Review: “Traveling Mercies” by Anne LaMott

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne LaMott. Pantheon Books. 276 pages.

I first met and fell in love with Anne LaMott when a fellow writer recommended her book Bird by Bird as a book on writing. I read it and promptly adopted it as a textbook for one of my writing classes. LaMott has a rawness, a sense of humor and a stark honesty in her writing that is totally refreshing. That’s probably why I picked up her book on faith. I was looking for an inspirational book, and was seeking something that went beyond cliches. She definitely does that.

LaMott bounced around religiously in her childhood, not quite sure where she belonged. Then growing up, she got involved in drinking and drugs. Finally she found her way to God as an adult and had an experiential, rise up and fall down relationship with God. She writes about all her experiences in a very heartfelt, yet humorous and honest way. She focuses on her humanity, and the humanity common in all of us, the thing that Jesus came to save.

The book is passionate and, as I said, heartfelt, as is all her writing. Much of it is almost stream of consciousness writing. The downside is that sometimes she gets sidetracked and spends time focused on one theme that I feel is already adequately addressed. I found myself skipping forward a couple of times because she got caught up in her reveries.

But for the most part, Traveling Mercies is a very honest look at a believer’s journey with God, warts and all. She is not from suburbia, and her road has been tough and sometimes pretty scary. So not everything she experienced is generalizable. But the things that matter–motherhood, feeling inadequate, loneliness–are.

I recommend it, with only slight reservations. Four stars out of five.