Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith
by Anne Lamott
Riverhead Hardcover, 2005
review by Heidi Schlumpf
When Anne Lamott “came out” as a left-wing Christian in her first spiritual autobiography, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith (Pantheon, 1999), she struck a nerve with thousands, maybe millions, of women—and more than a few men. Now here was a Christian who didn’t make you want to gag. She was smart, sassy, and hip—and I’m not just talking about the dreads.
Most of all, she was gut-wrenchingly honest about her messy, sometimes messed-up life, whether remembering her years of alcohol and drug addiction or admitting she has cellulite on her thighs. And in a witty, self-deprecating way that rang piercingly authentic, she was able to convince her readers-turned-fans that everything was going to be OK. If Lamott’s faith could help her through her craziness, surely the rest of us might have a chance, too.
Traveling Mercies was at the top of the bestseller list for months, and it’s become something of an icon of spiritual autobiographies. New authors often dream of being the next Anne Lamott, and even a few experienced ones envy her ability to find meaning in the mundane. So, naturally, a sequel to such a successful book is dangerous literary territory. Can it ever live up to the first?
I’m here to say, yes, it does. Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith picks up where Traveling Mercies left off. In the first book, Lamott mines her childhood, her family, and her young adulthood. In Plan B,
she is firmly in middle age, not afraid to admit it, and
still finding that taking a deep breath, turning to God,
and having a good set of friends and fellow church-goers
can get you through the toughest of times—and help
you celebrate the good ones.
Lamott continues to find the holy in everyday life—her mother’s illness, the death of her dog, the continuing challenges of single motherhood to her son, Sam. Woven throughout the stories and her snide wisecracks are insightful gems like this one: “I’ve said this before: When God is going to do something wonderful, He or She always starts with a hardship; when God is going to do something amazing, He or She starts with an impossibility.”
Some may be bothered by Lamott’s repeated references to her dislike of a certain president with the middle initial “W,” but certainly war is fair game in a book of “thoughts on faith,” and her essay about an anti-war protest is one of the most poignant in the book. Regular readers of Lamott may recognize some of these essays as reprinted from her column on Salon.com, and her die-hard fans will enjoy the update on her life (Sam gets to meet his father, Anne has a boyfriend). But new readers will also be happy to have found a spiritual companion who understands those of us who claim the seemingly oxymoronic labels of left-leaning and Christian.
Copyright ©2005 Heidi Schlumpf
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