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Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith Paperback – February 15, 2000
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For most writers, the greatest challenge of spiritual writing is to keep it grounded in concrete language. The temptation is to wander off into the clouds of ethereal epiphanies, only to lose readers with woo-woo thinking and sacred-laced clichés. Thankfully, Anne Lamott (Operating Instructions, Crooked Little Heart) knows better. In this collection of essays, Lamott offers her trademark wit and irreverence in describing her reluctant journey into faith. Every epiphany is framed in plainspoken (and, yes, occasionally crassly spoken) real-life, honest-to-God experiences. For example, after having an abortion, Lamott felt the presence of Christ sitting in her bedroom:
This experience spooked me badly, but I thought it was just an apparition born of fear and self-loathing and booze and loss of blood. But then everywhere I went I had the feeling that a little cat was following me, wanting me to reach down and pick it up, wanting me to open the door and let it in. But I knew what would happen: you let a cat in one time, give it a little milk and then it stays forever.Whether she's writing about airplane turbulence, bulimia, her "feta cheese thighs," or consulting God over how to parent her son, Lamott keeps her spirituality firmly planted in solid scenes and believable metaphors. As a result, this is a richly satisfying armchair-travel experience, highlighting the tender mercies of Lamott's life that nudged her into Christian faith. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
A key moment in the step-by-step spiritual awakening of the author came to her as a freshman in college when an impassioned professor taught her Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling. Raised by her bohemian California family to believe only in "books and music and nature," Lamott (Bird by Bird; Operating Instructions) was enthralled by the Danish philosopher's rendition of the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham, Lamott learned, so trusted in God's love that he was willing to follow the order to sacrifice his own son. This story pierced Lamott and she "crossed over. I don't know how else to put it or how and why I actively made, if not exactly a leap of faith, a lurch of faith.... I left class believing?accepting?that there was a God." Nonetheless, it would take the heartbreak of her father's death and more than a dozen years of escalating drug and alcohol addiction to bring Lamott to fully embrace Christianity. In a short autobiography and 24 vignettes that appeared in earlier versions in the online magazine Salon, Lamott blends raw emotional honesty with self-mocking goofiness to show how the faith she has cultivated at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in the poor community of Marin City, Calif., translates into her everyday life and friendships, especially into her relationship with her young son, Sam. Although Lamott's clever style sometimes feels too calculated, the best bits here memorably convey the peace that can descend when a sensitive, modern woman accepts the love of God with her own brand of fear and trembling. First serial to Mirabella; author tour. Agent, Chuck Verrill.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Well, my prayers were answered and "fluff"-filled is the last adjective I would use to describe this book. In the first section of the book, I was glued to the struggles, the ambitions, and the experiences of Anne Lamott's personal life. The only way I can describe this book is "raw" - nothing is held back from the reader. Lamar is completely honest and very real with her audience. You could tell that she wasn't trying to be dramatic - she wasn't trying to get your pity, your sympathy, your trust, your distain. She speaks very honestly about who she is and opens herself up to her audience. She has tried to do the right thing when at times knowing what the right thing is is difficult, but she also has made mistakes. But we don't judge her for that - she admits when she does wrong and explains why she tried justifying her mistakes in the past. She is an author that feels very human.
At the end of the book, I found that I had more answers and more questions from this book. But I also felt that I had experienced something very genuine and authentic. I had not only learned more about Lamott, but I also learned a lot about faith from just the daily happenings in her life. To me, that's more inspirational than any Nicholas Spark novel. If you are looking for a book on faith that doesn't have all the answers, you won't be disappointed.
This is one of the few books (on Kindle, because it helps to make words big and columns narrow) - that is worth the effort that it takes me to complete a book. Ms. Lamott knows how to put words together like nobody else I've ever read. They're like butter, or cake or something. I want to eat them or savor them or in some other way not let them go. Even if you don't like her stories, or don't agree with her theology - or any theology at all - read it. Just do it. You may tire of mentions of her hair - but all of the other stories will make up for it.
Anne Lamott is not only a fine prose stylist and writer on writing, she is a profound thinker, a philosopher, a wise woman. Her Christianity is tempered with poverty and addiction, peppered with street language and cultural references (some of them, alas, give the text a dated flavor)... she is a very real, flawed person. She is an author who's paid her dues, and practices her faith without apology, coyness, or self-righteous blather.
I will read this book over and over, and I've already given it as a gift to other people struggling to make sense of child-raising, aging, and how beautiful life is in the midst of the noise.