Dusk, Night, Dawn — On Revival and Courage

Anne Lamott
Riverhead Books, 224 pages

Does Anne Lamott have anything new to say? Are you joking? No, I know you’re not. After nearly a dozen books labeled “self-help” or “spirituality,” some wonder if the stream is dry. As one who has read them all, I will testify, without embarrassment, that her voice is as needed now in these crazy days just as it was when she wrote her most famous memoir, “Traveling Mercies.”

Since we last heard from her, much has happened. A global pandemic that may be with us much longer than we ever anticipated, a plague of guns and the unveiling of racism (once again). With all of this dread, one more thing happened: a surprising, late-life marriage. So, thankfully, Lamott does have something new to say, although the newness is new only in the way Jesus’ words are heard new. The familiar wisdom brings new life at precisely the moment you need it — which is now during this unsettled time.

For many, the hilarity she weaves into commentary on the human condition is a balm to heal the sin-sick soul. With her well-known humor comes the characteristic honesty about her own foibles. She would gladly confess with Saint Paul: I am the chief of all sinners. She speaks of the pain of her own upbringing that most of us can recognize; “I’ve been seen,” is our response. Describing her marriage with hilarious candor (and tenderness), one comes away relieved — and strengthened without being burdened by sentimental demands of “love.” Lamott’s persistent hope comes through – but not at the cost of real suffering – along with her demands to be a kind human being, especially to the ones who deserve no kindness (even yourself). Her testimony could serve as a model to all of us who summon the courage to say how – by God’s astonishing grace – we are alive.