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Blue Shoe [Paperback]

Anne Lamott
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 2 2003

The New York Times Bestseller from the beloved author of Bird by Bird and Traveling Mercies.

Mattie Ryder is marvelously neurotic, well-intentioned, funny, religious, sarcastic, tender, angry, and broke. Her life at the moment is a wreck: her marriage has failed, her mother is failing, her house is rotting, her waist is expanding, her children are misbehaving, and she has a crush on a married man. Then she finds a small rubber blue shoe—nothing more than a gumball trinket—left behind by her father. For Mattie, it becomes a talisman—a chance to recognize the past for what it was, to see the future as she always hoped it could be, and to finally understand her family, herself, and the ever-unfolding mystery of her sweet, sad, and sometimes surprising life.


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From Amazon

One of the few progressive Christian writers with a national voice, Anne Lamott's work (Bird by Bird, Operating Instructions) ranges from the meditative to the hilarious. Blue Shoe falls somewhere in the middle of that range. A slow, thoughtful novel, rooted in the domestic routines of child-raising, Blue Shoe follows the newly separated Mattie Ryder as she moves back into her childhood home, recently vacated by her elderly mother, and undertakes the renovation of her entire life. Her best friend Angela has left the San Francisco Bay area to move in with her new lover, Julie. Mattie's ex-husband, Nicky, has settled so quickly into a steady relationship with a young woman named Lee that it is clear they were involved during his marriage to Mattie. Nicky and Mattie's two children are displaying signs of emotional disturbance (Lamott is at her best in describing the quietly weird behavior of young children). And to add to the mix, Mattie's mother is falling into a senile dementia characterized by pleading phone calls and wacky assertions of independence. All Mattie wants is a little more money, a decent boyfriend, and for her philandering father to rise from his grave and solve all her problems. Is that so much to ask? Some of the action in this novel could have been compressed, and the major subplot involving Mattie's father fails to excite, but the strengths of Blue Shoe--humor, unflinching characterization, and keen observation--more than compensate for its weaknesses. --Regina Marler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Memoirist and novelist Lamott (Operating Instructions; Crooked Little Heart, etc.) brilliantly captures the dilemma of a divorced woman from the so-called "sandwich generation" in her latest, a funny, poignant and occasionally gut-wrenching novel that tracks the efforts of Mattie Ryder to cope with her divorce, find a new man, deal with her mother's aging and restore the emotional equilibrium of her two young children. The divorce dominates in the early going as Mattie continues to sleep with her sexy but egotistical ex-husband, Nick, even though his new romance with a younger woman is clipping along at a sprightly pace. Meanwhile, Mattie grows close to a married friend named Daniel, who also feels a romantic pull although he's happily married. Mattie's feisty mother, Isa, ages precipitously and becomes increasingly disoriented, leading to a series of calamities. Mattie's touching relationships with her kids, two-year-old Ella and difficult but sensitive six-year-old Harry, become the emotional anchor for the novel, and narrative momentum is provided by the gradual unfolding of a family secret, which reveals the infidelities of Mattie's late father. Most of the comedy is of the domestic variety, and Lamott continually displays her gift for finding the right combination of humor and small but significant revelations in ordinary moments. The ensemble cast is another major strength of the book, providing a backdrop against which Mattie, Daniel, Isa and the children emerge as powerful and memorable individuals. Lamott has explored similar terrain in her earlier works, but the scope and freshness of this novel could make it a breakout work for her.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Tenderhearted, Yeah. June 5 2007
Format:Audio CD
Since everybody else has had their say about elements of style, plot and lack thereof, let me just add that it's a morale-buster when Mattie doesn't even learn the lessons of her hard-lived life.

Theme: searching for why her family is so screwed up. Discovery: (1)her dad was a self-serving adulterer/pedophile who inflicted emotional pain on everyone he was close to, and (2) he probably got that way because he was knocked off his moorings by being sexually abused as a kid.

So what does Mattie, his spiritual and tender-hearted adult daughter, do? (1) Knocks both her kids off their emotional moorings with her sexual blundering and floundering, and (2)casually crushes Pauline underfoot--- Pauline, a nice woman who never did Mattie any harm and who was, in fact, outlandishly generous toward her--- in order to steal her husband Daniel.

All the while making like this is so very understandable and so very special, because she and Daniel like going to church! So t'hell with Pauline and too bad for the anxiety-tortured kids --- give 'em a snuggly hug, right? --- because kids can always adapt, right?

