Exclusive Excerpt: Anne Lamott's 'Almost Everything: Notes on Hope'

Posted by Cybil on September 28, 2018


From Anne Lamott—the bestselling author of Hallelujah Anyway, Bird by Bird, and Traveling Mercies—comes a new book about the place hope holds in our lives. The following is an exclusive excerpt from the candid, insightful, and sometimes hilarious Almost Everything: Notes on Hope. Be sure to add it to your Want to Read shelf.

In addition, Lamott was a guest on Goodreads' new podcast, Books of Your Life with Elizabeth. Check out what she had to say about her new book.


Prelude


I am stockpiling antibiotics for the apocalypse, even as I await the blossoming of paperwhites on the windowsill in the kitchen. The news of late has captured the fever dream of modern life: everything exploding, burning, being shot, or crashing to the ground all around us, while growing older has provided me with a measure of perspective and equilibrium, and a lovely, long-term romance. Towns and cities, ice fields, democracy, people—all disappear, while we rejoice and thrive in the spring and the sweetness of old friendships. And families are tricky. There is so much going on that flattens us, that is huge, scary, or simply appalling. We’re doomed, stunned, exhausted, and overcaffeinated.

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And yet, outside my window, yellow roses bloom, and little kids horse around, making a joyous racket.

In general, though, it doesn’t feel like the light is making a lot of progress. It feels like death by annoyance. At the same time, the truth is that we are beloved, even in our current condition, by someone; we have loved and been loved. We have also known the abyss of love lost to death or rejection, and that it somehow leads to new life. We have been redeemed and saved by love, even as a few times we have been nearly destroyed, and worse, seen our children nearly destroyed. We are who we love, and we are autonomous.

Love has bridged the high-rises of despair we were about to fall between. Love has been a penlight in the blackest, bleakest nights. Love has been a wild animal, a poultice, a dinghy, a coat. Love is why we have hope.

So why have some of us felt like jumping off tall buildings ever since we can remember, even those of us who do not struggle with clinical depression? Why have we repeatedly imagined turning the wheels of our cars into oncoming trucks?

We just do.

To me, this is very natural. It is hard here.

There is the absolute hopelessness we face that everyone we love will die, even our newborn granddaughter, even as we trust and know that love will give rise to growth, miracles, and resurrection. Love and goodness and the world’s beauty and humanity are the reasons we have hope. Yet no matter how much we recycle, believe in our Priuses, and abide by our local laws, we see that our beauty is being destroyed, crushed by greed and cruel stupidity. And we also see love and tender hearts carry the day. Fear, against all odds, leads to community, to bravery and right action, to hope.

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I wake up not knowing if our leader has bombed North Korea. And still, this past year has been just about the happiest of my life.

So yeah: it can all be a bit confusing.

On the one hand, there is the hopelessness of people living in grinding poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, and uptown Oakland. On the other, we pour our funds and time into organizations that feed and mentor people, teach in Uganda and Appalachia, show up in refugee camps with water and art supplies. People like us all over the world teach girls auto repair and electrical installation, teach boys to care for babies. Witnessing this fills me to bursting with hope. I have never witnessed both more global and national brutality and such goodness in the world’s response to her own.

And then there are our families of origin. Some of us grew up in the alternative universe of unhappy marriages, where we accepted as normal desperate parental need, and bizarre sights just short of a head on a stick. I’m sure your family was just fine, and the template of love you grew up with was kindness and mutual respect, delight in each other, patience with a spouse or a child’s foibles. But other families—just a few, here and there, hardly worth mentioning—were stressed, neglectful, fundamentalist, racist, alcoholic, schizophrenic, repressed. Brothers and sisters didn’t always survive. We became jumpy perfectionists.

T. S. Eliot wrote, “Teach us to care and not to care / Teach us to sit still.” We long for this, and yet we check our smartphones every ten minutes for news, texts, distraction.

