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Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith [Paperback]

Anne Lamott
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (243 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 15 2000
Anne Lamott claims the two best prayers she knows are: "Help me, help me, help me" and "Thank you, thank you, thank you." She has a friend whose morning prayer each day is "Whatever," and whose evening prayer is "Oh, well." Anne thinks of Jesus as "Casper the friendly savior" and describes God as "one crafty mother."

Despite--or because of--her irreverence, faith is a natural subject for Anne Lamott. Since Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird, her fans have been waiting for her to write the book that explained how she came to the big-hearted, grateful, generous faith that she so often alluded to in her two earlier nonfiction books. The people in Anne Lamott's real life are like beloved characters in a favorite series for her readers--her friend Pammy, her son, Sam, and the many funny and wise folks who attend her church are all familiar. And Traveling Mercies is a welcome return to those lives, as well as an introduction to new companions Lamott treats with the same candor, insight, and tenderness.

Lamott's faith isn't about easy answers, which is part of what endears her to believers as well as nonbelievers. Against all odds, she came to believe in God and then, even more miraculously, in herself. As she puts it, "My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers." At once tough, personal, affectionate, wise, and very funny, Traveling Mercies tells in exuberant detail how Anne Lamott learned to shine the light of faith on the darkest part of ordinary life, exposing surprising pockets of meaning and hope.

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Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith + Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers + Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
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From Amazon

For most writers, the greatest challenge of spiritual writing is to keep it grounded in concrete language. The temptation is to wander off into the clouds of ethereal epiphanies, only to lose readers with woo-woo thinking and sacred-laced clichés. Thankfully, Anne Lamott (Operating Instructions, Crooked Little Heart) knows better. In this collection of essays, Lamott offers her trademark wit and irreverence in describing her reluctant journey into faith. Every epiphany is framed in plainspoken (and, yes, occasionally crassly spoken) real-life, honest-to-God experiences. For example, after having an abortion, Lamott felt the presence of Christ sitting in her bedroom:
This experience spooked me badly, but I thought it was just an apparition born of fear and self-loathing and booze and loss of blood. But then everywhere I went I had the feeling that a little cat was following me, wanting me to reach down and pick it up, wanting me to open the door and let it in. But I knew what would happen: you let a cat in one time, give it a little milk and then it stays forever.
Whether she's writing about airplane turbulence, bulimia, her "feta cheese thighs," or consulting God over how to parent her son, Lamott keeps her spirituality firmly planted in solid scenes and believable metaphors. As a result, this is a richly satisfying armchair-travel experience, highlighting the tender mercies of Lamott's life that nudged her into Christian faith. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

