Karen deVries's Reviews > Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son

Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott
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Apr 16, 12

bookshelves: memoir-ish
Read from March 23 to April 05, 2012

I pretty much love everything that Anne Lamott writes - especially her non-fiction stuff. However, this one was not my favorite, and I'm not sure why. (1) It might be me. (2) It might be this book. Or (3) It's a combo of the two. My most honest response is #3. I'll elaborate.

Since first reading Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird about 20 years ago, I fell in love with Annie and her writing. I could completely relate to her. I was surprised that I liked Operating Instructions as much as I did because I never wanted to have kids. I think her honest and humorous approach to navigating the tricky passages of life both resonated with me and offered me a role model of sorts. I also latched onto one of her early fiction books, Hard Laughter. I related to the main character's struggles with alcohol and self-hatred, and I particularly appreciated the lesbian episode as I was in the midst of coming out to myself when I read it. I didn't know it at the time, but looking back, I was looking for models who had figured out how to have both a writing life and be true to themselves. Anne Lamott was one of the few stars in my universe at that time.

In my own current journeys, Lamott's writings on Christianity continue to feed me the most. These are the books I revisit: Traveling Mercies, Plan B, and Grace (Eventually). I always want more of that Anne Lamott. I was excited to read this one because I've grown very attached to my 3 young nieces in the last few years, and I am hungry for thoughts on extended family.

Some Assembly Required delivered little pieces of all the things I love about Lamott, but it left me feeling more hungry than fulfilled. Most of the time, the journal entries ended just when I was wanting more. I wanted more about Sam, more quasi-philosophical reflections on what it means and feels like to be a grandmother, more on why it mattered so much to her that Jax get baptized in her church (she just states that it did matter), that kind of thing. Also, I understand that Sam & Amy broke up, but there was nothing about that in the book. In trying to understand why, I imagined that there are privacy issues here, and yet, Lamott usually does such a great job with these things.

I found lots of the self-depracating humor here that I've always appreciated, but I wanted her to stop hiding behind it and be more real with the reader ... in a way that I thought she was in Operating Instructions. It's very possible that this review says a lot more about me than it does about Anne Lamott ... maybe I'm hungry for different kinds of food in my journey ... maybe she's still doing the same thing and doing it well, but it just doesn't feed me anymore. Still, I can't shake the sense that there was too much distance between the reader and the main subjects of the book ... I felt like I was only getting to know a very mediated version of Sam and Jax and Amy, and if I couldn't get more of them, I wanted more substance from Anne. Maybe this is the wrong genre (the journal/memoir) for that. I'm glad I read it, but mostly, I'm hoping she writes more about faith.

addendum: I just re-read some of the passages I highlighted, and I think most of my critiques are more about me than they are about Lamott / the book. There's some great gems in here ... check out my favorite quotes for examples.
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Amy Elaine My copy should arrive today! :)


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