I wish that before my wise father died, at fifty-six, he had written down everything he had learned here, whose truths he was pretty sure of. He wrote many books of knowledge but not so much truth. Along with several fatal flaws, mostly involving women, he had several excellent rules: Don’t be an asshole, and try to remember people’s names, especially those people with no power or cachet, and seek beauty through binoculars, books, records. But truth? What did he know that might have helped his children steer their boats a little straighter? Not so much. He eschewed the spiritual life, except as his human spirit was sustained by nature, jazz, books, wine. But life gave me mentors—poetry, pastors, the women’s movement, naturalists, and friends—who helped me come to know several truths of which I am almost sure.

Just before my sixty-first birthday, I decided to make a list for my grandson and niece, who are both exuberant and worried, as I was at their age and still am some days—in fact, right now.

My Dearest, I began: I have had a spiritual mentor named Bonnie for three decades now, who loves me and trusts God and Goodness so crazily that I sometimes think of her as Horrible Bonnie, because I cannot get her to judge me or abandon hope. For thirty years, she has answered all of my distressed or deeply annoyed phone calls by saying, “Hello, Dearest. I’m so glad it’s you!” I’ve come to believe that this is how God feels when I pray, even at my most awful.

So, Dearest: Here is everything I know about almost everything, that I think applies to almost everyone, that might help you a bit someday.

After writing those words, I stalled. What do I know?

From the book Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott, © 2018 by Anne Lamott. Published by arrangement with Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Anne Lamott's latest book, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope, will be available on October 16. And hear our interview with Lamott on our new podcast, Books of Your Life with Elizabeth.



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Comments Showing 1-38 of 38 (38 new)

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message 1: by Aenea (last edited Sep 28, 2018 07:29AM) (new)

Aenea Jones I am stockpiling antibiotics for the apocalypse

When the apocalypse actually comes, bacteria will already be resistant against them.

the truth is that we are beloved, even in our current condition, by someone; we have loved and been loved.

I think there is a number of people, that feel like that's not true for them.

Love and goodness and the world’s beauty and humanity are the reasons we have hope.

That sounds great!
But our world is actually pretty fucked up.


Still, this book might give some inspirations to those not pessimistic and/or cynical.
I probably won't read it, but for some people, people still receptive for hope/optimism, it's a good thing books like this are written :)


message 2: by Celia (new)

Celia Although her writing is attractive, Anne Lamott's gospel is another gospel than the one described in the Bible, i.e., Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him.

I strongly caution Christians against taking in what she has to say without testing her positions against the Bible directly.


message 3: by Aenea (new)

Aenea Jones Almost sounds like Christians have a patent on topics like this. They don't.
The belief in God has cost hundreds of thousands of people their life. Your gospel kills people.
Everyone should be spiritual, but not in a Christian way, in a universal, tolerant, unrestricted way. And if your way to enlightenment has to lead through religion, let it be Buddhism. It is by far the most peaceful way of having faith.


message 4: by Rosemary (new)

Rosemary Leach I am curious about why an omnipotent god created Ann Lamott, a variety of religions and incorrect versions of the gospel?


message 5: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Celia wrote: "Although her writing is attractive, Anne Lamott's gospel is another gospel than the one described in the Bible, i.e., Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father excep..."

thank you


message 6: by Ali (new)

Ali Aenea wrote:
"And if your way to enlightenment has to lead through religion, let it be Buddhism. It is by far the most peaceful way of having faith."


I like many aspects of Buddhism. But, like nearly all religions, it holds intolerant practices, such as its unequal treatment of gays and women. I agree that a universal, tolerant and unrestricted path toward spirituality is best, as it allows us to embrace however many or few theories suit us. Were I to ever forced to choose a religion, I would lean toward a form of animism or deism or neopaganism, religions that believe humans are an integral part of nature and don't place the worth of one human, or living thing, over another. When in need of faith and hope, I always fall back on the natural world.


message 7: by Georgina (new)

Georgina Wow, I guess there's not much point in reading comments on the blog anymore......it's more than 50% spam.

