Kurt's Reviews > Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
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Jul 23, 11


The title is a fair summary of the contents of this book. It really is just a collection of thoughts by Anne Lamott, largely on faith. I was expecting it to deal more with a specifically Christian faith, but Lamott really doesn't do that. In an alternate reality, if she had found Buddha instead of Jesus in her time of need, and if she had a strong community that didn't happen to be a church, there are really only three or four pages in this book that would need to be changed to fit her circumstances. Lamott references a couple of verses from the Bible about forgiveness, and (in my favorite story, probably because it hasn't been so long since I helped scatter my mother's ashes) she connects the idea of Ash Wednesday to the way a person's ashes stick to your hands and you can't ever really let them go. She admits that her son is trying to irritate her by claiming to believe in "all the gods" instead of just Jesus. But in general, this is religion lite: an occasionally moving (deeply moving - when she succeeds, Lamott really succeeds), often funny, usually frustrating collection of thoughts from someone who seems to like God but doesn't seem to know any more about him than that (to the point of referring to God's gender with "his or her" and making statements like, "If there's a heaven, I imagine it will be like snorkeling.").

Lamott herself can be quite irritating - she is open about her quirks, her struggles, her neediness (she describes one boyfriend as being unable to deal with her tears and fears, and I found myself sympathizing with him). Also, her only interactions with God are when she wants something - praying for herself but also for others, always wanting God to change something, never wondering who he is, reading about what he's done, that kind of thing. It's a well-meaning people-centeredness, but that doesn't make Lamott's spiritual outlook one I would want someone else to adopt. I was relatively entertained while reading, but I can't imagine a situation in which I would hand a copy of this book to someone I liked and say, "You should read this, because in some area of your life, I would like you to be more like this author."

This is a pretty popular book among young Christians these days, so I recommend it for the purpose of being in the loop, but that's about it. I think someone on a spiritual journey, if he or she desires a book in this style, would be better served by hitting Donald Miller.
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