When I saw author Anne Lamott’s new book, “Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace” on my review list I grabbed it right away because her words are good for the soul. Who couldn’t use a little of that?
It’s a collection of essays– some heartbreaking, some hilarious– about paying attention to the moments in your life that make you feel something deeply. It could be anger and resentment– Lamott has felt plenty of that growing up in a dysfunctional family of alcoholics and raising a son on her own. Or you could just be feeling frustrated and annoyed, like when she was trapped on a plane during a flight delay with a bunch of random strangers.
Lamott examines these moments and uses all the wisdom she’s gained in her 60 years to help us see them in a new, more positive light. She also seems to find the funny in common experiences. Her essay on giving Match.com a whirl made me giggle.
I first discovered Lamott when I was pregnant with Jacob and read her touching book, “Operation Instructions,” about the first year of her son’s life. She was struggling to keep it together after getting off drugs and booze and deciding to have the baby on her own. Her words about motherhood– both loving and terrifying– made me feel like I could handle taking care of the baby in my belly, despite the uncertainty.
She also wrote an excellent book about writing called “Bird by Bird “that gave me advice and the courage to try.
And here I am.
Here’s an excerpt from my review:
Her tone is intimate and the pace slow, allowing readers to linger over each essay, like a great meal with friends you never want to end. She boils complicated matters down to basics, and stretches the limits of emotional depth in simple stories with larger lessons.
In separate essays about her father and mother, Lamott shares intimate details of growing up in a family that suffered from “spiritual anorexia.” Her vulnerability is tangible, even years later. Forgiveness is a recurring theme as Lamott strives to let go of anger and resentment and concentrate on the present.
“You sacrifice the need to be right, because you have been wronged, and you put down the abacus that helped you keep track of things,” she writes.
Lamott acknowledges many character flaws that ring true for anyone. In one story, she decides a fellow mom at school is her “Enemy Lite.” She’s certain this hateful woman — who’s either exercising or baking cupcakes — is judging her, and perpetually trying to show her up.
But as the relationship evolves, she realizes she was projecting all her fears of failure and maternal insecurities onto this woman. Once she sees the situation clearly, she’s able to accept the woman’s kindness and forgive herself for not being perfect. “I was trying to get her to carry all this for me because it hurt too much to carry it myself,” Lamott writes.
The book is beautifully written and so funny. Lamott is one of those authors with whom I’d enjoy a long talk over a cup of tea. I just love the way she thinks.
Let me know if you’re a fan or would give the book a try in the comments.