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on January 19, 2004
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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on October 24, 2002
Since the time of my own conversion experience - at age 38 - I have had a special place in my heart for others with similar experiences and Lamott's is one of the most beautifully described conversions I have ever read. A week after an abortion she finds herself one night, drunk and losing lots of blood. She's terrified and when the bleeding finally stops she turns off the light and tries to go to sleep only to become aware of someone in the room with her - first assuming it was her [dead] father. She turns on the light to find, of course, no one in the room. "But after a while in the dark again, I knew beyond any doubt it was Jesus. ... And I was appalled. I thought about my life and my brillant hilarious progressive friends. I thought about what everyone would think of me if I became a Christian, and it seemed an utterly impossible thing that simply could not be allowed to happen. I turned to the wall and said out loud, 'I would rather die.' I felt him sitting there on his haunches in the corner of my sleeping loft, watching me with patience and love, and I squinched my eyes shut, but that didn't help because that's not what I was seeing him with."
Thanks be to God.
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on February 26, 1999
Once again Anne Lamott has proven herself to be a witty and irreverent commentator on some of life's more gnarly issues, although this time the subject is ironically her devout belief in a divinely endowed universe. I wish I knew more Christians like Anne Lamott -- a true believer who is nevertheless willing to bare (almost defiantly at times) her doubts, fears and weaknesses. Finally, a protagonist of faith I can identify with! Lamott's struggles and musings have a very familar ring to them, and the light of faith that she manages to shed on these events is meaningful and touching. The only negative in this collection that I could find is Lamott's unfortunate tendency dwell a bit over-long on her admittedly neurotic (but understandable) worries about her own and her son's health, which gets a bit wearying about midway through the book. Nevertheless, there is much to love about "Traveling Mercies," which I know I'll refer to for some time to come to renew my own commitment to a life of faith. Well done!
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on August 19, 2002
I can't fault this book, only praise it. For who else has written in such a unique way about a faith journey? Lamott makes it real (for someone of her age [middle-aged] and from a definitely Californian point of view.) But, her observations and the way she writes about them are universal. And funny.
If you can't laugh at yourself, your foibles, and even at God, don't read this--you'll start feeling self-righteous and will be quickly entering a "how dare she?" review. You will, of course, have totally missed the point.
Everyone can learn something about the way LIFE has a sneaky way of surfacing painful and joyous memories and feelings. These emotions are triggered by life's details, which Lamott expertly captures. She finds the most unassuming triggers to release a flood of feelings about various topics. The stories she tells are God-given, precious moments. Perhaps we don't "see" these moments and reflect on them enough in our lives. Is that why Lamott touches us? Thankfully, she remind us that they are there.
Read and savor this book, if you are open to what makes someone an imperfect person--and a Christian.
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on June 4, 1999
Unlike other reviewers, I didn't find the book hilarious or tearfully moving. Lamott has been a terribly injured person most of her life (eating disorders, adulterous relationships, alcohol and drug abuse), and she doesn't seem particularly sorry for any of it.
Her relationship to faith seems to be about community within her church and sophomoric prayers to God about things like her fat thighs: no real depth here. I didn't find the writing particularly insightful or inspiring.
If Lamott's life is one to emulate, should we all be teaching our seven-years-olds to yell "fuck" out the car window at other people? I don't think so.
It's difficult to see what distinguishes Lamott's faith from no faith, besides her jewelry, "a little gold cross," and childish supplications to God. If this is Christianity, humanism is far nobler. The book has its endearing parts, notably the kindness of some of Lamott's childhood friend's parents toward her while growing up, and the selflessness of fellow parishoners. Maybe one of them could write a better book about faith.
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on July 23, 2001
What a lovely book of revelation, personal quest, and spiritual fulfillment! Anne Lamott takes the reader along on a personal journey that is both difficult and heartbreaking, but which rings with the realization that there is life after no-matter-what-kind of previous life you might have had. We travel her road of addiction and grief as she searches for the right path in her life, while at the same time we become involved and caring in her life. When she stumbles into a community church after years of denying the need for religion, not to mention Christianity, she finds the home that she didn't even realize she needed. Her subsequent acceptance of Christ as her savior is as much surprise as it is revelation, and it becomes a life-changing event. Not only can she fight, and defeat, her addiction, she can also pray with her son whenever life affords a problem that seems insurmountable. But this is not a schmaltzy touchy-feely book of fundamentalist dogma. It is truly a blessing, both for the author and for the reader. The simple acceptance of God and His healing power along with the love and comfort of a supportive community illustrate the changes that can occur when one is ready to surrender to a higher power. It ends too soon and one longs for "the rest of the story." Let's all hope that Anne Lamott will continue the saga of her spiritual journey.
