Book Review: "Grace (Eventually)"

Anne Lamott continues to exasperate - and, occasionally, infuriate - me. Her latest book, Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith, takes up where the previous one left off, and you might recall my less than warm review of that one. I had expectations of a kinder, gentler Lamott for this book, based on the pre-release publicity.

And she is. Sort of.

Lamott claims that she no longer hates George W. Bush, and she goes to great lengths to explain the depths of that hatred so we'll understand the miracle that apparently occurred when she found that she could nobly rise above such feelings. In a chapter entitled "Dandelions," she implies that she was able to release some of her hatred by allowing others to take it up:

And to be honest, it helped beyond words when Bush's approval ratings began to tank. More than anything.

Despite the assertion that such feelings no longer dominated her every waking moment, her references to the President, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Tom DeLay, John Ashcroft, et al are sprinkled liberally (ha!) through the book, almost as many times as she mentions Jesus. I find that a little disturbing from a Christian author writing about faith.

I started to enumerate the areas where Lamott's beliefs are diametrically opposed to mine, but that serves no useful purpose. Suffice to say that if you lean toward a view of God that emphasizes His grace and forgiveness, and minimizes His call for holiness, then you'll be at home with her theology.

I'm running out of reasons for continuing to buy her books. I can get all the left-leaning, profanity-laced tirades I want from The Daily Kos or the Huffington Post, without adding the explosiveness of shaky religious doctrine to the mix. But it would be unfair not to acknowledge that when Lamott is good, she is very good, and she continues to strike the occasional soul-chord in fundamental ways.

She's never tried to avoid or gloss over her mistakes and shortcomings, and her vulnerability is something I admire. For example...

I will never know how hard it is to be developmentally disabled, but I do know the sorrow of being ordinary, and that much of our life is spent doing the crazy mental arithmetic of how, at any given moment, we might improve, or at least disguise or present our defects and screw-ups in either more charming or more intimidating ways.

And this...

Jealousy always has been my cross, the weakness and woundedness in me that has most often caused me to feel ugly and unlovable, like the Bad Seed. ... I know that when someone gets a big slice of pie, it doesn't mean there's less for me. In fact, I know that there isn't even a pie, that there's plenty to go around, enough food and love and air.

But I don't believe it for a second.

I secretly believe there's a pie. I will go to my grave brandishing a fork.

Anne Lamott has always been a gifted writer, and one could do worse when picking an author to study for the sheer craftsmanship of the work. But with this third book in a series on faith, the anecdotes are starting to seem repetitious (and some just sort of trail off into obscurity without any apparent point). And that's a shame, because up until now, I could overlook what I believe to be skewed doctrine for the overall uplifting experience of her writing. That's no longer the case. Now that I find that last thing missing, I've no reason to anticipate her future books.

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This page contains a single entry by Eric published on June 4, 2008 4:49 PM.

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