Review of Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott was published in 1999. In the book, Lamott divides vignettes from her life into different sections. More of a memoir than autobiography, she reflects on the significance of events big and small in her life. Some of the vignettes, especially those in the “Overture: Lily Pads” section that deals with her journey toward becoming a believer are explicitly profound and spiritual, while others are about everyday life and family. Lamott is intensely spiritual, and each of the stories she tells reveals a particular spiritual insight. It is refreshing to read someone who believes that we develop spiritually through both the big and little things in life, and that our interactions of all kinds with all different types of people are what mold our spirits.

While Lamott does identify herself as a Christian, I caution the extremely reverent before diving into this book to not be shocked by her unconventionality. She often refers to God as “She” and curses throughout the book. She also talks explicitly about the drug and alcohol abuse that ruled her life before she became a Christian. A quote on the cover of my copy of Traveling Mercies from the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle says that “Anne Lamott is walking proof that a person can be both reverent and irreverent in the same lifetime. Sometimes even in the same breath.” If you passionately disagree with that statement, be warned that it pretty effectively captures the narrative voice of the book.

I, however, whole-heartedly agree with the idea that we all are both irreverent and reverent at our core and in our behavior. I am a Christian, and I feel that oftentimes when I say that people assume that my spiritual life is flat and uncomplicated. While I am not the most devout Christian, in my adolescence I was extremely religious and even then my spiritual life and beliefs were much more complex than people often chalk the spiritual capacity of Christians up to be. At various points in my life, or even moment-to-moment, my spirituality is ever-changing. I enjoyed that Lamott was honest about the complicatedness of her walk with God, especially from a Christian perspective because often Christian writers are not willing to be as forthcoming as she is.

This text is extremely personal and individual to Lamott’s experiences and what she does in it is FAR from preaching. So even if you are not a Christian, I recommend this book to you if you are interested in the complexities of human spirituality. I also recommend this book to anyone who likes memoirs.

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One response to “Review of Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies

  1. OOOOO another book review. Life and beliefs are a lot more complicated than people give them credit for (It is like the blind spots of education).

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