Another distillation of the author’s life philosophy.
As a gift to her grandson and niece, novelist and nonfiction writer Lamott (Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy, 2017, etc.) sets out to record “everything I know about almost everything.” The result is an obsessively inward-focusing hodgepodge of life stories, advice, and ramblings. Though hope is the author’s tagline and even the title of her concluding chapter, readers find her struggling through virtually every life event, buried in anxieties. Lamott explains early on that she was struck to hear a child say the words, “I has [sic] value.” She realized that it “would have completely changed my life had I heard and internalized [that idea] as a child.” The incident serves to clarify the author’s central struggle: a lifelong search for self-value. Her writing cries out for an internal peace she cannot find. In a chapter on family, she focuses mainly on conflict with her uncle, whom she once called “a scumbutt” in a moment of anger, which affected her for decades. In a chapter on God, which the author defines in a number of nebulous ways, she focuses on an atheist friend who committed suicide. Another chapter is centered entirely around dieting and body image, revealing another self-esteem pitfall, and Lamott devotes an entire chapter to her unabashed hatred of Donald Trump—though she refuses to use his name, as if she were discussing Voldemort. The author’s view of life is often depressing; she refers to it as “this sometimes grotesque amusement park,” and she answers the question, “how did we all get so screwed up?” with, “life just damages people. There is no way around this. Not all the glitter and concealer in the world can cover it up.”
Those who enjoy Lamott’s consistently self-deprecating humor, vulnerability, and occasional nuggets of positivity will enjoy her latest; others will be adrift.