cover image Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace

Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace

Anne Lamott. Riverhead, $22.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-59448-629-6

Lamott (Help, Thanks, Wow) returns with an essay collection that tackles tough subjects with sensitive and unblinking honesty. Her subject matter is often dark, deriving from the travails of aging and mortality that Lamott, who is now 60, has observed in recent years. Most of the essays involve people Lamott knows who are either dead or suffering from a terminal disease: her best friend who had cancer; her friends’ two-year-old daughter with cystic fibrosis; her mother with Alzheimer’s, to name a few. But even when considering these hardships, Lamott remains optimistic. Every essay offers a revelation, often tied to her Christian faith. Sometimes she drifts toward clichés, as when she learns, on a hike with a sick friend, that “getting found almost always means being lost for a while.” At her best, Lamott is refreshingly frank, admitting that she doesn’t want a passionate relationship as much as she wants “someone to text all day and watch TV with.” She also has the rare ability to weave bracing humor seamlessly with earnest, Christian faith, observing, “Jesus was soft on crime. He’d never have been elected anything” in an essay about teaching prisoners how to tell their stories. But the book’s best insights are subtle, like the thought, on a beach vacation, that heaven must be like snorkeling: “dreamy, soft, bright, quiet.” Agent: Sarah Chalfant, Wylie Agency. (Nov.)