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on March 9, 1999
Anne Lamott's latest nonfiction work is not her best yet, but it's still a very satisfying read.
Traveling Mercies works best in parts; many individual chapters and essays are excellent. Some of them, however, just seem drawn out and indulgent. And, as a collection, it doesn't seem to add up the way I was expecting.
I must say that it's refreshing to read a Christian writer who doesn't attempt to bully or rationally argue the reader into converting to her belief. One of Lamott's real strengths is to share stories of herself, to indicate how things affect her and why, and to let the reader take or leave it as she will.
As an atheist, I don't share Lamott's belief in Jesus. Anyone with an open mind, however, should find much value in this book, whether or not he agrees with her views on life.
Definitely worth reading, but not as good as Bird by Bird or Operating Instructions.
(I also have to mention that one of Lamott's best stories dealing with her faith doesn't appear in this book, although you can find it in the archives of Salon Magazine. Search the archives for "My Advent Adventure.")
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on July 11, 2003
Anne Lamott, author of 'Bird by Bird,' 'Hard Laughter,' 'Operating Instructions' and 'Blue Shoe' has written this personal account on her journey of faith and spirituality. Her leap of faith in everyday life braves the challenge of leaping across the abyss of doubt with fear and trembling. She recalls from Micah...and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. Both a divine human comedy and error of Christ-like suffering and passion with a penance for honest and wise sense of humor that has raw courage to spill it out on the page.

If you're still struggling with faith and you've tried source books after another. Then I'd recommend Ms. Lamott's 'Traveling Mercies.' Lamott tells it like it is with a been there, done that kind-of-spirit who wasn't afraid of living life but still loved God with all the passion and yearning. She shares her life with open insight and truly genuine faith in raising her son Sam, the relationships with her family, old friends, women of her church and men she dated. She tells us in a vibrant, warm and funny way in her journey of faith that sustains and guides her. Traveling through as a shining light in the darkest of life and exposing her inner well of meaning and hope. Lamott is a cross between Erma Bombeck, Cyndi Lauper and Ruth Graham. Well, sort of. If you're trying to find your walk of faith and what to understand in an honest, wise straightforwardness approach to the ups-and-downs of daily living Ms. Lamott can be your friend. My top recommendation on real faith.
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on April 29, 1999
I liked Lamott's previous book, Bird By Bird, much better, even though it did have a frequently peevish tone, as if all her problems were other people's fault. At the time, I dismissed it as a legitimate literary technique, like hyperbole. In Bird By Bird, at least, she communicated some important truths about writing. However, in Travelling Mercies, Lamott really cranks up the petulancy in her voice. After a while, her self-absorbed whining grated on my nerves so much that I couldn't finish the book. What did it for me was the chapter in which she despises the mother of one of her son's classmates essentially because she is competent at parenting her child. After listening to a litany of immature criticisms of this women's alleged faults, and giving testament to her own inadequacy as parent, she finally realizes at the end of the chapter that she's been a jerk. Well, I could have told her that after only the first few paragraphs! I didn't find the voice she used humorous or insightful at all. It was narcissistic and unenlightened, and was not a voice that I expected to find in a book that purports to have something relevant to say to me about faith or spirituality.
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on March 25, 2002
In this quirky insightful memoir, Lamott reveals a remarkable range of emotional aptitude. Ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime, her spiritual flounderings might be amusing were it not for the deeply painful or exuberantly gratifying circumstances under which her understanding of her place in the universe steadily evolves. Anne Lamott is a mother who prays. She says, "Here are the two best prayers I know:"Help me, help me, help me," and "Thank you, thank you, thank you." She then tells us that ,"A woman I know says, for her morning prayer, "Whatever," and then for the evening, "Oh, well,".........When all of the theology and dogma are rinsed from the muddied waters of religion, those four prayers (help me, thank you, whatever, and oh, well) will be visible in the sands below for anyone snorkeling by to celebrate. Funky faith stories whose author courageously tells us more than we deserve to know about Anne Lamott will continue to circulate this book from one spiritual seeker to another.
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