Anne Lamott has had an interesting writing career. She came up in the early ‘00s with the surge of Christian memoirists like Donald Miller and Lauren Winner, detailing her own experience with faith or what we’d call “deconstruction” in today’s lingo. But her story was pretty different from that of her peers, involving complicated battles with loss and addiction, and a messier relationship with Jesus than even the most honest writer would care to admit to.
But Lamott’s vulnerability and darkly comic writing won her legions of fans who swear by her many, many bestselling books. While her novels are well-regarded, she’s best known these days for her non-fiction writing and talent for crafting easily quotable bon mots about grief, joy, hope, pain and God.
So we come to her latest book Dusk Night Dawn, which was written during and about the pandemic. More to the point, it’s about our current moment, how hard it is to find hope in the middle of it and how we can do it anyway. As usual, Lamott is interested in justice, and spends a lot of time meditating on things like the climate crisis, but her best writing is always inward as she dissects her recent marriage (after a life of singlehood, she got married in 2019 at the age of 65), alcoholism, getting older and, of course, God — the subject of her greatest fascination.
Everybody says they want honest writing about God but in reality, we all know there are certain kinds of honesty that aren’t really allowed in Christian publishing. If Lamott knows about these unspoken rules, she’s never abided by them and she doesn’t start here. Lamott seems like a writer who knows the contours of her soul intimately and isn’t shy about writing them down, often dropping them into the middle of anecdotes about her life in northern California.
“I have forgiven most people who have hurt me or behaved atrociously to those I love,” she writes at one part. “although there is one family member who (I’m positive) makes Jesus sick to His stomach. Yet from time to time I forgive myself for being a bad forgiver. . . . At some point you realize that we all have dual citizenship here, perfect and neurotic.”
It’s that sort of painstaking attention to your own predilections that makes Lamott continue to be such a vital read not just for people interested in faith but for people who just like good writing, period. Lamott keeps a pretty great streak of readable, poetic meditations alive with Dusk Night Dawn. It’s out now and we recommend it.