Anne Lamott is beloved by writers everywhere. She is smart, funny and, best of all, she doesn’t hold back. And the writing is just so good – even her punctuation feels filled with talent.
Small Victories is a book that does not categorize easily. The closest genre would probably be “Christian spiritual growth,” but don’t let that scare you off. Lamott’s Christianity is progressive, leftist, feminist, and anti-Bush (yes, such Christians exist). Besides, this book is really about the struggle of the human condition – a topic that is applicable to readers from all faiths or none. And her honesty keeps the book from preachiness: “It has taken me years to get this well, which is to say, half as reactive and a third less obsessed with my own neurotic disappointing self.”
The book is a series of essays organized around a theme. The essay on internet dating is a blast, as is the one on her visit to the local ski hill. But her writing is especially powerful when she reflects on her relationship with her mother: “I spent my whole life helping my mother carry around her psychic trunks, like a bitter bellhop.” (You will see that I can’t stop quoting her. She is charmingly quotable.) As she works out that relationship, her mother’s ashes move to different parts of her house in response.
I also found her writing on forgiveness to be helpfully honest. Lamott recognizes both those little, trivial grudges we can hold against people who are underwhelmed with us and also the big, life-altering hurts that change everything. Her preface to the topic includes the following: “I went around saying for a long time that I am not one of those Christians who are heavily into forgiveness – that I am one of the other kind.” Regardless of her disclaimer, she has insight into how to overcome: to be hurt yes, but then to seek understanding – and how an experience of God can help with both. Lamott writes, “No one can prove that God does or doesn’t exist, but tough acts of forgiveness are pretty convincing for me.” (I wish I could just download the entire text into this review). The problems of brokenness and suffering are not solved in Small Victories, but they are faced bravely with compassion and humour, which makes Lamott a great companion.
And putting aside the spiritual for a moment to remember that we are also creaturely creatures who have bodies that can feel and see, I just have to mention the beautiful physical details of this book: the paper has a vellum softness to it and the type is teal coloured with gold accents. For all you book nerds out there, this one makes e-readers seem morally deficient. You can find Small Victories, in all its physical and spiritual glory, on our New Books shelf.
by Melodie Rae Storey