Hard Laughter
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Hard Laughter

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  1,657 ratings  ·  119 reviews
Anne Lamott's poignant first novel, reissued in an attractive new edition.

Writer (and sometime housecleaner) Jennifer is twenty-three when her beloved father, Wallace, is diagnosed with a brain tumor. This catastrophic discovery sets off Anne Lamott's unexpectedly sweet and funny first novel, which is made dramatic not so much by Wallace's illness as by the emotional wake...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 15th 1979 by North Point Press
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This was a book I thought about giving up on many times. There are three reasons why I continued: 1) I want to like Anne Lamott's fiction because I so loved Bird by Bird, 2) the theme of the book -- dealing with a father's failing health -- was a personal connection, and 3) I hoped to find an answer to why the author would choose to give her 23-year old protagonist a best friend who was only 10 years old.

In the end, I liked moment of Anne Lamott's fiction. I would give her another try because I
Give me anything by Anne Lamott and I will read it.
Deb Hale
Oct 08, 2007 Deb Hale rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lamott fans, but only those who have already read her far-better works
When I interviewed Anne Lamott in 1999, she said "Hard Laughter" was her worst book. I have not read all of her books, but I've read "Bird by Bird," which I found to be a wonderful guide to good writing; "Tender Mercies," and "Operating Instructions." Unlike these non-fiction books, "Hard Laughter" is billed as a novel, yet anyone familiar with Lamott's life knows much of the book is autobiographical. I have not read any of Lamott's other novels. But of the books I have read, "Hard Laughter" \ i...more
Leila T.
I was expecting this book to cover the whole bell curve of her father's illness, from diagnosis of brain tumor to passing, concentrating heavily on things like days visiting him in hospital, ethical quandaries, and a daughter's hagiography of her father.

Instead it was more like Some Several Months In The Life Of The Author, During Which Her Father Begins Treatment For A Possibly Malignant Tumor. It was much, much more about the protagonist (the author), her thoughts and life. And it is therefore...more
The main thing I would say about this book is that I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. That doesn't mean I would specifically say "Don't read this" - but literally, I can't think of anyone I'd say "Here, read this" to, and that's unusual for me. With pretty much any book, I can think of one or two specific people who I think would like it, get something out of it, what have you. But this one...it's so..meh. It's not awful, but it's so oddly written...it's partially stream-of-consciousness, but th...more
I think this is not a great book.....but it's a funny, serious telling of a short period of life. Mostly Anne Lamotts life, probably. And I was always savoring the time that I spent reading her story and salivating for the time when I could get back to it and hear what happened next. I began to wish I lived around the corner from Anne Lamott. I think I felt like I could be friends her character, Jen, and this novel was kind of like a chat at the coffee shop with her.

The story that can draw you i...more
Jessica Bell
Another plotless wonder. LOVED it. Would probably have given it five stars had my attention not wandered a few times. Some conversations go on forever and you sort of lose touch with the point. But otherwise, VERY funny. I 'laughed hard' a number of times. So much so that I slipped into one of those silent fits where tears start streaming your face. Being Lamott's debut, I can't wait to start reading more of her more recent works!
I was trying to read the Anne Lamott books in order, but I just got this 1979 one, after I had started my reading, so it's out of order. So I already know a lot of the facts of the (apparently, most autobiographical) story from reading the other books. Still, there's lots in the book besides the facts. I'm enjoying getting to know this Anne Lamott. It's like finally getting to meet a friend of friends--I've heard so much about her.
I won't say it was awful...there were times when it was funny and heart breaking...but overall the book didn't grab me...and it was a struggle to read it. I did like the chapters being one thought about something...the story wasn't totally continuous...but I guess I will have to try again when I am in the mood for something like this...
This is a must-read for anyone whose family has survived tragedy and loss with love and dark humor. I love this family because it reminds me of my own. Anne's struggle to cope with her father's terminal illness hit very, very close to home. I love this book.
I am a great fan of Anne Lamott's amazing writing skill and heartfelt storytelling. This one is a little on the lackluster side.

Wallace has to have brain surgery and his three children rally round to cope together. They are a slightly dysfunctional in the way most families are, but they really love each other and have learned to live in relative peace.

I like her rabbit trail writing meandering that eventually lands in poignant pithiness, but Hard Laughter is a little too meandering without arriv...more
Paul Shirley
I think many nonfiction books should be pamphlets.

This novel should have been a short story. A very, very short story.

Yes, it is, at times, funny and sweet but good god, make something happen. <- What I was thinking, during most of the book.

Like many, I'm sure, I picked up Hard Laughter because I love Lamott's take on Shitty First Drafts; I thought I ought to read some of her fiction so as to see what she was talking about in Bird by Bird.

