Executive Times






2007 Book Reviews


Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott








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Brew some tea, put up your feet, relax, and read a chapter of two of Anne Lamott’s Grace (Eventually). Your heart rate will slow down, you will feel better, and come away refreshed to face whatever life throws your way. On these pages, Lamott reflects on how she’s dealing or has dealt with being a mother, with eating disorders, with drug dependency, with forgiveness, with politics, with anger, with aging and with love. There’s a gentleness on these pages that can become contagious. Here’s an excerpt, from the beginning of the chapter titled, “The Muddling Glory of God,” pp. 49-53:


We moved into our current house six years ago, when Sam was ten. In the old house, our bedrooms had been very close, but in the new place, we were sepa­rated by two rooms and two short hallways. He started coming into my room in the middle of the night, curling up on my bed with his own blanket. I tried the obvious ways of helping him get his confidence back—a night­light, bribes, Power Ranger sheets. Nothing worked.

Finally, Sam and I came up with a solution: The first night, he put his sleeping bag and pillow right beside my bed, where our old dog, Sadie, could peer out at him ten­derly The second night we moved the sleeping bag three feet away, to the foot of my bed. The next night, he moved three more feet away. On the fourth night, he made it to the door. He slept there two nights before he was able to put his sleeping bag in the hail. I kept the door open.

“Are you okay?” I called to him in the dark.

“Yeah,” he said, in his small but manly voice. The short hallway to the living room took three nights to master. Then there were four nights in the living room, as he crept overland closer to his own room, with four three-foot scootches, one stall, and one night when he had to drag his sleeping bag back three feet. Sometimes he would call out, “Good night” again to hear my voice. There was one valiant worried night in the hail between my study and his room.

“See you tomorrow, Mom.”

“Love you, Morn! Doing okay out here, Mom.”

A few times he called for me to come sit with him. My nearness lifted him. Sometimes grace works like water wings when you feel you are sinking.

And then, at last, he spent his first night in his spooky new room, bravely, on the floor.

That’s me, trying to make any progress at all with fam­ily, in work, relationships, self-image: scootch, scootch, stall; scootch, stall, catastrophic reversal; bog, bog, scootch. I wish grace arid healing were more abracadabra kinds of things; also, that delicate silver bells would ring to anflounce grace’s arrival. But no, it’s clog and slog and scootch, on the floor, in silence, in the dark.

I suppose that if you were snatched out of the mess, you’d miss the lesson; the lesson is the slog. I grew up thinking the lessons should be more like the von Trapp children: more marionettes, more dirndls and harmonies. But no: it’s slog, bog, scootch.

Until a few weeks ago, I had been scootching along pretty well for a while in size-ten pants, having lost a little weight, feeling I’d nailed the food and weight and body-image business, when all of a sudden my foot met air, and I was unmoored. Within minutes, I was on the edge of full-on food binge, assault eating. I couldn’t even remotely find my way back to the path that I’d relied on for the past fif­teen years, the path of feeding myself when I am really hungry, trusting my own appetite, and staying at the same weight without too much painful obsession. I was starv­ing, and nuts.

I prayed for God to help me find my way out, and what I heard was, “Call a friend.” But something edgier was speaking more loudly, and I pricked up my ears at the sound, even though an old man at church once told me never to give the devil a ride. Because if he likes the ride, pretty soon he’ll want to drive. It felt as if someone deter­mined and famished had taken the wheel.

I tried doing what usually works when I’m lost: lifting my eyes off my feet and looking around for any clues that might help me get oriented, like the moss on trees, which supposedly tells you which way is north.

And I did discover an important clue—that whenever I want to either binge or diet, it means that there is some part of me that is deeply afraid. I had been worrying about Sam more than usual, and only partly because he had just begun to drive. I had been worried sick about Bush for five years now. There was a terrifying epidemic of breast cancer in my county; like so many others, I had friends who were trying to survive. And lately I’d fallen back into my old habit of acting like classroom helper to the world, doing too many favors for people, at the expense of writing, rest, and gyroscopic balance. I had been to a funeral. I had had a molar pulled. I had recently seen the skin on the back of my neck under fluorescent lights in a hotel mirror. I hadn’t seen it in years; now it looked like it was upholstered in a few inches of the Utah desert. Everything was too much.

All I could think to do was what every addict thinks of doing: kill the pain. I don’t smoke or drink anymore, am too worried to gamble, too guilty to shoplift, and I have always hated clothes-shopping. So what choices did that leave? I could go on a strict new diet, or conversely, I could stuff myself to the rafters with fats, sugars, and carcinogens.

Ding ding: we have a winner.

I got in the car and headed to Safeway.

It had been a while since I’d had a Safeway apple fritter, but all of a sudden, this was what the thing driving really wanted. A perfect fritter, in the classic tradition, a Frisbee-size patty of deep-fried dough, crisp and crunchy around the edges, doughy in the center, covered with a sugar glaze that makes me think of the Sherwin-Williams logo, the can of paint being poured over the globe. I used to eat fritters in mass quantities, as the Coneheads would have enjoyed them, back when I binged and purged. Then, in early so­briety, I’d snack on them sometimes, because your body craves a replacement for all the sugar you once got in alco­hol. Since then, I’d buy one every so often, the way a regu­lar healthy person does, because for no particular reason I’d want one. But this time I went to Safeway and bought all sorts of healthy decoy foods; then I slunk over to the bakery

And they were out of fritters.

In the history of Safeway, it has never once run out of apple fritters. I understood instantly that God was doing for me what I could not do for myself. I did not turn to the doughnuts, the bear claws, the Danish; I was not hungry for those. I had not been attacked by random lust for just any old sugar-and-petroleum product.


Lamott’s writing is good, and Grace (Eventually) will bring calm and comfort to many readers.


Steve Hopkins, June 25, 2007



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the July 2007 issue of Executive Times


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