Summary and book reviews of Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott

Traveling Mercies

Some Thoughts on Faith

by Anne Lamott

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
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  • First Published:
    Feb 1999, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2000, 255 pages

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Book Summary

A chronicle of faith and spirituality that is at once tough, personal, affectionate, wise and very funny.

From the bestselling author of Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird comes a chronicle of faith and spirituality that is at once tough, personal, affectionate, wise and very funny.

With an exuberant mix of passion, insight, and humor, Anne Lamott takes us on a journey through her often troubled past to illuminate her devout but quirky walk of faith. In a narrative spiced with stories and scripture, with diatribes, laughter, and tears, Lamott tells how, against all odds, she came to believe in God and then, even more miraculously, in herself. She shows us the myriad ways in which this sustains and guides her, shining the light of faith on the darkest part of ordinary life and exposing surprising pockets of meaning and hope.

Whether writing about her family or her dreadlocks, sick children or old friends, the most religious women of her church of the men she's dated, Lamott reveals the hard-won wisdom gathered along her path to connectedness and liberation.

My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another. Like lily pads, round and green, these places summoned and then held me up while I grew. Each prepared me for the next leaf on which I would land, and in this way I moved across the swamp of doubt and fear. When I look back at some of these early resting places--the boisterous home of the Catholics, the soft armchair of the Christian Science mom, adoption by ardent Jews--I can see how flimsy and indirect a path they made. Yet each step brought me closer to the verdant pad of faith on which I somehow stay afloat today.

That One Ridiculous Palm

The railroad yard below our house was ringed in green, in grass and weeds and blackberry bushes and shoulder-high anise plants that smelled and tasted of licorice; this wreath of green, like a cell membrane, contained the tracks and the trains and the roundhouse, where engines were repaired. The buildings rose up ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your reading of Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies. We hope that they will suggest a variety of ways to talk about this delightful and moving story of one woman's journey in faith.

When Anne Lamott was twenty-five, her father died after a long struggle with brain cancer. Over the next few years she herself began to suffer from an overwhelming sense of desperation and fear, which she tried to suppress with alcohol and pills. Although she was managing to write and publish successful novels at the time, it was clear that her life was spinning out of control. In Traveling Mercies, a memoir that sparkles with wry wit and compassion, she now writes...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Seattle Times

[She is] sidesplittingly funny, patiently wise, and alternately cranky and kind.

Newsweek

Lamott writes about subjects that begin with capital letters (Alcoholism, Motherhood, Jesus). But armed with self-effacing humor and ruthless honesty--call it a lower-case approach to life's Big Questions--she converts potential op-ed boilerplate into enlightenment.

Los Angeles Times Book Review

Smart, funny, comforting. . . Lamott has a conversational style that perfectly conveys her friendly, self-deprecating humor.

People

Eloquent, detailed, emotionally honest. . . Lamott deserves praise for telling it like it is.

The New Yorker

Anne Lamott is a cause for celebration. [Her] real genius lies in capturing the ineffable, describing not perfect moments, but imperfect ones. . . perfectly. She is nothing short of miraculous.

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