It’s well-established that I love Anne Lamott and her ruthless, charming, disarming honesty. She’s never afraid to expose the ugly dark side of her own human nature, and to rejoice in the quirky ways God loves her in spite of that. I love what she had to say about parenting in Operating Instructions, about writing in Bird by Bird, and about faith in Traveling Mercies; Plan B; and Grace (Eventually).
Some Assembly Required returns to the home-front territory of 1993’s Operating Instructions, which chronicled Lamott’s first year as a single mother caring for her new son Sam. Almost 20 years later, art student Sam Lamott presents his mom with another surprise: he and his sometimes girlfriend Amy are having a baby. And keeping it.
Grandparenthood in her mid-fifties, the shock of her son being a teenaged parent, admiration for and clashes with fierce young mom Amy, overwhelming love for baby Jax and the blessed ability to give him back to his parents at the end of a visit — all this gives Lamott loads of material to write about, and she does it in her usual funny, self-deprecating, insightful voice. Sam’s reflections on being a dad are interspersed throughout his mom’s story, but this is still, ultimately, Anne Lamott’s story. All her nonfiction, whatever it’s about, is really one story — the story of a woman who’s well aware of her own flaws and neuroses, and also well-aware of the grace of God that has seen her through addiction, single-parent-hood, the death of friends and loved ones, the ups and downs of a writer’s life … and now, grandparenting.
Oh, there’s also a trip to India thrown in there. The only thing I’d like more than visiting India would be visiting India with Anne Lamott, so I thought that was great, even if it was a bit of a deviation from the main story of Jax, Sam, Amy and their relationship with Anne. Everything that happens to an insightful writer like Lamott is material, whether it’s changing a diaper or (against all good advice) giving cash to beggars in India — and she handles her material wonderfully. It’s always a pleasure to read an Anne Lamott memoir, and I hope life keeps handing her great experiences to write about, so I can keep reading them.