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

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
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Feb 15, 2009

did not like it

Anne Lamott writes sharp, funny, clever prose -- another of her books, _Bird by Bird_, really does give wonderful advice on writing and is how I was initially introduced to her. This book is a number of essays on a variety of issues -- getting older, handicapped people, what you can learn when you hurt yourself on a ski slope. She can be quite smart and very cute. But although she has a "love everyone" approach and is all about forgiving and laughing through life's brokenness and hurt... it all gets a little thin and stale. She is, after all, in good health, with family, living in the wealthiest nation in the world. Her problems are generally problems of the soul -- and God knows, those are the hardest of all to face. But does she really face them?

In writing about abortion, her hatred against those who oppose it is bleak and glaring. And I could barely read the chapter where she helps euthanize a friend. Which is when I stopped reading. Confusion and seeking are a part of life (especially in cultures wealthy enough to have leisure for certain kinds of existential angst). I would also agree that there's a certain tender beauty in the ubiquitous inelegance of humanity. But I'm afraid this book is just an echoing of Sixties psychology -- a gushily warm philosophy (or, in some cases, really a religion) of Self that in practice is totally depressing. In so far as she escapes that philosophy, her book is beautiful; in so far as she clings to it, the book is extremely disturbing.

So it gave me a perhaps useful insight into a politics and morality much different than mine and helped high-light what areas of confluence there can be. (It might be worth a read for priests and seminarians who want to understand the mind of the Sixties generation which is still very much with us.) But, in the end, I am enough spoiled by the Academic approach to chuck aside a book with a tinge of disgust that vilified any politics or morality besides its own while failing to be conscious (or honest) about its own inner contradictions and problems.
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06/28/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Becky I saw your review and thought, "How strange - this person seems to have read a completely different book from me."

Then I realized that, indeed, you have read a completely different book from me. The ski slope story appears to be from Grace (Eventually), not Traveling Mercies. They do all have nearly identical covers, so your mistake is understandable.


Bailey Yep, you did read Grace (Eventually). I always recommend to start with Traveling Mercies, then read Plan B, then Grace (Eventually). Each book gets a little darker, because the world changes around Lamott, so she naturally gets a little bit more jaded. The first book was published before 9/11, and the third after the war in Iraq had begun, etc. So I think the progression makes sense considering the circumstances. Traveling Mercies is quite different from Grace (Eventually) and you might really like it.


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