Anne Lamott is an author who already has legions of fans—but she’l likely earn even more with her most recent and 15th book, Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace, which contains 24 essays about loss and grief and other topics of a serious nature.
The reviews are stellar as always. Virginia B. Wood, The Austin Chronicle: “Prime examples of Lamott’s crystalline insights and wicked wit. There are laugh-out-loud moments…and frank revelations about her personal brand of ‘left-wing Christianity,’ that sound a clarion call to social activism rather than sanctimonious judgment. It is so good to hear from her again.”
Lamott’s Style of Faith
Virginia B. Wood, The Austin Chronicle: “Lamott’s brand of faith is for those who are struggling with religion and haven’t a clue what God wants them to do and be. She believes that ‘God answers prayers eventually — of course, it is the ‘eventually’ that throws one into despair,’ she writes.”
An Overview of Themes
According to Julia M. Klein, Boston Globe, “Lamott…writes compassionately about near-universal challenges: difficult parents, emotional betrayal, the ravages of illness and grief. Too many of her intimates have been afflicted with serious illnesses, including Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), cancer, and dementia. She portrays them, for the most part, as courageous, life-affirming role models.”
Some of the Specific Stories in Small Victories
One of the most provocative parts for many readers has been her admission that many women her age, including herself, place sex relatively low on their priority lists. Publishers Weekly: “…Lamott is refreshingly frank, admitting that she doesn’t want a passionate relationship as much as she wants “someone to text all day and watch TV with.”
Her Parents and Childhood—Klein (Boston Globe) writes about Lamott’s mom and dad material:
In ‘Dad,’ she relates that she adored her alcoholic, philandering father and, when he developed brain cancer, devoted herself to his care. Decades later, his former girlfriend sends along his journal, in which he criticizes Lamott for having ‘tried too hard to be brave and hopeful.’ How can she possibly forgive this? Only, it seems, by tuning in to her pain and seeing her father in all his fearful human complexity.
Her mother — whose ashes reside in Lamott’s closet — poses a different problem. ‘I spent my whole life helping my mother carry around her psychic trunks,’ she writes in the second of two mother essays, ‘like a bitter bellhop.’ Lamott will have to learn, for her own sake, how to put them down. The reward will be the psychic payoff, described in ‘Sustenance,’ of ‘opening myself to my own love and to life’s tough loveliness.’
“The Book of Welcome”—Maria Popova, Brainpickings, describes this “especially enchanting essay” as one in which “Lamott imagines a scripture that was never written, a set of guidances and assurances that would avail us of haven from one of our most anguishing pathologies — the sense that we fall short, that we are undeserving of happiness, that we are unlovable and undesired; a sense instilled in many of us by ‘not having been cherished for who we are, by certain tall, anxiously shut-down people in our childhood homes.’”
Friendship-building is often key—having at least one special someone that “welcomes” you: “It blows you away, how this wonderful event ever happened — me in your life, you in mine.”
Kirkus Reviews: “In each essay, Lamott makes evident the fleeting nature of life, noting how our time is finite and that if one searches hard enough, one can make the most of each circumstance—good, bad or ugly.”