Faith and Life Collide in Some Assembly Required
- Tuesday, April 03, 2012
Author: Anne Lamott with Sam Lamott
Title: Some Assembly Required
Publisher: Riverhead Books
It almost goes without saying that Anne Lamott is one of the most talented writers around today. Her quirky sense of humor and relentless honesty combine with her mastery of language to create page after page of eminently quotable, thought-provoking prose.
So is Some Assembly Required a "good book?" Well…that kind of depends on your definition of "good."
First, some background: Years ago Lamott wrote the much-acclaimed Operating Instructions as "a journal of my son's first year." Sam, the son in question, was just nineteen when he and his girlfriend discovered they were going to become parents. "They're both a little young," Lamott notes, "but who asked me?" Some Assembly Required is something of a sequel to Operating Instructions, a "journal of my son's first son." Sam also contributes to this journal, showing that he can also turn a phrase with the best of them.
Parents and grandparents will undoubtedly relate to Lamott's story of how a baby changes everything. Even the childless reader can appreciate Lamott's attempts to set aside her control freak tendencies and be a supportive (not overbearing) grandmother. "I thank God again and again," she writes, "that my mind does not have a public address system or an open mike every evening."
And yet, for all its charm, Some Assembly Required has some misses among the hits. After a while, the author's musings begin to feel narcissistic and even whiny. And is it really necessary to pepper the prose with that much profanity? It may be considered cool in some circles to drop the f-bomb in the midst of conversations about faith, but this reviewer found it tiresome.
Conservative Christian readers will likely find Lamott's spiritual views problematic. It is her journey and therefore her business, but her universalist tendencies and rapturous accounts of the joys of meditation at a local ashram will raise red flags for many. Still, she hits (hilariously) close to home for many believers with statements like "I don't see how God can turn this tragedy around. He didn't send me the e-mail yet. This is always a difficult decision for Him: ‘Hmmmm, let's see—should I send Annie the briefing and get her always excellent ideas and input? Or should I just call it a day?'"
If this was a work of fiction, everything would wrap up neatly at the end, but this is real life, in all its messy glory. Over the course of baby Jax's first year of life, he grows and thrives—and so does his entire family. (Especially Sam, who takes another step from boy to man with the turn of every page.)
Regardless of one's opinions on parenthood, faith, or any of a number of other potentially touchy topics, Lamott's writing does make the reader think. Whether you believe her path is right on or downright wrong, she generates opinions and emotions and makes you laugh along the way. So in that regard, Some Assembly Required is a very good book indeed.
*This Review First Published 4/3/2012
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