I recently had a long journey via train from Lucerne, Switzerland back to my home in Angers, France. There’s only so much you can do when you’re sitting in one place for that long, and staring out the window gets boring eventually no matter how beautiful the scenery is. I usually take this time to read. I read Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith in its entirety on this 9 hour trip. I enjoyed this novel, even though there were some parts that made me cry in public.
Anne Lamott tells her spiritual life journey. She starts with her childhood, growing up with Athiest parents (“We were raised to believe in books and music and nature”). She talks about her close friends growing up and the the impact of their families on her life. She discusses her drug and alcohol addiction (“I made seven thousand dollars that year and could not afford therapy or enough cocaine”). She explains how she ends up choosing Christianity.
Lamott talks a whole lot about church throughout the novel. I’m not incredibly religious myself and I’m definitely not the type to peruse a Christian bookstore. Yet, the Christian theme that ran throughout this novel did not bother me. It’s totally unconventional, it has cuss words, it talks about the hard stuff in life. Lamott just wants to share random strings of events and dig at their deeper meaning. It’s not so much a book about Christianity as it is a book about purpose, forgiveness, gratitude, and the small things in life that give us joy.
Lamott comes across as your hard ass friend who has been through so much and has so many stories that you trust her wisdom and listen to her advice. At one of my favorite points in the novel, she says,
When a lot of things start going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to be born – and that this something needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible.
This novel is full of little quips of reason just like the one above. That’s what I liked about it and that’s what I enjoy about Lamott’s writing. It doesn’t follow the straight-and-narrow. She jumps back and forth from topic to topic. She throws in random sentences that seem unrelated until you read a bit further and it all comes together for the bigger picture.
The novel doesn’t have a story line, there is no conflict and resolution, but it is still a good read. I would recommend someone who is looking to explore their own spirituality, or someone who is just interested in reading the wisdom of a dreadlocked woman who grew up in the 60s.