Ciara's Reviews > Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year

Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott
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's review
Oct 05, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: autobio-memoir, read-in-2009
Read in September, 2009

i picked this up because i really liked anne lamott's book about writing, bird by bird (occasional religious asides notwithstanding). i'd heard good things about this book, a journal/memoir she wrote during her first year of parenthood. the book spans the fall of 1989 to the fall on 1990 as lamott recounts her insecurities about being a single mom, raising a child after overcoming addiction, trying to make ends meet on a writer's salary, & eventually, her best friend's late-term breast cancer diagnosis. the majority of the book is devoted to chronicling the ups & downs of new motherhood, dealing with the baby's colic, anxieties over not having a father in the picture & trying to find male friends to be positive male role models. the seesaw of new parenthood is well-documented, oscillating between wonder & amazement at all the fascinating new things the baby learns to do, & frustrations & resentment when the baby won't stop crying or getting into things he shouldn't be getting into. lamott's best friend gets her cancer diagnosis when the baby is about seven months old, & the journal seems to kind of drift off or take on a new, more austere tone after that. i mean, imagine being swamped with the responsibilities of taking care of a seven-month-old infant all on your own--that's just about the time when they can start crawling & getting into everything that you leave out & you barely have a moment of peace. & then you're dealing with this awful thing on top of that. unfathomable.

the whole time i was reading, the narrative voice was ringing a lot of familiar bells for me. i felt like i'd read a similar voice before, a lot, & i couldn't place it until the end--cindy ovenrack from "doris" zine! i was psyched about this, because i love cindy's writing, & part of what i like about it is the very intimate, conversational tone. this book has that same feeling. as much as i didn't want to get drawn into lamott's recounts of showing off her baby at church (sigh), i couldn't help but go along for the ride. a lot of parents i know like this book. i think it would be an especially good read for folks thinking about having a baby. it's a good warning for what you may be getting yourself into!

(sorry this review is so...blah. the tone of it strikes me as facile, but i don't know how to fix it because i haven't had enough coffee yet this morning. i am out of practice writing these things!)

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