From the bestselling author of Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird comes a chronicle of faith and spirituality that is at once tough, personal, affectionate, wise and very funny.
This book, Lamott's eighth (following Crooked Little Heart, LJ 4/1/97), is part spiritual autobiography, part essay on living as a recovering alcoholic, drug abuser, and bulimic and a loving but deeply anxious single mother. Lamott tells of finding Christian faith and learning to allow it to help her through tough times. Working hard at self-examination, she makes no excuses for herself. At times wickedly funny, her prose is as lovely as always. She notes that to Christians "death is really just a major change of addresses," but when her son is sick, the glibness vanishes, and she must work hard to allow herself patience and peace. Her musings on cellulite, curly hair, sick children, and fear of dogs are entertaining. She's the mouthy best friend we cherish at our kitchen table. Recommended for public libraries.--Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll., Bronxville, NY -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 1998
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Excerpt from Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
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.