Mattie: so perceptive, so self-aware, so honest. Tenderhearted as a rusty knife.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Book with Depth, Beauty, and Empathy June 21 2005
Format:Paperback
I thought this was an absolutely wonderful book. I read a number of very negative reviews about this book on this site, and wondered if the reviewers had read the same book as I did? I could only surmise that those reviewers have not personally experienced much tragedy or pain in their lives. Had they done so, they would have understood so much more about Anne Lamott's story. The main character is going through a "dark night of the soul", where she feels as if everything in her life has come out wrong, or certainly not the way she planned or hoped. And she is struggling with trying to make sense of it all, to find meaning, and to discover the path she needs to take in her new life.
She is recently divorced, a single mother, part of the sandwich generation - taking care of both her children and her aging mother. She was raised in an unstable and abusive environment. She is perceptive, bright, aware, and intelligent, trying desperately to sort out the confusions, losses, challenges and growth in both her past life and for the future.
I would highly recommend this book to any women (in particular) who have questioned themselves, their paths, their choices, and find themselves at mid-life with no "happy ending" ......yet. The book is compassionate, insightful, messy, strong, and very much about the human condition.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A sense of humor would have helped. June 22 2004
By algo41
Format:Paperback
Matte is a recently divorced woman with two young children who slowly recreates a fulfilling life. While told in the 3rd person, Blue Shoe is written entirely from Matte's viewpoint: I suspect this is simpler than using the first person, but perhaps not as effective. To my taste, had Matte had more of a sense of humor, it need not have been inconsistent with the rest of her character, and it would certainly have made Blue Shoe more enjoyable. On the other hand, the evolving relationship between Matte and her declining mother is superbly done, one of the highlights which makes this book worthwhile. In general, the secondary characters and Matte's relationships to them are the strength of Blue Shoe. Lamott frequently employs paragraphs of short sentences, which sometimes works, and sometimes gets tiresome, but perhaps that is Lamott's objective. While other readers have been impressed with Lamott's use and description of skies and weather, and certainly they add to the book, I don't think Lamott is particularly sharp at metaphor and language.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Focuses on the Bad, not the Good June 14 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Like much of Lamott's nonfiction, Blue Shoe focuses on what's *wrong* with the life of the protagonist. The main character Mattie has a house, two kids, a true faith, and wonderfully supportive friends. She is even able to eek out a living in the absence of a real job, by doing some sporatic modeling for Sears.
Just as in Lamott's nonfiction, we are subjected to laments about the past--mainly her crazy alcohoic family. And, of course, the lack of a leading man. Quite frankly, the story line grows weary, wheter it's in fiction or nonfiction. Who wants to hear a woman with a decent life whine about her messed up family past and her poor choices when it comes to men?
I gave Blue Shoe two stars, rather than one, because Lamott can be funny and entertaining. I enjoy when we hear about the *good* in Mattie's life--the deep friendships, the wonderful kids, the found faith. And Lamott *can* be downright funny. The book held my attention and was entertaining enough. But periodically I had to put it down because the whining was driving me crazy.
Perhaps someday Lamott will realize how blessed she is, and will decide to focus on the human connections and the humor of everyday life, rather than wallowing in self-pity.
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5.0 out of 5 stars His Blue Heaven March 23 2004
Format:Paperback
In Blue Shoe, Anne Lamott reaches a new level in her already fine fiction writing. Here she steps into an elite circle of American writers who, with minimum strokes, sketch lives and articulate mysteries, while retaining warmth. A rare treat! (I really love this book!)
The plot: a mother (Mattie) and two small children (Ella and Harry) survive, build new friendships and repair old ones. Mattie seeks answers to her father's psychological abandonment, the meaning of a key covered in blue paint, and a toy shoe.
But these plot gears merely turn the larger wheels of inquiry. Why do lives unfold the way they do? What events do we control? Can we accept the passage of time and all it brings? Very moving answers can be found.
The book refers to time and weather so often that they become characters:
"...through the dark and dreary skies, sunbeams slanted, bright and operatic."
"sunlight fell on the mountain as though through a doilie..."
"The storms of winter began, tossed down by towering clouds and marked by sudden shifts of light."
Nature and the changing seasons reveal inner states, primarily Mattie's. Nature plays the part of fortune teller, illuminating lives, predicting events, setting them in motion. This rings true; often it is what we see, in grains of wood, or a shadow on the blind, that reveals us. Our perception is our reality.
Working in counterpoint is another personified character, the Blue Shoe. This toy, left in her father's old car, compels Mattie to investigate his life and possible indiscretions. She holds the toy for comfort, panics when it is gone. She passes it from friend to brother and back to herself as a talisman of searching. It comes to stand for the characters' desires.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars the worst book I've ever read
This book is the best example of the worst writing that I've ever had the displeasure to read. It was disjointed, meandering and totally unsatisfying. Read more
Published on May 28 2012 by Agnes D Dorken
3.0 out of 5 stars God helps those who help themselves
I enjoyed the beautifully written descriptions of the lead character's surroundings. It was interesting to note the degree of self-centeredness for her. Read more
Published on July 12 2004 by Liz
2.0 out of 5 stars not very good
I found that the book was easy reading and it didn't really have any point to it at all. I wouldn't recommend it. Read more
Published on June 1 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Anne Lamott should be Anne Lament
Anne Lamott's name should be Anne Lament because that's all her characters ever do. We enjoy reading about flawed characters because it reaffirms our own imperfections in life,... Read more
Published on March 10 2004 by "calicocat23"
3.0 out of 5 stars Trying on the Blue Shoe
I sat down with Anne Lamott's new character Mattie Ryder, and she let me know that it's perfectly fine to be flawed. Read more
Published on March 3 2004 by Erin Rhodes
3.0 out of 5 stars Got Faith?
Mattie Ryder is a middle aged divorced mother of two who loves her children, loves her parents, loves her friends, and loves her dog. Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2004 by David B. Tomko
2.0 out of 5 stars Blue Shoe Lacks Color
Anne Lamott's Blue Shoe reminds me of a California version of Seinfeld, only with children. Both Blue Shoe and Seinfeld are about average people dealing with the minutiae and... Read more
Published on Feb. 23 2004 by David Ley
1.0 out of 5 stars Is it just me, or....
...is every single book Anne Lamott writes about herself and her family and friends? I LOVE her non-fiction, but the same people show up again and again in her novels, often... Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2004
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