Since Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird, her fans have been waiting for her to write the book that explained how she came to the big-hearted, grateful, generous faith that she so often alluded to in her two earlier nonfiction books. And Traveling Mercies is a welcome return to those lives, as well as an introduction to new companions Lamott treats with the same candor, insight, and tenderness. Against all odds, she came to believe in God and then, even more miraculously, in herself. About Traveling Mercies From the bestselling author of Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird comes a chronicle of faith and spirituality that is at once tough, personal, affectionate, wise and very funny. With an exuberant mix of passion, insight, and humor, Anne Lamott takes us on a journey through her often troubled past to illuminate her devout but quirky walk of faith. In a narrative spiced with stories and scripture, with diatribes, laughter, and tears, Lamott tells how, against all odds, she came to believe in God and then, even more miraculously, in herself.
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Are people who are more "cracked"--more troubled or in pain--more likely to make the leap of faith than those who are outwardly more secure, more in control of their lives? Lamott explains, "My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another.
Yet each step brought me closer to the ample verdant pad of faith on which I somehow stay afloat today" p. Yet on page 50 she notes that there was actually a moment of "conversion. Is there necessarily a spiritual component to emerging from an addiction?
Lamott writes of her parents and their friends: "They were fifties Cheever people, with their cocktails and affairs" p. Judging from the evidence she offers in the section called "Lily Pads," what was lacking in her own home that she needed? What do you think of her decision, after terminating an earlier pregnancy, to have this baby on her own, and what do you think of the response of the people at St. What does Traveling Mercies tell us about the role of of community in raising children?
How does it expand our notions of what a family is? Lamott says: "At some point you pardon the people in your family for being stuck together in all their weirdness, and when you can do that, you can learn to pardon everyone. If Lamott had not been an alcoholic, do you think she would eventually have found faith anyway?
Is coming to faith a matter of fate for certain people, or is there a large element of chance involved? At several moments in this story Anne Lamott speaks of the events she is describing as miraculous. What is a miracle? How does she take the miraculous out of the realm of the extraordinary and return it to common life? What is the effect, for you, of her doing so?
Of her spirituality before becoming a Christian, Lamott writes, "Mine was a patchwork God, sewn together from bits of rag and ribbon, Eastern and Western, pagan and Hebrew, everything but the kitchen sink and Jesus" p. Do you find that, even after her conversion and formal baptism, her approach to Christianity is unorthodox? What do you think of her continued unwillingness to exclude the wisdom of other religions?
What rituals, celebrations, and memorial occasions are most significant in this story? Why are such occasions necessary in our lives? Consider the structure of this memoir. What decisions has Lamott made in consciously shaping the story of her own life? What does she leave out? Are the choices a writer makes in writing a memoir different from those made in writing fiction?
Anne Lamott gives the work of other writers an important role in Traveling Mercies. How do these other voices contribute to what Lamott is trying to share with her readers? Which of these additional voices did you find most moving, most resonant?
Lamott is often preoccupied with her aging body and the cultural expectations of beauty. Why is this such an important insight for Lamott? What sort of sense is necessary to step away from an obsession with physical beauty in contemporary American culture? How does one adjust to losing a friend to cancer? How does Lamott arrive at the crucial insight that we should live joyfully in the face of death? How and when should we try to teach children about the painful reality of death?
Which aspects of her character do you most and least identify with? Is humor a necessary component of faith? Is there a qualitative difference in a spirituality that is primarily private, and one that is part of an ongoing commitment to a group of fellow believers?
Reading Group Guide
Book Summary A chronicle of faith and spirituality that is at once tough, personal, affectionate, wise and very funny. From the bestselling author of Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird comes a chronicle of faith and spirituality that is at once tough, personal, affectionate, wise and very funny. With an exuberant mix of passion, insight, and humor, Anne Lamott takes us on a journey through her often troubled past to illuminate her devout but quirky walk of faith. In a narrative spiced with stories and scripture, with diatribes, laughter, and tears, Lamott tells how, against all odds, she came to believe in God and then, even more miraculously, in herself.
Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith
This book is a number of essays on a variety of issues -- getting older, handicapped people, what you can learn when you hurt yourself on a ski slope. She can be quite smart and very cute. She is, after all, in good health, with family, living in the wealthiest nation in the world. Her problems are generally problems of the soul -- and God knows, those are the hardest of all to face. But does she really face them?
Traveling Mercies Quotes