Traveling Mercies


I am leery of a memoir that has the potential of becoming a swaggering braggart.

Christian memoirs run that risk, the “I found Jesus,” part can get lost in the drugs, sex, alcohol, and abuse; like the reminisce is making them long for the good old days. And reading you begin to pity the poor schmuck who happily grew up in a loving Christian home. That’s when you know a story’s failed itself in the Christian memoir genre.

So I was ever so slightly skeptical that Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies would fall into a drunken love fest about her bad old self. Instead I found an honestness about who she is, where she is, how she fails, how she succeeds. All of which does not measure up in the crucible of perfect truth. She’s broken and honest. And loves her Savior. And thinks abortion is a good option. That part made me sad.

We have to be willing to take people, even Christians, where they’re at, which in theory is easy. But in reality, I find some people really tedious, some stupid, some feeble when I should be trying to just cover their sins with love. But there you go and in reality it just made me mad that Lamott would vigil away outside a prison that would enact the death penalty on a man who snatched a small boy from his young life, then murdered him after enduring untold horrors and then threw him in the woods.

But be totally okay with a small helpless child being killed in the coziest of wombs because mom’s have rights too. And unfortunately, I think she’d call foul on me and call me a right-winged conservative Bible thumping nut job. It was sad because Anne Lamott absolutely exudes love for all sorts of people, no matter what, no matter where. But apparently everyone, even Anne Lamott, has her limits. And her limit fell at Republicans and Pro Lifers. I found that small of her.

Especially when she so cleverly says:

“It’s so utterly bizarre to stare into the face of one of these tiny perfect beings and to understand that you (or someone a lot like you) grew them after a sweaty little bout of sex. And then weighing in at the approximate poundage of a medium honeydew melon, they proceed to wedge open your heart. (Also, they help you see that you are mad as a hatter, capable of violence just because Alvin and the Chipmunks are singing when you are trying to have a nice spiritual moment thinking about ashes.)”

Anne Lamott knows she’s “just a bad Christian. A bad born-again Christian,” a Christians who know the depths to which she can fall. And sometimes does. And admit it. There’s hope in it like reading about David or Rahab.

She remembers the hour she first believed,

“I was thirsty for something that I will dare to call the truth, so I read a lot of East Indian poetry and sat in the little chapel on campus and tried to pray. In the spring of my sophomore year, I began a course with a tiny Czechoslovakian woman named Eva Gossman. I loved Mrs. Gossman in general and worked very hard in her class. Then one day she gave us Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, and my life changed forever.”

She is riotously funny, utterly honest, and dares to expose and explore her fears and failures.

Lamott is not going to be for everyone. If you are the sort who would tell me, “We don’t use the word ‘crap’ in our house,” and insist no one else does either; do. not. get. this. book.

If you live in a tiny tight Christian ghetto; do. not. get. this. book.¬†Another reviewer wrote:¬†”Lamott reminds us that sanitized piety should not be confused with real faith.”

If you are willing to take people where they’re at in their faulty fallen striving journey Lamott has a way with words.

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1 comment to Traveling Mercies

  • Noel

    I would add that because I knew where I stood on “issues,” I was okay with reading this book. I agree with your assessment. But I learned from LaMott in all those areas that God needed to teach me. She opened up a side of my faith that needed opening. She showed me areas that I’ve not ever ventured into, considering my upbringing. She broke down the walls of my neat little box of Christianity. She widened my box…in a good way. Thanks for the review

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