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

Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott
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's review
May 15, 2012

liked it

I've always enjoyed Anne Lamott's books (and believe me, I'm not into preachy, religious stuff)-so the fact that she is talking about her faith (pretty often) -and I'm not running away like my hair's on fire, is a compliment to her and her previous books. I really loved 'Traveling Mercies'and "Operating Instructions'

This is the story of how Anne became a grandparent when her nineteen -year- old son and his girlfriend have a baby. Immediately, I sensed the tension between her and the 'baby mama' (Amy) I felt that Anne was too catty-almost in a competitive way: was she upset to be usurped by Amy, as the focus of Sam's life? I'm not sure, but it's a surprising stance from the Anne I've come to know, who is big on everybody cutting everybody else a break. She is particularly critical that the girl might actually stay home and raise her child- as opposed to getting a job at a fast food joint (I'm assuming the 19 year old mom isn't uber qualified for higher end work) If Jax is so important, how is Amy expected to leave him for most hours of the day to flip burgers? But Anne wants the baby in day care, and for Amy to work (because raising a baby- is NOT work?) However, I don't think Anne gets a vote. It's too bad that 'full time Mom' isn't looked at as a noble pursuit. Or perhaps Anne's trying to lighten her son's financial burden (which is what I suspect) I just feel that if it were one of her fellow church-goers, or someone she walked the dogs with, she would wax poetic about the grandness and quiet grace of staying home to raise the children by hand!

Anne seems genuinely surprised when Amy wants to relocate to where her immediate family is. Of course this girl wants to flock to her own family and hometown! I don't blame her. She must sense Anne's critical eye aimed at her, and her favoritism towards her son, which is natural- but Amy wants some of that, too! Who wouldn't? I was also taken aback by how Anne freaked out that the baby might be blessed in a different faith (Amy's) Oh, the hysterical phone calls, the fainting couch ,tears, the need for smelling salts! Evidently, Anne feels HER faith, is the RIGHT faith, and other faiths, lesser. That really surprised me.

As I recall, Anne wasn't a perfect mom (nor is anyone) I felt she came off very controlling in this book and that she had influenced her son (maybe) a little too much. He always knows exactly what to say to her to pat her on the back, to congratulate her on being a great mother. Or parrot her religious beliefs. I admit, I was a little eye-rolly about that!

Their back and forth e-mails seemed very conscious of their future publication in a book. I also felt there were passages that were a little too 'over-thinky'- almost as though they had been edited and smoothed out around the edges. New father Sam's Dr. Spock-ish hand-eye coordination very fascinating.....IF it's your kid, but if it isn't- not so much. Everyone thinks their kid is the greatest, and everyone also resents you thinking yours is. There is what feels like false excitement and over-the-top 'babies are a miracle!' talk, throughout this book, with very little of the tedium and day-to-day stress a baby brings.

I notice a lot of authors are doing 'projects' (books) with their kids lately...and I wonder if this is a healthy nepotism or not. The jury's still out, and at this point they've moved into a hotel. But you can't expect your kid to be independent- and respected- if doors are automatically opened for them. Readers aren't just going to take anybody in because you're related to them. It feels like a shortcut- especially in writing. And I (as a reader/aspiring writer) don't want to be used. Let me decide if I want to read Sam. Let him earn it! Writing is HARD!

Maybe after some real life is lived, maybe then a person has something to say. Bad decisions make good stories. Let him make some! Struggles. Honesty. Rejection. Skip over that, and you skim the rock over great writing as well. (I know I couldn't be honest, if my mom was paving a financial road for me, by letting me write in her 'already established as a writer' book!) And yet when Amy's family helps her, in the same vein that she helps Sam, I want to say: Don't begrudge Amy the few breaks she gets, breaks that are much lesser than those which you dole out to Sam. The Christmas Ornament debacle: shouldn't she just string cranberries if she has no job? or some such comment: Shouldn't Sam be 'stringing cranberries' as well? But, oh-right... now he's an 'author!'