Does anyone know of a website where we can discuss books instead of reading advertisements?


message 8: by Toni (new)

Toni Rosemary wrote: "I am curious about why an omnipotent god created Ann Lamott, a variety of religions and incorrect versions of the gospel?"

Taking the God thing WAY-TOO-SERIOUSLY.


message 9: by Marj (new)

Marj Rosemary wrote: "I am curious about why an omnipotent god created Ann Lamott, a variety of religions and incorrect versions of the gospel?"

Two thumbs up!!


message 10: by Joan (new)

Joan Zeglarski I’m surprised and dismayed at the “reviews”. Political/religious statements...how about reviewing the writing?


message 11: by Judy (new)

Judy Annie's message is one of gentleness, kindness, and love without judgment. She is humble enough to accept that she is a flawed human, as we all are, and a seeker.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


message 12: by Denise (new)

Denise Westlake Celia wrote: "Although her writing is attractive, Anne Lamott's gospel is another gospel than the one described in the Bible, i.e., Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father excep..."

Nicely said nicely. Amen.


message 13: by Elizabeth Briggs (new)

Elizabeth Briggs I'm a Christian but have had many doubts for quite a long time. If there is such a loving God, why is there such suffering? Please don't say, because we live in a fallen world......I have no one. No family, no friends, no one, because I am disabled and in chronic pain, so I am unable to get out and no one is interested in reaching in, no matter how often I try to reach out.


message 14: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Time to turn off comments? SMH


message 15: by Laura (new)

Laura Burgess Elizabeth Briggs wrote: "I'm a Christian but have had many doubts for quite a long time. If there is such a loving God, why is there such suffering? Please don't say, because we live in a fallen world......I have no one. N..."

Elizabeth, I am sorry for the isolation that you appear to be in. I am hoping that you can find a community, even if it is a virtual to comfort you. Laura


message 16: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Monet I love Anne LaMott but I am not a Christian. I agreee with you.


message 17: by Gaia (new)

Gaia In my opinion, this is a lovely excerpt. Lamott’s perspective is well-balanced, and I hope this is the book that she wished her father had written. I’m sure that her grandson and niece will appreciate this gift. Thanks for sharing.


message 18: by Toni (new)

Toni I appreciate the constructive criticism. Thank you.


message 19: by Carla (new)

Carla I love Anne because she’s a believer of God and the goodness offered to us and she’s so human, often giving my thoughts a voice, a kindness, a way to be at peace in my faith.


message 20: by Chuck (new)

Chuck How about we agree to actually READ the book before opining?!
Otherwise, let’s rename this app “EmptyOpinions”
or ”BaselessBias”
Or maybe “UnsupportedOpinionBasedOnKernelsOfSelf-centeredUnknowing”
Just a thought.


message 21: by Chuck (new)

Chuck What Joan Zeglarski said.


message 22: by Nyunt (last edited Oct 03, 2018 07:51AM) (new)

Nyunt Aenea wrote: "Almost sounds like Christians have a patent on topics like this. They don't.
The belief in God has cost hundreds of thousands of people their life. Your gospel kills people.
Everyone should be spi..."


Aenea wrote: "Almost sounds like Christians have a patent on topics like this. They don't.
The belief in God has cost hundreds of thousands of people their life. Your gospel kills people.
Everyone should be spi..."


''And if your way to enlightenment has to lead through religion, let it be Buddhism. It is by far the most peaceful way of having faith.''

Aenea, I agree with you, but on one ground: If what you mean 'Buddhism' is not the popular Buddhism practiced elsewhere. I'm 73 years old and born as a Buddhist in Myanmar, but I made it my only faith after exploring other popular religion and Buddhist literature, especially the text of Tri pitaka or Buddha's Canon. Most monks including very famous and educated ones, don't follow Buddha's demand. They ignore many aspects of Buddha's Laws or Vinaya. For instance, they like to be prostrated by lay persons even though they are not fully enlightened. They accept many things not appropriate to a monk's life, such as mobile phone, cars, motorcycles, and money as alms from many believers though Buddha prohibited them such acts. (ref. Bhikkhu Bodhi: A Translation of Anguttara Nikaya, 107 (7) Virtuous Behaviour and 108(8) One beyond Training Suttras, p. 734).

