Review by Booklist Review
In a convoluted story filled with improbable plotlines and impossible circumstances, the chance discovery of a tiny blue plastic shoe, a child's prize from a gumball machine, leads to the unraveling of a long-buried family mystery and reveals the equally mysterious workings of faith, family, and friendship. Lamott returns to her favorite themes in her portrayal of Mattie Ryder, a harried single mother blessed with two precocious children, stressed by a feisty but frail mother, involved with a married man, and burdened with the legacy of her deceased father's adulterous life. Anxiety and infidelity, rejection and betrayal--substantial subjects all, and ones that Lamott treats with boundless grace and compassion but with precious little of the luminous lyricism or wry wisdom for which she is known and loved. When she's at the top of her game, Lamott stands dreadlocked-head and shoulders above the competition, with her slightly skewed observations that still somehow manage to hit their mark with pinpoint accuracy and her trademark "Oh, God, I wish I'd said that" one-liners. But readers who have eagerly anticipated a new Lamott novel may be disappointed, and those wishing to try Lamott for the first time would do well to start with her earlier works because, sadly, her latest offers only occasional glimpses of her usual brilliance. In her last regular Salon column, Lamott signed off by explaining that God told her it was time to write a new novel; one can't help but wish they'd had a slightly longer conversation. --Carol Haggas
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Anyone familiar with Lamott's writing knows her strength is the portrayal of daily life: mothers raising children, lost love, ill parents and more. Mattie, recently separated from her husband, has moved back to the home she grew up in. She decides to renovate the badly run-down house, not anticipating the added complications in her life. Her mother is suffering from dementia, her children are misbehaving and Mattie is still drawn to her estranged husband even though he is involved with a younger woman. This unabridged audio captures the frantic pace of Lamott's work. There are long phone conversations between Mattie and her mother and talks with Angela, Mattie's best friend, who's moving away. Lamott aptly observes that Mattie seems more upset about not seeing her friend than not seeing her husband. Unfortunately, Merlington's quick, flat narration doesn't help bring the novel to life. Some may find themselves overwhelmed by the number of characters while others may struggle to focus on Mattie. While Merlington occasionally changes her voice when other characters are speaking, the overall impression is of a text being read too fast. Based on the Riverhead hardcover (Forecasts, Aug. 26). (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Lamott's fans will not be disappointed with this new novel, her sixth. Her heroine, Mattie Ryder, has problems-nothing earthshaking, just the painful kind that nibble at her self-esteem. She has left her philandering husband and moved into her mother's ramshackle house; her strong, save-the-world mother is slipping into dementia; her daughter chews on her fingers; her son refuses to do homework; and she is attracted to a married man. In addition, she discovers that she has a half-brother, the result of a union between her late father and the daughter of a family friend. Mattie manages these disturbances in part by being brave and by asking, "What would Jesus do?" Lamott (Operating Instructions) excels in her quirky descriptions, such as Mattie's five-year-old daughter looking like a "secretarial kitten gone punk" or someone's mouth having "scrabble-tile" teeth. While the plot meanders occasionally into implausibility, her humorous yet poignant characters will keep listeners interested. Laural Merlington reads convincingly although problems with the tape quality of the review copy occasionally obscured her voice. Recommended for most popular fiction collections.-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Lamott infuses this peripatetic story of a woman's struggles after a divorce with the same quirky brand of Christianity she explored in her wildly popular memoir, Traveling Mercies (1999). When Mattie finally accepts that her marriage to the charming but unfaithful Nicholas is over, she moves her two children, Harry (six) and Ella (two), back into the house where she grew up because it's free: conveniently, her mother, still intimidatingly energetic and competent at 72, has paid off the mortgage and decamped to an apartment. Over the next four years, Mattie goes through all the familiar rites of divorce: anger, longing, desperation, slow recovery to strength, and new love. Her children bring her solace even as they drive her crazy (Lamott is the master of domestic detail): Ella's nail-chewing, Harry's bouts of temper, as well as moments of tenderness are rendered with casual perfection. The description of the failed marriage itself, however, is generic, and Mattie's sense of blamelessness in its collapse sets up a self-righteous tone not masked by self-deprecating humor, a Lamott trademark. Mattie prays her way out of bad feelings, and her religion weaves its way throughout, helping her cope as complications arise-which they do. She sleeps with her ex even after his girlfriend moves in and has a baby. She finds clues that her lovable father, a lawyer and liberal activist who died 20 years earlier, had a dark side. Her mother's mind and body begin a slow, painful slide into senescence. Mattie's dog dies. And then there is Daniel. We know he'll become Mattie's soulmate when he can't bring himself to kill the rats he's been hired to eradicate from Mattie's infested house. While Daniel resists her attraction because he's married, she takes him to her church (his wife is a nonbeliever), and they become best friends to a degree that would threaten the most secure spouse. Lots of charm in the details, not much for momentum.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.