Book Review: “Traveling Mercies” by Anne Lamott

Every so often I come across a book that feels more like “a friend” than a collection of pages. This rare book walks me through the course of the story, or stories, and by the end, I feel as though I am not just finishing a book; I’m saying goodbye to someone I’ve grown deeply fond of.

Traveling Mercies was that kind of book.

As I began the last chapter, I had a sudden realization that it was coming to a close, and I immediately put the book down. I’m not sure why, but I suppose I thought delaying the end would keep a friend around longer. I wanted the experience to linger…just a bit longer. As I finished the chapter and closed the book, I felt as though I understood Anne, and found myself wishing I could sit by her on a plane, or maybe a cup of coffee to pick her brain about faith and life. During the course of this book, I had made a friend.

Traveling Mercies is a Memoir about Faith and what it means to be a follower of Christ. The flow of the book has two separate parts:

First, the book begins as a linear story of Anne Lamott’s formational years. Anne shares with the reader her past (dark and darker), the ways in which she really screwed up, and how she hit rock bottom. She talks about the relationships with her family, and friends, and how a priest who cared for her and was honest with her changed her life forever.

The second part takes the form of unconnected stories mixed with personal reflection. Anne talks about lessons learned along the road of life, and how she daily is becoming more of who she was always intended to be. Some of the topics she delves into include: her son, grief, addiction, rehab, growing dread-locks and watching a man beat his dog. Everything is opened up and worked through, and everything becomes beautiful.

I think there is a simple reason this book is so powerful; the raw honesty with which she shares her life. One of my biggest problems with Christian pop-culture today is the fact that nobody is actually allowed to be honest. Be it music or writing, the must ugly topics are often times either ignored or danced around, and nearly always the reader finds themselves back surrounded by tired cliché’s that no longer have meaning in their own life. (probably a bit harsh…but very true for me and my life) If it involves more than just smoking cigarettes or partying too much, most Christian publishing companies are unwilling to take the topics on. Anne Lamott hits them straight on, and with full sincerity.

With witty remarks and a magical grasp of the English language, along with being laced with nearly every word you can imagine, the raw emotion and power of the moment will overcome the reader.  Anne invites the reader along-side a woman as she deals with something often times overlooked by society, and Christianity alike; real life. She disarms the reader with her humor and self-deprecation, and before they knows it, they are examining their own life to see how they might become a better follower of Christ.

If you are willing to look past some topics and language that might make you uncomfortable, this book is a life-changer. In Traveling Mercies, Lamott begins a conversation that is really, truly needed in the church. She has paved the way for open dialogue and for confession, and within the covers over this book, you will find a genuine, awe-inspiring work of art.

I rate it 5/5 and highly recommend it.

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6 thoughts on “Book Review: “Traveling Mercies” by Anne Lamott

  1. I love this book; it was really interesting to read it as a high school “exchange” student on the West Coast (Seattle), which is much more similar to Lamott’s Marin County home than where I was coming from (Omaha, NE)! The Catholic faith of my upbringing has evolved into some sort of a humanist pantheism these days – and forgive me for sounding so pretentious with that; I just mean that I think there are a lot of different paths to get to the same truth. Nevertheless, I enjoyed how refreshingly honest Lamott’s insights were; Christianity is in desperate need of more down-to-earth, un-moralizing people of faith like her.
    Great post!

    • Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, Monica! I’ve never been to Seattle, but I’m guessing after the culture shock wore off, you were in love? Thanks again for coming around!

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