move in with her new lover, Julie. Mattie's ex-husband, Nicky, has settled so quickly into a steady relationship with a young woman named Lee that it is clear they were involved during his marriage to Mattie. Nicky and Mattie's two children are displaying signs of emotional disturbance (Lamott is at her best in describing the quietly weird behavior of young children). And to add to the mix, Mattie's mother is falling into a senile dementia characterized by pleading phone calls and wacky assertions of independence. All Mattie wants is a little more money, a decent boyfriend, and for her philandering father to rise from his grave and solve all her problems. Is that so much to ask? Some of the action in this novel could have been compressed, and the major subplot involving Mattie's father fails to excite, but the strengths of Blue Shoe--humor, unflinching characterization, and keen observation--more than compensate for its weaknesses. --Regina Marler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Memoirist and novelist Lamott (Operating Instructions; Crooked Little Heart, etc.) brilliantly captures the dilemma of a divorced woman from the so-called "sandwich generation" in her latest, a funny, poignant and occasionally gut-wrenching novel that tracks the efforts of Mattie Ryder to cope with her divorce, find a new man, deal with her mother's aging and restore the emotional equilibrium of her two young children. The divorce dominates in the early going as Mattie continues to sleep with her sexy but egotistical ex-husband, Nick, even though his new romance with a younger woman is clipping along at a sprightly pace. Meanwhile, Mattie grows close to a married friend named Daniel, who also feels a romantic pull although he's happily married. Mattie's feisty mother, Isa, ages precipitously and becomes increasingly disoriented, leading to a series of calamities. Mattie's touching relationships with her kids, two-year-old Ella and difficult but sensitive six-year-old Harry, become the emotional anchor for the novel, and narrative momentum is provided by the gradual unfolding of a family secret, which reveals the infidelities of Mattie's late father. Most of the comedy is of the domestic variety, and Lamott continually displays her gift for finding the right combination of humor and small but significant revelations in ordinary moments. The ensemble cast is another major strength of the book, providing a backdrop against which Mattie, Daniel, Isa and the children emerge as powerful and memorable individuals. Lamott has explored similar terrain in her earlier works, but the scope and freshness of this novel could make it a breakout work for her.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; Reissue edition (September 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573223425
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573223423
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #218,592 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I waited with great anticipation for this new book of Lamott's and was not disappointed, finding it both enchanting and full of her particular brand of wisdom. I thought her Salon essays and "Traveling Mercies" were brilliant and found much of their material incorporated in this novel. The book is about the "mystery of family and the possibility of love" and contains Lamott's own particular brand of philosophizing. When I finished, I felt like I had been talking with a friend about all the family concerns facing women in today's world.
Lamott makes the reader see the world in a different way and feel more at peace with where we happen to be. She expands and expounds, with humor, tenderness, and love, on the smallest incidents and finds new meaning in them. She finds lessons everywhere and deals with life with bold honesty and down-to-earth spirituality. For example: "When God is going to do something wonderful, it starts with something hard, and when God is going to do something exquisite, She starts with an impossibility."
"Blue Shoe" gives us several years in 37-year-old Mattie Ryder's disorderly life, a life that is typical of those about whom Lamott writes. Once again, the setting is on the coast of Marin County, where the author herself lives. Mattie is newly divorced at the beginning, coping with all the traumas associated with still wanting her unfaithful ex-husband, moving back to her childhood home, and trying to keep body and soul together. During these years, Mattie finds new loves, deals with her mother's increasing confusion, and raises her young son and daughter with love and laughter. All the oddball characters, also typical of Lamott, somehow gracefully fit into this story and help Mattie cope, along with a strong reliance on God.
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Format: Paperback
Having loved Annie Lamott's Traveling Mercies, I was thrilled to have stumbled upon Blue Shoe. However, try as I might, I couldn't force myself to finish it. I went well past my tolerance level, page 121, simply because I was sure Ms. Lamott would do something, anything, to make the plot move or at least make the characters likable. This didn't happen (Maybe it did on page 122? I couldn't wait any longer.) The only redeeming quality of the book is the exquisite descriptions throughout. My favorite was "She did not mind this weather [rainy], and certainly preferred it to the tyranny of a bright blue day, when old voices told you to get off your duff and go outside." They are beautiful and rich. However, it seemed that these descriptions were used in place of plot or character devlopment, so they eventually felt flat.

The main character, Mattie, is obviously struggling. She's a mess, in fact, sleeping with her ex-husband, even after he marries and has a child with the new wife, in addition to having the hots for a married man. I'm no prude, but there was nothing redeeming about Mattie to make me want to keep reading about this behavior, page after page, or think she might pull herself out of the pit. I finally gave up hoping that she might redeem herself. The other people around her offer little to like also: a son who is overly-emotional and bullies his sister, a daughter who bites so much at her wrist she creates and repeatedly reopens wounds, a mother who is emotionally available to everyone but Mattie and her brother,and the memory of a father who was obviously a cheater. Add to that an extended dying scene for a dog and constant problems with the house Mattie lives in...I'm getting depressed writing about it. The only fabulous character, Angela, is mentioned only a few times. She's a rich, robust character. Too bad Ms. Lamott focused on the whiny, messy ones instead.
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Format: Paperback
I am a big fan of Anne Lamott. Her books Traveling Mercies and Bird By Bird are two of my favorites. It was out of loyalty to her that I stuck this book out even though I couldn't wait for it to be over. It's not a terrible book, it's just terribly blah. There are some shocking things that the characters do but the way it's written, it's like "yeah? So what?" Like Mattie having sex with her ex-husband when he's newly remarried and when he has a new baby. The readers could have been brought to a place of disgust or deep insight into Mattie's character through this revelation. But for me it was written so matter-of-factly it was more like, ho-hum, so what? This is the way the whole book is.

I never developed any gut understanding of Mattie's psyche. The revelations about her father could have been devastating and supposedly Mattie was devastated some of the time, but it just didn't come through. I couldn't feel what Mattie was feeling.

Seems to me, Mattie had a charmed life. Yes, her father was a [...] in a way and watching your mother deteriorate is a bummer. But she's got a house for free, she's surrounded by really good friends who stick by her, he has jobs that she likes and are apparently enough to pay the bills, she's got a good relationship with her ex and even his new wife, she's got good kids who she loves, her mother finds a devoted friend who apparently has no flaws at all, has a great relationship with her brother and sister-in-law, the man she falls in love with loves her back, etc etc. The relationships between characters seemed so perfect most of the time, even the fights were tidy. So why so much angst? What's the point of the story? Did she grow by the end of the book? Didn't seem like it to me.

I wish I could have liked this book more.
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