A key moment in the step-by-step spiritual awakening of the author came to her as a freshman in college when an impassioned professor taught her Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling. Raised by her bohemian California family to believe only in "books and music and nature," Lamott (Bird by Bird; Operating Instructions) was enthralled by the Danish philosopher's rendition of the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham, Lamott learned, so trusted in God's love that he was willing to follow the order to sacrifice his own son. This story pierced Lamott and she "crossed over. I don't know how else to put it or how and why I actively made, if not exactly a leap of faith, a lurch of faith.... I left class believing?accepting?that there was a God." Nonetheless, it would take the heartbreak of her father's death and more than a dozen years of escalating drug and alcohol addiction to bring Lamott to fully embrace Christianity. In a short autobiography and 24 vignettes that appeared in earlier versions in the online magazine Salon, Lamott blends raw emotional honesty with self-mocking goofiness to show how the faith she has cultivated at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in the poor community of Marin City, Calif., translates into her everyday life and friendships, especially into her relationship with her young son, Sam. Although Lamott's clever style sometimes feels too calculated, the best bits here memorably convey the peace that can descend when a sensitive, modern woman accepts the love of God with her own brand of fear and trembling. First serial to Mirabella; author tour. Agent, Chuck Verrill.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This one lives on my bedside table Jan. 19 2004
Format:Paperback
Super, super, super.
I can't say it any better than many of the other reviews I've read of this book, so I'm just going to second all the five star reviews in this collection.
Anne Lamott did me the supreme honor of offering to write a cover blurb for my own book, so I owe her big time. But even if she'd not done me, a first time author, this supreme honor, I would kiss her toes and paint them with sparkle glitter green polish for having written this nitty-gritty, HONEST, shining and quirky book about her own journey to faith.
I have to share my favorite line (paraphrasing, cuz I can't find it right this minute...): I'm not going to tell you what I really thought of that woman in her Lycra bicycle shorts, because if I did, it'd make Jesus drink gin straight out of the cat's dish.
You've gotta love her. I just wish she lived next door.
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4.0 out of 5 stars my kind of christian June 16 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Until I read Anne Lamott I associated the word "Christian" with holier-than-thou, priggish, etc. Now I see clearly that that's just a stereotype. It IS possible for a Christian to be a liberal with a wicked sense of humor.
Lamott isn't afraid to present herself in a less than flattering light whether it's secretly hating her mom or yelling out of frustration at her young son. We all do these things, but most of us prefer to show the world the "good" side of ourselves. Lamott is wonderful when it comes to making the everyday petty irritations of life funny, so that you empathize with her rather than judging.
Lamott writes about children, her friends, relatives and church. She writes about the competitiveness that can develop among parents of young children, and she writes about the path she took to becoming sober. Unlike some reviewers, I don't think it's going to be detrimental to her later relationship with her son when she makes him go to church. There could be a lot worse things she could force him to do.
In one essay, she writes about feeling unattractive after standing with a group of teenage girls waiting for a bus back to her hotel. Then she realizes that no one in the group is probably satisfied with her body, and this is something I've started to tell myself when I find myself in that kind of situation, too.
This atheist gives this book two thumbs up.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Irreverantly Entertaining Dec 26 2003
Format:Paperback
Overall, this book is entertaining and engaging. I echo the opinions of other reviewers in saying that Anne Lamott's honesty and transparency in her descriptions of her internal and external life are refreshing and endearing. I also understand the sentiments of some of the reviewers who found her irreverance, well, too irreverant. She is a self-proclaimed "drama queen" and lives up to that title and then some. Usually her "drama queeniness" is hilarious, because you can tell that her supposed self-centeredness comes from a constant need to prove herself (as she herself admits). She says that she has a superiority complex rooted in an inferiority complex.
People who have trouble with this book are wanting to make Anne Lamott a role model instead of a story teller. We can certainly learn from the authenticity and self-awareness shown in the way she tells her stories in this book. She does not shy away from the less flashy aspects of faith--doubt, sin, suffering, etc. and that is what makes this book realistic and honest. She is not writing a story about how we should live our lives, and it is wrong to take that book in this way. But in the end it is a real and engaging story of love and relationships; between her and God, her son, friends, the church, family, and life. It is greatly entertaining, and a refreshing look into someone's life who is as open with her blemishes as with her crowns.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Yet more chicken soup for the soul... Aug. 26 2003
