Reviews for Stitches : A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair


Booklist Reviews 2013 November #2
In her latest whirling, fuming, blunt, wise, and funny book of homilies, following the best-selling Help, Thanks, Wow (2012), Lamott combines exasperation and sorrow over perpetual and universal suffering with a stubborn belief in the possibility of meaning, solace, and mending. She asks how we can even begin to seek coherence when children are massacred in their schools and polar bears are "floating out to sea on scraps of ice." All we can do is what needs to be done. We clean up oil spills, rebuild after catastrophes, care for the sick, serve food, and wash floors. Lamott connects the epic to the ordinary and observes, "We live stitch by stitch, when we're lucky." As she tells charmingly self-mocking yet laser-sharp stories from her patchwork life of spiritual inquiry--one about a blouse she inherited from a friend who died too young, another about a creatively repaired curtain--sewing and darning become metaphors for accepting life's cycles of joy and loss, and for taking care of each other and the world. Lamott's larky yet shrewd needle-and-thread spirituality is realistic and renewing. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 October #2
The author's spirituality pays fewer redemptive dividends than usual in a follow-up guide that falls short of its predecessor. Lamott is a much-beloved writer whose distinctive combination of deep spirituality and wry, post-hippie humor has highlighted work ranging from memoir to fiction to an engagingly intuitive writing guide (Bird by Bird, 1995). Her most recent book, the prayer guide Help, Thanks, Wow (2012) became a best-seller, and she frames this successor as a companion volume. Yet the format doesn't work as well for a book that's more like the flip side of the previous book's coin. It's kind of a spiritual self-help book on how to handle tough times and persevere even when it's difficult to discern any cosmic order in the chaos of life. However, this book serves more as an extended metaphor about how stitching things up, even patchwork-style, can help one cope. "We live stitch by stitch, when we're lucky," writes the author. "If you fixate on the big picture, the whole shebang, the overview, you miss the stitching." The perspective reinforces the recovering alcoholic's one-day-at-a-time experience, and the metaphor threads throughout this slim book. It's not surprising that a book about persevering in the wake of tragedy, either global or personal, might have less of the author's humor than her other work, but what's mainly missing in comparison with her treatment of similar themes in longer books is the more deeply personal experience. Except for chapters on being a sensitive child in an alcoholic household and mourning a friend who died too young, she seems to skim the surface with elliptical anecdotes and homilies such as "we do what we can, as well as we can" and "life [is] erratic, beautiful and impossible." Subtitled as a "handbook," this is minor work from an author known for her range and depth. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 October #4

Lamott's (Help, Thanks, Wow) latest inspirational title explores how we can find significance in the face of pain or disaster. Readers are guided by an older, wiser Lamott than we met 20 years ago, when Operating Instructions was published. This narrator is not afraid to say that she has learned a few things, and that there are not "shortcuts to wisdom and self-knowledge… . I so resent this." This is also vintage Lamott: funny, brilliantly self-deprecating, and insightful. Characteristically, she ruminates about needing help to get through life, and about finding your family in a group of people who love you and who are not necessarily your blood kin. Indeed, faithful readers may be disappointed by the extent to which Lamott reprises earlier themes--as in Traveling Mercies, Lamott here quotes C. S. Lewis on forgiveness and says it is best to start with something small; she rehearses a vignette she previously told in a novel. Still, Lamott succeeds at using "some of Christianity's language and symbols" to offer spiritual truths that will reach beyond a church audience, and the delights of this new offering outweigh the frustrating repetitions. (Oct.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

Lamott's (Help, Thanks, Wow) latest inspirational title explores how we can find significance in the face of pain or disaster. Readers are guided by an older, wiser Lamott than we met 20 years ago, when Operating Instructions was published. This narrator is not afraid to say that she has learned a few things, and that there are not "shortcuts to wisdom and self-knowledge… . I so resent this." This is also vintage Lamott: funny, brilliantly self-deprecating, and insightful. Characteristically, she ruminates about needing help to get through life, and about finding your family in a group of people who love you and who are not necessarily your blood kin. Indeed, faithful readers may be disappointed by the extent to which Lamott reprises earlier themes--as in Traveling Mercies, Lamott here quotes C. S. Lewis on forgiveness and says it is best to start with something small; she rehearses a vignette she previously told in a novel. Still, Lamott succeeds at using "some of Christianity's language and symbols" to offer spiritual truths that will reach beyond a church audience, and the delights of this new offering outweigh the frustrating repetitions. (Oct.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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