The monks must practice meditation eagerly and industriously until he gains full enlightenment, but now a day, this practice was just a ceremonial things among even some Buddhist monks who put meditation Centres all over the country in Myanmar. All the meditation teachers are simply not enlightened themselves and they are in another way unqualified. Unless a monk was fully enlightened, he was suppose not to teach or preach to others. You can check it against 'Lohicca Sutta, p.181) of Diganikaya, translated by Maurice Walshe. I could give you many more citations that expose the corrupt practices of modern monks.

Thank you for your praise of Buddhism and recognition of the source of peace!

Oh, well, I love Anna's books. She is an excellent writer in her own way!


message 23: by Betty Johnston (new)

Betty Johnston Nyunt wrote: "Aenea wrote: "Almost sounds like Christians have a patent on topics like this. They don't.
The belief in God has cost hundreds of thousands of people their life. Your gospel kills people.
Everyone..."


Aenea wrote: "Almost sounds like Christians have a patent on topics like this. They don't.
The belief in God has cost hundreds of thousands of people their life. Your gospel kills people.
Everyone should be spi..."


Celia wrote: "Although her writing is attractive, Anne Lamott's gospel is another gospel than the one described in the Bible, i.e., Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father excep..."

Celia wrote: "Although her writing is attractive, Anne Lamott's gospel is another gospel than the one described in the Bible, i.e., Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father excep..."
Most Christians I know also have alternate versions of the Bible. They take the parts they like to preach and disregard parts they don't want to believe or that are counter their purpose. Christian means Christ like and Jesus preached love and mercy and helping our fellow man.


message 24: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Unbelievable! I don't understand most of the opinions expressed here. How does someone review a book that they don't intend to read? What does religious judgement have to do with any of this? Humans are very strange, you lot included...maybe that is what Anne is writing about...


message 25: by Sienna (new)

Sienna Taking a healthy few steps back from the intense religious processing happening here in the comments, I'd like to say that I'm looking forward to reading this book because it feels like Anne Lamott is addressing some very heavy and inescapable things with the same level-headed humour and dignity I've seen in other works of hers. This prelude faces up to the horrors of being alive on Earth while also taking the beauties into consideration. There are no easy answers; there's no feeling of being sold quick comfort.

"Here is everything I know about almost everything, that I think applies to almost everyone, that might help you a bit someday.
After writing those words, I stalled. What do I know?"


Paradoxically, I'm more likely to listen to the opinions of people who know theirs aren't the end-all-be-all of opinions. It usually means they're more measured, more nuanced. Lamott's previous writing has captured me with its stark honesty and its dark humour, its unfailing hope despite everything. I'm curious to see what this list of hers has in store for us all.


message 26: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Sienna wrote: "Taking a healthy few steps back from the intense religious processing happening here in the comments, I'd like to say that I'm looking forward to reading this book because it feels like Anne Lamott..."

Me, too.


message 27: by Toni (new)

Toni Nyunt wrote: "Aenea wrote: "Almost sounds like Christians have a patent on topics like this. They don't.
The belief in God has cost hundreds of thousands of people their life. Your gospel kills people.
Everyone..."


