Funny, acerbic reflections on faith and family during George W. Bush’s first administration.
Readers have long awaited Lamott’s second book on spirituality (after Traveling Mercies, 1999), and it won’t disappoint—or not too much. As before, Lamott charts her life as a deeply religious Christian and committed leftist, though she’s no stereotypically pious Presbyterian. For example, she has dreadlocks and an out-of-wedlock son, her beloved Sam. She wears a red bracelet that was blessed by the Dalai Lama, and she hates Republicans, most especially George W. Bush. In the essays here, many from Salon, Lamott portrays herself as a mother heroically trying to figure out how to parent a smart—and occasionally smart-alecky—teenager. She also describes her attempts to love her aging, sagging body. And she takes readers inside her wonderfully warm church, still under the leadership of the awesome Veronica. Throughout, we read about her struggle to forgive her dead mother, and, because Lamott’s trademark humor and irreverence mark practically every page, readers will howl with laughter at Lamott’s inability to do anything with Mom’s ashes other than leave them in her closet. But there’s also the real work Lamott is doing here, the hard, slow work of forgiveness, and things can get teary. Still, the book doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor. One example will suffice: Somehow Sam, whom readers first met in utero in Operating Instructions (1993), then as an enchanting grammar-schooler in Traveling, doesn’t make quite as charming a character this time around. Lamott’s approach to parenting an adolescent is not without wisdom, but reading about the Lamotts’ battles over homework is neither entertaining nor illuminating.
Traveling Mercies set a very high standard, and to say that Plan B almost gets there is still to say that it’s a wonderful read Lamott’s legions of fans will no doubt lap up.