A Square-Peg People Book Review
by Anne Lamott
Anne Lamott, in Traveling Mercies, writes about relationships, the mystery of life and things not always working as planned. In this book, subtitled: "Some Thoughts On Faith", the author lets us know - quite clearly - that she doesn't know all of the answers. Or even alot of them.
And she lets us know that that's OK! Not to know isn't always comfortable, but it is OK - it's part of the human condition - part of REAL life. For her - and for us. I love it!
The book begins with an incredible poem of gratitude, called "Listen" by W.S. Merwin. And ends with Lamott saying:
"...in a whisper this time and without even being exactly sure to whom I'm saying it: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."
Gratitude welled up in me as I read this book. Lamott's humor - and her willingess to look at what is less than lovely in life - touch my heart.
I have many sides to my personality - and a number of them are dark. Anne Lamott does, too. And she brings them out to visit us in the pages of this book. Her very angry side, her very fearful side, her very hypochondriacal side.... Lamott talks about the worst possible outcomes that run through her brain.
She introduces us to "K-Fucked radio": "--out of the left speaker came the endless stream of self-aggrandizement, and out of the right speaker the report that ...my career was over, my future behind me..."
I laugh when I see myself mirrored in Lamott's writing - I wake up to how I've exaggerated something - made a friend's vacation into an issue of personal abandonment. And waking up I can then detach - I've got more room to breath - some grace.
Lamott writes about addictions, bulimia, the loss of her father and her best friend to cancers - difficult parts of life - yet she resists the "one size fits all" - "THIS (and only this and nothing but the this) is the way" trap.
She tells us what gets her through - what has gotten some of her friends through - and often what she tells us is that what has gotten them through has just barely gotten them through - by the skin of their teeth, you could say.
I am comforted in this - her descriptions "feel" like what I go through.
The power of this book comes from Lamott's willingness to be IN life with people - in the midst of the big, messy ups and downs. Lamott writes: "Our preacher Veronica said recently...that the world sometimes feels like the waiting room of the emergency ward and that we who are more or less OK for now need to take the tenderest possible care of the more wounded people in the waiting room, until the healer comes."
Her stories don't always have happy endings. But they have hope. Traveling Mercies isn't about everything turning out just the way we planned - it's about things turning out how they are - and being loved - and loving - in the midst of it all.
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