Format:Paperback
...and let's face it, if there's one thing we need more of, it's feelgood stuff where God is credited with performing 'miracles' that don't actually involve anyone getting healed of an incurable disease.
Actually this book is quite readable and good fun. Some of it is charming. There's a surprising amount of humourous self-reflection that reminded me more of Bridget Jones's Diary than anything else, but such is the nature of trendy Christian thought, apparently.
Particularly illuminating is the old joke about the guy who crash lands in the snow, complains about how God didn't rescue him, and, when reminded that he is in fact alive to tell the tale, says that it was because some Eskimo came along and saved him. We laugh because we are so used to Christian apologists using the 'mysterious ways' ploy, so we all know it was really God that sent the Eskimo, right? Lamott parrots this one without a comment. It would have been interesting to see her think about it a little; I'm disappointed that she accepts something so fatuous at face value.
This is good to read on a plane or a beach. You'll enjoy it, toss it aside, and never think about it again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another masterpiece. Aug. 10 2003
Format:Paperback
Each time I read another of Anne Lamott's works, I think it is my all time favorite, until I read the next one. Traveling Mercies is now my favorite. Anne Lamott is one of the most genuine and brutally honest authors I have read.
I am not a religious person, and in fact much the opposite, but I loved this book. I loved the way Anne fully admits that she does not "conform" to the traditional ideology of Christianity, and yet Jesus loves her anyway. I love the writing about her son Sam, her lost friend Pammy . . . all the people who have touched her life in one way or another. All of these people make her look deeper inside herself, and also to God, for answers and solutions to problems that we all face every single day. Of course, her sense of humor also plays a part in this book, as I don't think it's possible to read Anne Lamott without reading her sense of humor. It would just be wrong!
Traveling Mercies touches on the issues that we all have with feeling "not good enough" or like a failure; and how to overcome those things through the stark realizations that flash before our eyes now and then and also through humor.
Truly, if I had one wish on this earth before my life runs out, I would wish to meet her and be a part of her life . . . and after reading Traveling Mercies I can see that she is even more of a loving and compassionate person than I had already assumed. Beautiful writing of a beautiful, though messy at times, life.
I admire Anne for being a Christian but for also accepting others in their own faith, no matter what that faith may be. I think that, truly, this should be a required read for anyone who is a Christian . . . a lesson in acceptance because none of us are perfect and none of us will ever believe exactly the same things because we are all so shaped by our life experiences. Anne Lamott is truly beautifully amazing, and I recommend this book, and all of her others, to everyone.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars It sounded like it was the story of the author and her ...
This was a very depressing book to me. It sounded like it was the story of the author and her struggles.
Published 1 month ago by Pete
1.0 out of 5 stars the item did not show up!
I ordered this book, confirmed payment and it never showed up. I don't believe i was charged the 6 bucks it cost but was not notified of why the order did not go through by the... Read more
Published on Sept. 12 2010 by 10186
1.0 out of 5 stars No Spiritual Insight Whatsoever
I had high hopes for this book as it was highly recommended by a friend -- I was deeply disappointed. It's hard to tell what was more annoying... Read more
Published on March 12 2010 by Book Spy
5.0 out of 5 stars Hooked
This is the book that got me hooked on Anne Lamott. Most poignant and precious are the insights about life as a recovering alcoholic. Read more
Published on July 16 2004 by Wordmeisters
5.0 out of 5 stars Outside my experience
This book should be an eye-opener for anyone who is prone to believing in "cookie cutter christians"...
Read with an open heart. God will bless...
Published on June 11 2004 by LOL
3.0 out of 5 stars Self-centered to the core
There are some great stories in this book but for the most part it is a testament to the author's complete self-centeredness.
Published on April 9 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars WILDLY BEAUTIFUL AND INSPIRING
A must read and must have for every mom, this is more than just profound reading - it is a reference book on parenting and faith. Read more
Published on Jan. 2 2004 by Karen Roberts
4.0 out of 5 stars Great memoir writer
All of Anne Lamott's memoirs make me laugh and warm my heart. This one is no exception. I read it two years ago and plan to revisit it soon. Read more
Published on Dec 31 2003 by W. Wellesley
5.0 out of 5 stars An honest and moving description of faith and grace.
Anne Lamott speaks to my heart, soul, and beliefs as she talks of becoming and remaining a Christian. I began this book on a day when the hairs of my soul were rubbed backward. Read more
Published on Dec 15 2003 by Sally Austin Hundley
3.0 out of 5 stars Honestly, a Good Book
Ann Lamott puts us in a classic conundrum because of her bold-faced honesty. Do we embrace her Christianity or dismiss her vulgararity? Read more
Published on Sept. 5 2003 by Daniel Darling
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