I have my own problems with religion, with believing certain intangible things, while seeing just the opposite in very tangible form. The visit to India was odd and interesting, but I don't get how Anne comes to terms with the plight of all of those poor, displaced street people- and her own charmed life (by comparison) Oh- I know how annoying those beggars can be- and what liars, as well! She seems to assuage her guilt about not giving to them by letting us in on how they bullshit everybody. Really?- even though they live in the street-and their kids are starving- shouldn't they at least be honest? Can Anne imagine what untruths she would tell if it were Sam and Jax who went hungry? And I can't wrap my head around how we are supposed to idolize' a God who gives some so much, and yet to others, these horrible, filthy lives. Lives that well-off people travel the world to observe from their cruise ships and elegant hotels, as Rome burns. I just don't get it! (ps: I have relatives like this, they travel the world but they don't actually 'see' They point at the poor, then come home and talk about the misery they saw, over fine wine and imported cheese) Does it ever occur to anyone that the God they believe in seems to have favorites, and maybe they 'love' him because they are the chosen?

(That there are so many elaborate religious landmarks in India -that cost and generate hand-over-fist money- in a place that is otherwise so destitute, sickens me, as well. But none of this is Anne's fault- it's just that she doesn't contemplate it, and to me- it would be a glaring, ugly truth!)

There is also a comment she makes about her son not having had a full time father, wherein she says that it was actually better for her son. "Then he didn't have to witness the arguing, and fighting over how much sex to have', etc. What?? That sounds bizarre! I get that she didn't have a successful marriage, but if you have a good relationship, it is great to have both parents. Preferred! I mean- if you can make it so. She's obviously lost faith in her own man/woman relationships, and is trying to make herself feel better about it. But don't put down all of those who have made it work! She says she makes mistakes, but the last word is always about the great results of those mistakes. SHE might think her son is better off, but maybe her son doesn't. Not that he would ever say.

She also takes to task a woman she runs into somewhere, who's relieved that it isn't her child who was pro-creating at nineteen. But wouldn't Anne feel the same way if the roles were reversed? Don't we all wish and pray for our kids to be prepared before they have children? Don't we all feel sorry for kids who have kids precisely because we know what they are in for? But now that it's hit home and Jax is here, she's trying to convince us that it's the BEST thing that ever happened! Since it's happened to THEM, it's a blessing- something to even brag about! OH, those poor people whose kids wait until they are ready! It's like when a stripper tells you it's a great job, and just look at all the money. Yeah- but you're a stripper, and it has certain connotations that aren't going to change just because it's become a part of YOUR life. No one is ever going to wish their teenager has a baby. Ever! I'm not buying it-and you shouldn't be selling it- to quote one Ms. Elaine Bennes.

Finally: Not being a grandmother myself- I don't understand how obsessed she is with this child of her son's. I do get that she loves him of course- but she seems to focus on him every second of every day- counting off the days since she's last seen him, etc. I've always thought that if your life is full enough, you have other interests. Books to read. Friends. Places to see! More books to read.. I love babies, but there is a LOT of minutia and down time (read: boring crap) involved- it's just not as endlessly fascinating as she (and baby product commercials) make it seem. In fact, it's often downright exhausting, and sometimes you wish you were free again! I hate when people sugar-coat it. It leads to bad decisions.(Which make good stories?)

So- as you can see- I'm bringing a lot of my own feelings and opinions to this review- but the truth is- I always bring myself into the mix when reading. I mean- it's me, reading, right? I liked this book enough to finish it and I enjoy Anne and her family-but not as much as in the past. Whereas I would have thought (before reading this book) I'd want to be a grandmother like Anne, it turns out I'd rather be much different. But I will still read her next book, and probably every one she writes in the future! Because she set the bar high. Maybe even too high.
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Finished Reading
May 15, 2012 – Shelved

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