So now I have, and won't make that mistake again!
I thoroughly enjoyed this. The book cover says "It is a moving and strangely joyful book, a kind of celebration, and it is written with assurance far beyond the reach of most first novelists."
Lamott has a gift for nailing interactions between family members, some of which I've had to read out loud to my spouse. And, along the way, I've learned a couple of new words, like "scintillant" and "hebephrenia," which might give you pause about putting this on your reading list. But, how can you not lov...more
Doranne Long
I love reading Anne Lamott's works. This book is not my favorite; maybe it's the subject matter. It's hard to laugh when times are tough; and that is the point of this book. Having someone close to you with the diagnosis of cancer is difficult; how to stay positive and to live life to the fullest, and yet be sensitive to the "icky" stuff, and acutely aware of a possible pending death sentence sooner than later.
Taylor Franks
Jul 04, 2007 Taylor Franks rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: memoir readers
Anne Lamott is someone you have to read to understand. That seems obvious, but my thought was that she was some Christian author in the vain of Don Miller, Rob Bell. I thought this because I have read both Miller and Bells books and they have references to Lamott and how much they enjoy her work. My assumption could not be more off. Lamott writes with humor and strange clairty. She has details in the setting and characters that are truly brillant. Hard Laughter is not a overly happy book and I f...more
Angela Joyce
Anne Lamott's gift, judging from this debut novel of hers, has always been to transfer a bit of real life directly to the page. Always, ALWAYS I finish one of her books thinking, "Yep. I know these people" or "Eek-- I AM these people."
Jenifer Holland
She's pretty prolific, but this is my favorite. Honest, early (in her career) and fiction that is reasonably closely based on non-fiction. Top-notch.
I have read this many times - one of my all time favorite books. We have grown up together - in literature and faith.
I was plesantly surprised by this book. you could feel the struggle the main character Jen is going through professionally and personally. Her father who is stricken with an illness and how their family ( a close one ) deals with it. The struggles the main character faces with intimacy/relationship issues. Brilliant story telling that leaves the reader really feeling like by the end of the book they have lived the story themselves. That to me is the test of a truly remarkable story teller. This...more
Got halfway through and decided none of the characters interested me enough to keep going. Most of the dialogue felt like the author was just talking in conversational form, as the voices weren't distinct. Mostly, I was annoyed by how disingenuous their grief felt.
If there was ever a book that encapsulated my view of life at this moment, this would be it.
Oscillating between "so funny it's sad" and "so sad it's funny," full of not-quite resolved bitterness and weird situations, having moments of ridiculity that make the reader soar and think about just how absurd life can be, and how the only way to get through it is laugh about it and get through it with those you love. Some work on what love is too. It's tough and sober and delusional. It is the train r...more
I wanted to like this book more than I did. I didn't connect with the characters and I'm not sure why. Maybe it was the vast difference in their outlook and lifestyle relative to what I am used to but I know there have been many books where I could never imagine being the character in the book but I liked them anyway. I didn't really like Jennifer - I didn't understand her relationship with Megan or Kathleen. I think I liked Randy the best - and of course Wallace - but neither enough for me to b...more
Part of me wanted to give this book more stars because her characters ring true and I relate to their neuroses. And you can't help but like the family she describes. But the book just didn't hold together. I thought it was like short stories strung together in some ways -- characters who seemed important but faded again from the scene almost immediately. ANd there were times when I thought the narrator character seemed self-absorbed and whiny. So... I like Lamott & think she's funny and real...more
I was delighted to rediscover this incredible book by Anne Lamott. HARD LAUGHTER tells the story of 23-year-old writer Jennifer whose father Wallace is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Jennifer and her brothers - along with friends and family - experience a roller coaster of emotions that ultimately draw this quirky family ever closer together. With a great eye for detail and a deft sense of humor, Lamott brings every character, including the town they live in, to life, making the reader care about...more
Like her memoir, this is basically a series of reflections on different themes drawn from a portion of her life, in this case, her father's treatment for a brain tumor. She reflects provocatively on her appreciation for her family, her friends, & the landscape that surrounds her. She is everything that normally annoys me--self-absorbed, self-pitying, casual about drugs, alcohol, & sex--but she's also so self-aware & self-deprecating & charming with such grace that I forgive her a...more
Kyle  Doty
This was just okay for me. I love Anne Lamott, but this book just seemed to ramble on and on. I understand rambling is what the main character does...a lot, but I just didn't enjoy it as much as I wanted to. I skimmed the last bit of it and I'm moving on to something else.
I could never get into this book. I've read a lot of Anne Lamott, fiction and non, and have even gone to her readings. But this just never went anywhere. The characters all seemed interchangeable -- wait is that her brother or her lover? Just didn’t care. Finished it because it was a gift.

The best part of this book is the inscription from my daughter “Happy Birthday, Mommy. May this book enforce 'Hard Laughter' upon you like gas prices.”
Jack Kooyman
This was Anne Lamott's first novel and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. From what I know of her own life from her book, "Traveling Mercies," there is a lot of this very interesting story that seems fairly autobiographical. It's a good story about one person's relationship to family and friends and how those relationships are all impacted by a brain tumor discovered in her much loved father.


Aug 13, 2008 Sandy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Michele
Recommended to Sandy by: Have no idea
If you have read other books by Anne Lamott, you will likely enjoy this one. This story of a young woman's relationships and internal coping as she and her family deal with her father's brain tumor is touching and thoughtful. No sappy stuff, just real. Not a page turner, but this book does draw you and keep you.
For those who dabble in writing or the teaching of writing , I also recommend another of hers, Bird by Bird.
Judy Williams
I love Anne Lamott and wanted to read all of her books. So I went back to her first novel after having read quite a few of her other works. In comparison, this thinly-disguised autobiography was tight and a bit too clever - no one talks that way consistently and quite so glibly. In her later writing, she opened up her quite a bit and let her characters be a bit less clever and a bit more human. Still, a fun read.
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Anne Lamott is an author of several novels and works of non-fiction. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, her non-fiction works are largely autobiographical, with strong doses of self-deprecating humor and covering such subjects as alcoholism, single motherhood, and Christianity. She appeals to her fans because of her sense of humor, her deeply felt insights, and her outspoken views on topics such...more
More about Anne Lamott...
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith

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