Anne Lamott’s new book Almost Everything: Notes on Hope is not straight path reading. It’s not her style and I, for one, am grateful for that. But if you looking for succinct advice on how to feel better about the world today, you’ll be frustrated and, maybe, disappointed. She’s a wanderer, but one who always reaches her destination. In this lovely little book, she makes the journey to wisdom with thoughts that amble between things as far-ranging as Cinnabon and Ram Dass. It’s Lamott being Lamott, but what’s not to love about a woman who describes herself as someone who “views death mostly as a significant change of address”?
Almost Everything is a series of essays that cover aging, food, friendship, self-esteem, acceptance, and family, as well as gentle jabs at just why hope feels like a futile endeavor these days. She doesn’t dive into politics, but don’t think she’s not paying attention with what’s happening in America. Rather, she wants to go beyond it. She talks about the toll so much hate takes on all of us. As for the hate we may respond with
…this was satisfying for a time. But it didn’t work as a drug, neither calming nor animating me. There is no beauty or safety in hatred. As a long-term strategy, based on craziness, it’s doomed.
She also shares the secret of her go-to source of joy, what brings her back to life when the world has deadened her. It’s one I know all too well so I loved this passage:
Books! To fling myself into a book, to be carried away to another world while being at my most grounded, on my butt or in my bed or favorite chair, is literally how I have survived being here at all. Someone else is doing the living for me…I get taken out of myself, and I get to salute all the people and experiences I recognize, with surprise and pleasure. “I so get that, but I never found the words. I know her. I am her.”
But just when you’re lulled by her meandering and witty asides, she suddenly stops and probes, asking
Could you say this about yourself right now, that you have immense and intrinsic value…?
She has hard questions about the soft insides we’d often rather ignore. The kind of things that feel a bit uncomfortable because they require introspection. These give Almost Everything the feel of extended time spent with a dear friend we don’t get to see often. The catching up, venting, and laughing have passed and conversation turns to the deep and meaty parts of life. Like that old friend, Lamott brings humorous tranquility with her and time spent with this book is a welcome pleasure.