Book Review: Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair, by Anne Lamott

StitchesStitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair
by Anne Lamott
Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group
2013
96 pages 

Stitches is described as a “follow-up” to Anne Lamott’s 2012 book, Help,Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. 

Which is why I almost didn’t read it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I happen to love about 98% of what Anne Lamott writes – but Help, Thanks, Wow fell flat for me and I assumed Stitches would be similar.

I was wrong.

I liked this more than I expected. Maybe it’s because I read this at a good time – meaning, during a time when Anne Lamott’s words resonated moreso than usual. (“Sometimes love does not look like what you had in mind.” (pg. 66)

Written in the aftermath of the Newtown, CT shootings, Stitches opens with the matter-of-fact statement, “It can be too sad here.” (pg. 1) We know immediately that the here Anne is talking about is our country, our society, our world. We know this even before she asks

“Where do we even begin in the presence of evil or catastrophe – dead or deeply lost children, a young wife’s melanoma, polar bears floating out to sea on scraps of ice? What is the point of it all when we experience the vortex of interminable depression or, conversely, when we recognize that time is tearing past us like giddy greyhounds? It’s frightening and disorienting that time skates by so fast, and while it’s not as bad as being embedded in the quicksand of loss, we’re filled with dread each time we notice life hotfoot it out of town.” (pg. 2)

The answer is to begin where we are.

“We live stitch by stitch, when we’re lucky. If you fixate on the big picture, the whole shebang, the overview, you miss the stitching. And maybe the stitching is crude, or it is unraveling, but if it were precise, we’d pretend that life was just fine and running like a Swiss watch. This is not helpful if on the inside our understanding is that life is more often a cuckoo clock with rusty gears.

In the aftermath of loss, we do what we’ve always done, although we are changed, maybe more afraid. We do what we can, as well as we can.” (pg. 13-14)

It’s a theme that Anne Lamott has used before, and if you’ve read her stuff for awhile, as I have, much of this now seems familiar. In Stitches, Anne carries the thread metaphor throughout the book in a way that feels comfortable, yet new – we’re all connected by the rag-tag threads holding us together, all we can do in difficult times is hold on by a thread.

Reading this is like wrapping oneself in a blanket, snuggling up for a much needed talk with a friend who gets it. No matter if you’ve covered some of the same topics before.

 

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