Buddhists committed a holocaust against the Rohingya people in Myanmar. Perhaps, rather than blindly following a religion or person, we should check all our beliefs. Anne has identified a spirituality within herself I hope we can all identify with. I find her words quite profound and look forward to reading more.


message 28: by heidi (new)

heidi oh for god's sake. the christian proselytizing here is despicable. 99% of christians are so unlike christ--it's laughable. jesus would NEVER act so horribly.

but i'm with melissa. this is supposed to be about anne's book & her writing. i've read every single thing she's published and won't ever stop. she's amazing.


message 29: by Christine (new)

Christine Myres If you need a platform for expressing your beliefs, try social media. I thought this was a place to discuss books, the quality of the writing and/or ideas ... no


message 30: by Christine (new)

Christine Myres ?


message 31: by Marcia (new)

Marcia Zuvanich Ali wrote: "Aenea wrote:
"And if your way to enlightenment has to lead through religion, let it be Buddhism. It is by far the most peaceful way of having faith."

I like many aspects of Buddhism. But, like n..."

I appreciate your post. I'm not Buddhist but I like the fact that it is not really a religion in many places. I'm for, I guess, spiritualism, without any attachment to any religion. For church, I go to the Unitarian Universalist church, as they are accepting of any religious/spirital path. But they aren't as "spiritual" as I'd like tho they do provide a place to interact with others and discuss ideas.

I love Anne Lamott's books. They have a clarity of thought that appeals to me without being wishy-washy christian.


message 32: by Ginny (new)

Ginny Christians....stick with your version of truth and leave the rest of us alone. Tired of Christians who want to beat others with their bibles. Go away...


message 33: by Marcia (new)

Marcia Zuvanich Joan wrote: "I’m surprised and dismayed at the “reviews”. Political/religious statements...how about reviewing the writing?"

Anne Lamott's writing is always wonderful and above par. So that leaves ideas to discuss. And I, personally, love her ideas.


message 34: by Emily (new)

Emily Elizabeth Briggs wrote: "I'm a Christian but .... I have no one."

Hi Elizabeth,

I'm sorry that humans are failing you. It's what we do.

I believe God allows suffering to draw us to Himself. He does it over and over in the Old Testament. Read Revelations! We are a stiff-necked people.

Read John. You are not alone. That's what Anne Lamott discovered and wrote about in Traveling Mercies.

Go to Jesus. Surrender everything and He steps in. Blessings and Battle mostly happen together. Keep looking.

Father God, You are Holy and worthy of praise. We thank You that our sister Elizabeth is still searching. Please reach into her life and bring her the miracle of Yourself in someone walking this earth near her. Holy Spirit, please comfort her and give her strength. Ease her pain. In the precious and powerful Name of Jesus we pray. Amen


message 35: by Emily (new)

Emily BTW - I love Anne Lamott's writing. She handles words and turns a phrase like no other. She writes honestly and wears her heart on her sleeve. I too wish there was clearer pointing to Jesus in her writing. However she's a great starting place for those whose hearts are searching and yet so afraid of the wrath of God. Anne reminds us that He loves us, He loves truth, and she speaks her truth. He is The Creator and made us in His Image so therefore loves creativity. When creativity is beautiful and displays love and respect for others, it honors Him. Anne Lamott's writing is beautiful, and life honoring.

God is unfathomable. I don't pretend to know how His Mind works. We all get things wrong. It's why we need Jesus. So, please, if you are offended by the comments here, but love Anne's work, please honor her enough to be kind, or say nothing at all.


message 36: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Walker-Lass Wow. Things are getting a little judge-y here. How about let's breathe and remind ourselves that how anyone else decides to come to God is their business, not ours. To read or not read an author is an individual decision, but to criticize without reading what the author has to say is a blatant disregard for the written word. Whew! Someone open up a mental window, please, the utter stagnation is choking me.


message 37: by Denise (new)

Denise Westlake Debbie wrote: "Wow. Things are getting a little judge-y here. How about let's breathe and remind ourselves that how anyone else decides to come to God is their business, not ours. To read or not read an author is..."

Like!


message 38: by Karen R. Dickson (new)

Karen R. Dickson Doris Elaine wrote: "I’ve loved Anne Lamott’s books for years because, first of all, she’s an excellent, very skilled writer! Each word “speaks” and has purpose other than filling up pages. As a lifelong Christian, I r..."

amen!


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