ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Mother's Book Review: Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott

Updated on May 21, 2012

I first read Anne Lammot's Traveling Mercies in 1999. I was a senior in high school. I remember loving it. I remember recommending it to everyone I knew. I loved her honesty, humor, and self deprecation. I don't know, maybe I just loved that she was a Christian who could throw around the f-word casually, and purposefully.

I have since changed my mind about Anne Lamott. What was once a distant respect and awe for a woman who seemed so spiritually and personally together (in all her admitted neuroses), has turned into annoyance without pity. As a mother, but even more importantly, as a daughter-in-law with the only grandkids in both sides of the family, this book, at times, angered me.

Quick Summary

This book is the non-fiction, journal style follow up to Lamott's Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year (1994). When her son, Sam, becomes a father at eighteen, Lamott journals first year of her grandson's life.

Sam and Amy, the parents of little Jax, are both young, unmarried, unemployed, and living in San Fransico, within minutes of Lamott. This means Neurotic Nana has plenty of time to spend with the growing boy, and even more time to complain about how nothing seems to be going her way.

The book is filled with Lamott's usual amount of rambling about different friends, family, and important people who come and go--each complete with overzealous praise of the unparallelled inner beauty and awesomeness of each person with whom she's chosen to be close. The book also chronicles two trips, one to India, one to Europe, where Lamott glamorizes everything from poverty to materialism through the eyes of all encompassing spirituality and humanism. And like every other first time grandmother, she chronicles the greatness of every poop, every fart noise, every inch of movement, and every brilliant milestone of physical, emotional, or mental growth--weekly--in Jax.

There are also, sprinkled throughout the personal journal entries, several interviews with her son Sam as well as emails from various friends and family.

What I Liked

November 27 Entry: "Letter to Jax on the Secret of Life"

Despite my general anger and annoyance, I admit that various moments in the book did bring a smile to face or a small chuckle to my lips. This entry, however, was by far the best in the entire book. In it, she explains to Jax that sometime around 2nd grade he will feel like he missed the day in school when the "grown-ups" came in and explained "everything important to the kids." She then goes on to reassure him that he missed no such day in school, and that the secret to life is knowing that everyone else feels equally unprepared for everything.

This lack of instruction manual is how most people develop compassion... otherwise you grow up to be someone who needs to dominate and shame others...I know exactly one other thing that I hope will be useful: that when electrical things stop working properly, ninety percent of the time you can fix them by unplugging the cord for two or three minutes. I'm sure there is a useful metaphor here.

What I Did Not Like

  1. Her extreme insecurity and selfishness is sometimes joked about, sometimes hyperbolized, and other times lied about. But the thickness of it in this book is nauseating. It was forgivable, in previous books, when she seemed to be affecting no one but herself.
  2. Her portrayal of her relationship with Amy, the mother of Jax, seems highly contrived. Throughout the book, Amy, though frequently referred to as "the mother," is never given a place of importance as such. In fact, it seems Lamott just looks at her as the incubator, then feeding breast, and then, pretty much just in the way of her time with the grandson. She attempts to balance her obvious scorn for Amy (simply as something that prevents her from having Jax all to herself) with what comes across as disingenuous compliments of very random things, like her physical beauty, or moments she seems to be "getting it" as a mother. I could not empathize with Lamott. I could only empathize with Amy, who is so rarely given a voice in all this.
  3. Meanwhile, Sam, the baby's father, is exactly one notch below Jesus Christ himself, in his mother's eyes. There is a glaring contrast between her portrayal of Amy as the mother and Sam as the father. Sam could not be more perfect. He could not be more strong, beautiful, smart, nor grown-up, all of a sudden. Lamott's pride in her own flesh and blood serves to further steamroll Amy. Basically, Jax's mother is painted as both unnecessary and redundant, while his father continues to bring Lamott to tears of joy and awe.

Final Thoughts

It was difficult to review this book with any sort of format or structure, because the book itself, aside from being chronological, lacks so much structure. In many ways, I again appreciated Lamott's honesty, because though many of her thoughts sound like they are meant to be exaggerated for humor, I don't actually believe she exaggerates much. I also believe that she's admitting thoughts and feelings that every single Grandmother on Earth has probably felt.

What I don't like, however, is the sense of entitlement she has because she's finally graduated to grandmother. Perhaps my thoughts will change one day when my own children have children, but right now, I do not believe that grandparenthood equals an automatic ticket to "I get to do whatever I want with and for this child, despite what his parents might ask of me..." Or, the worse attitude projected is, "It's all about me because clearly I love him [Jax] the most." And even when she behaves, and succombs to the wishes of the parents (Amy mostly) or circumstances she cannot control, she complains about it, sends guilt-trips out like teenaged pheremones, and generally acts the most childish of everyone in the situation.

This book was enlightening, but exhausting, and more than anything, I wanted a moment to sit down with Amy to listen to her side of things.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 

      6 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Well written review of a book I would not have read anyway, but had some mild curiosity about. I read Lamott's Bird By Bird which is a prety good book about writing. Then, her subsequent books appeared, (from reviews and articles I read) to wander off into spirtual never never land (for me) so I did not bother with anymore.

      All I really want to say here is that this is a well written review. UP & interesesting


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)